Council leads local partnership to improve digital inclusion in Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council was supported by Digital Communities Wales to become part of a local partnership, and to lead on efforts to improve the delivery of digital inclusion work in the area.
In May 2017, a number of key organisations in Merthyr Tydfil came together to look at ways they could support the delivery of digital inclusion in the county. They formed a partnership called Get Merthyr Online, which works together to co-ordinate provision and share resources. The members of the group looked at ways in which the partnership could work more closely with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, with the potential to create a Digital Inclusion Champion for the borough.
Stephanie Davies, the Digital Communities Wales (DCW) Adviser for Merthyr Tydfil approached Independent Cllr David Hughes, Cabinet Member for Social Services, who was also Broadband Champion for the county. Cllr Hughes agreed to add the role of Digital Inclusion Champion to his portfolio. Cllr Hughes was instrumental in introducing DCW to the Deputy Chief Executive of Merthyr Tydfil CBC, Ellis Cooper, and over the last six months the local authority has moved quickly to progress digital inclusion work. This has happened in the following ways:
- A meeting was arranged with heads of relevant departments including Education, ICT, Revenue & Benefits, Adult Services, Regeneration, Corporate Services, Corporate Communications & Consultation, Community Wellbeing, Business Change, Leisure Trust, and Children’s Services, where a discussion took place on how digital inclusion was relevant to each section. The discussion resulted in many ideas being generated on how digital inclusion could be integrated into departments across the Council.
- DCW were also invited to run a workshop at a Universal Credit Summit organised by Merthyr Tydfil CBC, where key organisations discussed the onset of Universal Credit full service roll-out in the county. The organisations present were keen to join Get Merthyr Online and learn about the possibilities for using various methods to engage with customers.
Over the last six months, Merthyr Tydfil CBC has really embraced the digital inclusion agenda and started delivering on their initial plans with a number of actions:
- The development of a digital inclusion action plan, co-produced with Digital Communities Wales
- Wi-Fi within care homes
- Exploring where to focus resources
- Working with DCW to access training, Digital Heroes support and Digital Inclusion Charter Accreditation
The next step is to further develop the ideas presented at the initial meeting. Part of the plans are for a pilot project within a local authority care home. The aim is to engage with residents who currently have family who live abroad. Merthyr Tydfil CBC are installing Cloud Wi-Fi and providing two tablets for the pilot. DCW will support this through the provision of staff training and additional kit.
We fully recognise that addressing Digital Inclusion for our citizens is a key enabler to improving their life chances. New job opportunities, skills development, cheaper goods and services can all be accessed online. We hope to embrace this challenge and narrow the gap for those residents who are digitally excluded in Merthyr Tydfil.
Ellis Cooper, Deputy Chief Executive Merthyr CBC
I have been impressed with the ambition shown by Merthyr Tydfil CBC in the last six months. There is commitment across the organisation, led by the Deputy Chief Executive and Cllr Hughes, and they have already started delivering on the actions we have agreed. Commitment like this is crucial to making a positive difference within Merthyr.
Stephanie Davies, DCW Adviser for Merthyr