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How we helped mental health charity embrace digital inclusion

We’ve recently been working with Monmouthshire Mind, to improve the way it uses digital technology as an organisation, so as to have a positive knock-on effect to the people it supports.

To provide a bit of background, Monmouthshire Mind provides tenancy support, both in houses which they manage, and in clients’ own homes. The support is to enable people who have mental health problems to maintain their own tenancies and live independently. In the supported houses, tenants remain for a maximum of two years and then (hopefully) move into their own tenancy. Monmouthshire Mind provides a home for 24 tenants in total, and have a further 40 in ‘floating support’ across the county.

So where did Digital Communities Wales come in? Well, one of the aims of the tenancy and supported living provision is to move some of the service users towards independent living. When they are ready to move on, service users need to be digitally capable, to enable them to bid for properties using Homesearch. Properties are released on a daily basis; without the skills to do this service users may be missing out on properties, as all bids must be made online.

There was previously no focused digital inclusion activity taking place within the organisation, although staff provided support to service users as and when the need arose, usually in the local library or other venues where there is equipment and internet access. Digital Communities Wales (DCW) developed a Digital Engagement Improvement Plan to enable Monmouthshire Mind to provide digital support to their service users.

One element of this was through the loan of kit from DCW. Mind Monmouthshire submitted a proposal for the short term loan of kit from DCW and was successful in being loaned two laptops, two iPads and two Android tablets.

Ok, so what difference has this support made? Since successfully obtaining the kit from DCW, Mind Monmouthshire has been able to give ICT access to eight clients within the supported living programme and in the community. The scope of work completed ranges from basic keyboard practice, (where the client is allowed to familiarise themselves with the functionality of the mouse and keyboard), through to accessing the internet and completing searches to aid in digital and financial inclusion.

As a result of the DCW Digital Engagement Improvement Plan, all of the supported living houses now have Wi-Fi installed and the password is available to tenants and visitors to the properties. All support workers have been inducted to ensure that they remind all clients of internet safety and the dangers of identity theft and potential financial fraud. The equipment has also been used to register six of these clients on Homesearch to be able to register their interests in obtaining a tenancy.

Every new service user will be encouraged to get an e-mail address and be shown how to use the library equipment to ensure these skills are maintained. We hope to be able to encourage service users with video diaries, aided by their support worker, to help others understand their mental health conditions.

We would hope that we could have ten service users benefit each month from digital sessions. We have regular house meetings and intend to have a session following the house meeting where staff will engage with tenants using the equipment.

A number of Mind’s Support Workers will shortly be receiving training from DCW which will serve to further enhance the digital help available to clients.

In terms of an individual who has benefited, ‘MM’ is a Tenancy and Supported Living Service (TASL) client who has recently moved into a new flat from one of Monmouthshire Mind’s supported living houses. He has, over the last few years, had very limited access to ICT and most of his interactions have been through a low spec mobile phone and occasionally the PCs at the library. MM has previously had an email address but had lost track of it and no longer knew the password.

MM wanted to apply for a DWR/Welsh Water rate discount online and was a little wary of doing this. He came to the Monmouthshire Mind office and, using one of the laptops provided, was helped to create a new Gmail address, which was linked to his mobile phone.

We were then able, with the new email address to apply for the DWR/Welsh Water discount online and MM will be able to receive updates on his application emailed statements. This has improved MM’s financial standing and he is now keen to use the internet to look at other aspects of his life. An area he is keen to look into is his hobbies and he has been encouraged to develop inputting skills and the effective use of search engines, (including Boolean searches), to discover new War Games groups and music classes in the Monmouthshire area.

If you think Digital Communities Wales can support your organisation, so you can help the people you work with to do more online, get in touch by calling us on 0300 111 5050 or by emailing