photo of a laptop, Inclusion is written on the screen

Digital Inclusion Fund

Earlier this year we developed a one-off funding initiative, the ‘Digital Inclusion Fund’. This was aimed at addressing digital exclusion experienced by disabled people and people with mental health challenges.

As well as facing barriers in the physical world, disabled people face barriers in the digital world. Barnwood’s research shows that 6-8% of people in Gloucestershire are effectively offline, while many others don’t have access to fast broadband speeds. Many people don’t have the same access to digital services that others take for granted. We also know that disabled people and people with mental health challenges are much more likely to be digitally excluded than the general population.

We invited applications from across the county from organisations whose work was aimed at helping remove barriers for people who wanted to be a part of the digital world. We received 14 applications and put together a ‘Lived and Learned Experience Funding Panel’ to thoroughly review these applications.

From these 14 applications, we ‘re pleased to be able to announce that the panel made recommendations for 6 of these to be funded. The Barnwood Trust Board agreed with those recommendations and we have now awarded a total of £445,416.

The successful applications are as follows;

  • Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) were awarded £203,000 to set up a collaborative digital inclusion partnership for the Forest of Dean.

“Receiving this fund will enable FVAF to realise our vision to create a trusted and central point of support and information to help tackle digital exclusion for communities across the Forest of Dean. This will be achieved by developing an effective and efficient delivery of digital and wider wrap-around holistic support, co-created with and for disabled and older people, those on a low income and people with mental health challenges experiencing a disproportionately high-level of digital exclusion in the district.”

Alex Digby, FVAF

  • Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) were awarded £16,530 for a project to improve access to the digital world for hearing-impaired people including funding a video relay service so Deaf people can use IT independently.

“This funding will have a huge impact on our work as currently our staff make calls for Deaf people who cannot access the telephone and cannot understand written English. The video relay service will enable to the Deaf person to access a range of organisations with a remote Sign Language Interpreter so will become independent and less in need of our staff support.  The project will also improve D/deaf and hard of hearing people’s understanding of their rights and computer literacy skills hence reducing social isolation and the risk of developing poor mental health as deaf people can connect more effectively with friends and family.”

Sharon Bryant, GDA

  • Gloucestershire Libraries were awarded £48,000 towards ‘Digital Immersive Reality’ hardware, software, support, and content creation at new Oakley Immersive storytelling centre  in Cheltenham. The Digital Immersive Reality room will enable 360 degree projection of over 450 pre-programmed digital experiences from children’s books to art galleries and a host of other experiences that people can enjoy, such as travelling to space, enabling enjoyment of an activity without actually being there. There will also be the ability to develop and project new experiences.

“We’re going to be able to deliver to the whole community. The whole reason we started doing this project was because the community is one of the poorest parts of Gloucestershire. We’re going to give them something that nobody else has got in an area that often get left behind or forgotten. This is the only publicly available immersive space that’s specifically aimed at digital inclusion for everyone.”

Andrew Shapcott, Gloucestershire Libraries

  • Insight Gloucestershire were awarded £59,300 to fund the employment of a Sight Loss Advisor with responsibility for digital equipment over 3 years.

“This funding will support our Charity by giving us more financial security. It will ensure we can carry on supporting people with sight loss to find the best digital solutions for their eye condition. This in turn will assist them to live more independently, feel more connected with friends and family and to live a more fulfilling life.”

Mary Woolley, Insight Gloucestershire

  • ReConnect Gloucestershire CIC were awarded £90,000 to set up ‘Creative Online Wellbeing’ sessions for people who experience additional barriers to both digital services and wellbeing sessions.

“We hope to increase wellbeing, create social connections and improve digital literacy through our new project. This project is now funded for 3 years, giving the project security and capacity to help many new participants increase their wellbeing, skills and confidence – we’re really excited to get started!”

Helen Elliott-Boult, ReConnect Gloucestershire CIC

  • Stroud Beresford Group were awarded £28,586 for a project to address mental health needs of women who are digitally-excluded and victims of domestic abuse. This funding will ensure that women have suitable technology that will help reduce isolation and enable access to vital safety and support services including those relating to domestic abuse support, counselling and mental health support, finance, housing and legal help.

“Digital exclusion is an issue that faces many of our clients and exacerbates the stress, distress, and isolation they face.  This funding will help us to offer a simple solution that will ensure that women are better connected and can access vital services at the time they most need it and will help them to rebuild their lives and independence.”

Jill Cooper, Stroud Beresford Group