Learning for Future Delivery
This year has shone a light on how vital our services are. Throughout lockdown, engagement in all our services remained very high, with many past beneficiaries re-engaging and new beneficiaries accessing our services.
Being able to relaunch face-to-face delivery in September demonstrated that where we are able, face-to-face delivery remains the most effective method, and users across our services have told us how keen they are to engage face-to-face where possible. Some of the lockdown adaptations we made to our services remain with us however, and the additional digital resources for our courses, telephone and zoom check-ins with our team and projects such as the toy library, will continue to run.
High Trees have always been aware of the high cost of digital exclusion which holds adults and children back from learning, locks individuals out of the job market, is an increasing barrier to access support and welfare benefits and is a barrier to participation in civic life. Over the past few years High Trees have worked to address this digital divide in a variety of ways – offering free IT courses (both accredited and non-accredited), providing a free community ‘internet café’ several times a week where individuals can come and use the computers to search for and apply for jobs, access welfare benefits, pay bills, stay in touch with family and friends or for any other use.
Lockdown put the extent of digital exclusion locally under a spotlight, and the Connecting Tulse Hill project was our attempt to deal with the worst of this in a localised and very targeted way. However, the end of lockdown has not meaningfully reduced the need for work in this area. High Trees are currently exploring what further work can be done to deal with digital exclusion in Tulse Hill and current options include examining the possibility of community Wi-Fi, supporting community partners to set up their own digital hubs that residents can access free of charge and continuing and expanding our IT provision.
The events of 2020 have also seen an increased need across our existing services and we are currently expanding our capacity in each of our service areas to meet this need. The 2020-21 academic year sees us offer more free accredited and non-accredited courses then ever before. we are currently expanding our Employment service and, for the first time in our history, offering a welfare advice service alongside our employment service. Our Community Action team will continue to work alongside residents, using community organising principles to focus on improving the built environment and expanding our support of smaller groups and individuals who are taking action locally. The children and young people we work with have been acutely impacted by lockdown, and the one-to-one support we are giving the most vulnerable, alongside the opportunity to play and thrive remains a cornerstone of our work.