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Digital inclusion for people experiencing homelessness: An interview with a Justlife client

  • 5 min read |
  • Posted by Justlife
  • On 05 April 2021

From accessing the latest news and staying in touch with loved ones, to attending meetings and booking appointments, devices have been a critical part of our wellbeing during the pandemic, enabling us to stay connected, informed and productive.

Even though connectivity is an essential cog in our every day lives, many people face strong barriers to accessing digital technology. In this interview, someone experiencing homelessness shares the impact of receiving a tablet device from Justlife.

This digital inclusion project, funded by the MCC, has enabled Justlife to access high-quality, new digital devices for 53 people. The funding has also provided Justlife with a designated staff member who has been able to focus on digital inclusion, and to give the time and support needed to help Unsupported Temporary Accommodation residents get the most out of their new devices.

Receiving a tablet has helped UTA residents become more independent and manage their own online accounts such as Universal Credit, Manchester Move and their bank accounts. It has also helped them improve their wellbeing and combat isolation by enabling them to keep in contact with friends and family, their support workers and other services, as well as engage in leisure activities such as watching videos, reading articles and playing online games etc.

Did you have any access to the internet before receiving the tablet?

No, I never had anything, I’m not very technology minded. So when I got that it was good because it had already been put in, the internet, what I wanted and at the time the pandemic had just started. I had no way of going anywhere to carry on with my work, so it was a godsend, and with the help of that I passed the first part of my exam - which I’m very grateful for. I still use it to this day.

Before the pandemic, how were you accessing the internet?

I used to go to places like [Justlife], places like libraries and stuff so I could access the internet. I’m not even sure if the libraries are open now, and if they are you have to book and that’s not always convenient, you know, if you’re doing something. It’s just a mad world at the moment.

What sort of things have you been using the tablet for?

At the moment I’m doing my LGV driving course, that’s enabled me to better my future, to move on, so I can do some driving. I had to use the internet to pass the first part of my test. I still need to do it, cause I’m going for my second part...with the help of [the tablet], I can still do it. I do worry a bit that I can’t afford to keep buying the credit but I’m trying to get something called a dongle so I don’t have to constantly keep paying bills, because I use it quite often.

Do you use the tablet for keeping in contact with people?

Only if I’ve got enough data to do it, which is very few and far between, but I do phone them. I’m nearly getting there with how to master to do my [Universal Credit]. It takes a bit of time, it goes round the houses, but I don’t know maybe pushing things wrong or stuff like that. Like I said earlier, I’m not good with technology and I don’t particularly like it and I don’t think I ever will.

Do you think you have improved your technology skills since having the tablet?

Yeah, of course I do, cause I’ve never grown up with it or anything. It’s like anything, if you’re not into it, you don’t like it, you’re not going to put 100% into it. I’ve survived this long without it and, I don’t know, it’s just not something I’ve really really wanted to do. But with that little tablet, it’s so easy, it’s so compact, it’s not complicated, there’s not a load of keys or switches or anything. It’s quite manageable for someone of my capability.

How do you think you would have coped during the pandemic without the tablet?

I would’ve just had to keep going here, there and everywhere. No privacy, you’ve got people talking and everything, maybe I wouldn’t have passed [my first test] without it. I need to concentrate and with that, in my own time, I can just sit there and if I’ve got enough data I don’t have to worry about being called away to do something. So yeah, it’s got its advantages, I like it - i still do.

Have you learnt any new skills from using the tablet? Programmes or apps that you didn’t know how to use before?

I’ve not used millions of apps but obviously I watch YouTube if I’m stuck with something. There’s always somebody on there who can tell you how to do something, for instance, how do you change a plug or something like that - that’s quite good. Also, how to google things, like if I’m doing a bit of research and need to know something. Like I had to find out what ADR meant, it was a French term that they use on the continent that I had to know for my exam. So yeah, its quite good.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just how grateful I am and how fortunate I was to get one, I didn’t see it coming and it was a great help...I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I really appreciate it and I’ve looked after it ever since.

We'd like to thank MCC for making this work possible.