Earlier this year, research from our Group identified more than 11.1m individuals across the UK lack basic digital skills. One of the ways the Group is helping to address this is through a first of its kind partnership between Halifax and the Society of Chief Librarians. Launched with the help of the Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy at the beginning of the year, the partnership aims to boost levels of digital skills around the country, and help the almost six million adults in the UK who have never used the internet, to get online.
The scheme works by providing free IT taster sessions in local libraries to members of the public. The sessions are supported by the Halifax Digital Champions – over 2,400 Halifax colleagues who have made a pledge to make a difference in their local community by helping at least two people or businesses with their digital skills.
So far, the scheme has worked in partnership with more than 80 libraries and provided upwards of 200 hours of colleagues’ volunteering time and continues to add more libraries to the roster every month.
Samantha Jones, from the Halifax Penrith branch was responsible for getting the programme off the ground in her region. “Cumbria Council was able to give me a great Libraries contact and from there things fell into place quite easily. After speaking to the libraries, I held a conference call with eight Branch Managers in our Local Director Group to tell them about the opportunities available and gain their commitment. I was then able to bring six of the branches and libraries together.”
Since then Samantha’s branch has gone on to help lots of people. “One lady needed help with an iPad she’d received for her 80th birthday. We’ve since shown her how to send emails with pictures and shop online. We’ve even helped her reserve her new deep fat fryer!”
Rachel Toddington, a customer service consultant from the Halifax Woolshops branch, has been helping out at the taster sessions since they were first trialled in 2015. “I feel good knowing I’m supporting the community by helping people improve their basic digital skills. It means a lot to know you’re helping someone improve their life. For example, one regular attendee, Mohammed, was writing letters by hand to Calderdale council on behalf of his severely disable brother, then having to physically call in to the council offices with them. With my help, Mohammed learned how to write emails and attach files and communicate with the council a lot more effectively.”
In May, Sara Weller, Group non-executive Director, visited Battersea library to see for herself how the Digital Champions were making a difference in their communities. “I was so pleased to see our Halifax colleagues in action in Battersea.” said Sara, who as Chair of the Group’s Responsible Business Committee has a special interest in the Partnership. “Being able to shop online or prepare a CV for job hunting are skills we take for granted but they’re skills that over 12 million people across the country don’t have, and so those people are excluded from much of everyday life. We should be very proud of this programme, which is a good example of the Group doing business responsibly and is making a real difference in people’s lives.”