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CAIS – Empowering change through digital training

From Linzi Jones, Fundraising & Digital Development Manager, CAIS

I work for CAIS, a charity which empowers individuals to make positive changes to their lives. We help people who are having problems with addictions, mental health, personal development and employment – as well as offering assistance and information to their families and friends. Our wide range of services includes residential treatment and rehabilitation, counselling, peer mentoring, supporting people in their homes, assisting people back into work or education, group work and other motivational interventions.

During 2015-2016, I piloted a digital delivery programme within our Change Step veterans service, one of 60 projects CAIS offers. Engagement and interaction with veterans was working well in its original format, however I wanted to improve upon the targeting, engagement and delivery of services to our veteran’s families. To do this, I partnered up with Digital Communities Wales, so that we could deliver ‘Digital Drop Ins’ to service users across all Wales.

During this time, I had so many ideas for development of our CAIS wide digital agenda, however from experience within our Change Step project, I learned that the biggest hurdle to improving our accessibility, referrals, signposting, advice and support offering to clients, was the confidence and online skills range of our staff. Without overcoming their fears and barriers to online engagement, how could we fully support our service users in a fast developing digital world?

My next step was to write up courses geared specifically towards each project in CAIS. Our staff and volunteers do not need to know everything about digital applications, but I was keen to ensure they are made confident in specific applications which will enhance their work, save CAIS money and create smarter working for all. In collaboration with Digital Communities Wales, a digital development plan was created which was geared towards a ‘Train the Trainer’ approach through our training department, and for this, we needed staff buy-in.

I delivered digital inclusion training to CAIS management in mid-May 2017, which served to demonstrate the extent and range of the skills gap for staff and volunteers, and how this may potentially be affecting both their personal and working lives. From there, I informed on the impact of digital exclusion for our service users, and how we in CAIS could adopt and adapt our working practices to include digital engagement, for the benefit of all. I am extremely pleased at the enthusiasm from our management team and many great development ideas have been put into action as a result of the session.

With a further six month loan of equipment from Digital Communities Wales, things are now well underway for our digital delivery for all of CAIS. I am excited to see how it is developing! We now have a number of staff signed up to a City & Guilds Digital Practitioner course. In the meantime, I am delivering more digital inclusion classes to several of our services, in order to ensure I am pitching the teaching sessions at the right level for each service clientele. I am in the process of writing bespoke training courses for each of CAIS’s projects, which will go through accreditation via Agored and will be delivered by CAIS Trainers to staff and volunteers. This will also include a ‘train the trainer’ accreditation in order that our staff and volunteers can then cascade their knowledge to their respective service users, as well as enabling them to work smarter and offer efficiency savings for CAIS. I will also be writing modules suitable for residents of our detox and rehab units. These will be geared towards self-help and signposting to appropriate websites, as well as tuition on accessing external accredited e-learning courses, money management applications, FitBit activities, nutrition and communications tools such as Skype, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Students in Llandrillo have recently created film guides for us to utilise in our training sessions, for the benefit of staff, volunteers and service users via our training department. They will also be added to our MyCAIS app, which has been created for our service users and a training guide for the app is being developed.

The goal for CAIS is to deliver one-to-one interventions, therapies and consultations, group support discussion and forum sessions, video / interactive therapy and training tutorials, self-help work groups, guest speakers from outside agencies and service user administration activities – all via digital platforms. We want to ensure that our services became more accessible and comprehensive to all potential, current and future service users by becoming fully digitally inclusive.

Basic digital skills could literally provide an open door to a world, which for many of our service users is extremely intimidating! We wanted to help them navigate digital resources in such a way that it was bespoke to them, allowing them to discover ways to take ownership of their recovery or prospects, take care of their own wellbeing and improve their opportunities for a healthier future, for themselves and their families.

For any organisations considering digital training, be that staff, volunteers or service users, I would offer this advice – keep it relevant, keep it simple, encourage it throughout your entire organisation and always look for ‘the hook’ which will motivate new online users to keep trying, keep exploring and adopt it into their daily habits. Good luck.