Currently in my second year as a PhD student at CCSE, I’m now working with the Simon Community Scotland in Glasgow as part of a participatory action research project reflecting on how digital exclusion impacts on people experiencing homelessness and how organisations can provide meaningful support.
As part of my research, I’m working closely with staff in Simon Community Scotland to understand what key barriers they face in providing support around essential digital skills and working with organisations to implement change as they take on the mantle of ‘digital champions’- providing person-centred digital skills support as part of their overall support plans.
This work also takes in the expert voices of those currently experiencing homelessness, who expressed a number of key issues, including:
- The impact of Universal Credit on people without reliable access to either technology or connection;
- Fear around the quantity of data being collected by a range of agencies which, through necessity people experiencing homelessness are required to engage with, and also where this information will be shared;
- Fear around how technology may be used to further marginalise people experiencing homelessness through negative use such as online bullying and exposure to damaging networks
- The positive impact of maintaining social networks with family and friends through social media applications such as WhatsApp
- The possibilities of the internet to find solutions to everyday problems – especially those related to accessing services, physical navigation and translation.
As staff in Simon Community Scotland are already working holistically with people experiencing homelessness, they are ideally placed to work with individuals in a 1:1 capacity and provide the right type of support around essential digital skills, and in the right places. Simon Community Scotland has also gone through an organisation-wide period of digital change, with G-Suite recently rolled out, and so many staff are on a journey of personal learning as they make the most of both G-Suite and portable devices in their outreach work.
It is a fantastic opportunity to work together and share knowledge, and to hopefully reduce some of the barriers facing people experiencing homelessness in accessing the benefits of the internet.
The research is part of the overall work of Get Digital, a three year Digital Inclusion Programme hosted and managed by Simon Community Scotland, helping people affected by homelessness to improve access to the digital world.