By Amanda Eleftheriades
Photo courtesy of Neighbourhood Networks
“I’d never thought of myself as technical before this but I’ve been using Zoom every week to stay in touch with my friends and it’s been great.
“It can take us half an hour to all get on at the same time and hear each other – but that’s part of the fun. I’ve been missing my groups so it’s good to see everyone together.”
Like many people Maureen Spratt has never been much of a technology fan – or so she thought – until Covid-19 prompted her to get online to stay in contact with her friends. Now she has discovered new skills she never expected to learn.
She added: “It’s kind of like riding a bike, it was hard at first but you get used to it. It takes the edge off the loneliness and it’s good way to see my friends until we can meet up again.
“This technology has saved a lot of people as well as keeping the kids occupied.”
Organisations Going Digital
Local support service Neighbour Networks is one of many organisations supporting people to make the most out of the new digital landscape.
The peer support service, which builds connections with people with physical or learning disabilities, had been planning a digital platform for members prior to lockdown.
The pandemic made it crucial as a means for people isolated in their homes to stay in contact.
Claire Strong, Network Manager for Neighbourhood Networks, said: “We started doing a Parents & Carers’ session for families to learn how get on to Zoom and how to keep themselves safe online.
“We started with a private group on our Facebook and through that we are doing art classes and we’ve got Deco Comics delivering Zoom sessions this is for younger members who are transitioning to college or within school.
“We also have an exercise class and mindfulness class which is open to everyone on the network and we have set up a private mental health group. This provides a safe space for people who want to come for a bit of extra support.”
Members can also access online cooking classes with videos posted on the Facebook page to try out in their own time.
Claire added: “We have a Zoom Friday party with guest singer taking requests via Facebook and we’re also planning an online choir, money management classes and fraud-awareness sessions.
“This was something we had been planning for awhile and it has worked really well, bringing people together from right across our networks.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how resilient members are and how quickly they have picked up these new skills.”
Like many local organisations Neighbourhood Networks has received Scottish Government funding to buy smart phones and data for their members.
The phones are pre-installed with apps such as Whatsapp, Zoom and Facebook and members have suddenly found themselves able to contact relatives around the world, shop online and even grieve together.
Claire explained: “When one of our members passed away the others sent in a video message and I put them altogether as a tribute to him.”
Opportunities for Social Inclusion
Another local group which recently secured funding to help members go digital is Moments of Freedom.
The Clydebank-based group led by Syrian women who came to the UK as refugees in 2015, received a small grant from the Scottish Refugee Council.
It will be used to work in partnership with the Clydebank Community Response network to translate and share local information so that the Moments of Freedom group have access to and can share opportunities for their social inclusion in accessible formats.
This will be supported by digital inclusion packs and resources the group can use to increase their participation.
Noura, from Moments of Freedom said: “This will be so helpful for us – we have been working so hard to integrate and offer our skills in the community but because of lockdown we can’t meet other people and are worried what this means for our families’ integration.
“Now we will be able to join online groups and get information translated.”