Supporting residents without the skills, confidence or infrastructure to go online

Decorative banner

On this page, find guidance and resources from the LGA and our partners on ways to ensure the benefits of the internet, digital technologies and digital services are available and accessible to everyone.

Resources and support

Case studies

Wigan Council – Digital Wigan and Tech Mates

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Wigan Council identified an opportunity to keep their residents digitally connected through their Digital Wigan programme. At a time when some of the most vulnerable were detached from their local community, the Tech Mates initiative provided a lifeline to those who needed support.

The programme is a digital mentor service run by local volunteers and council staff. It was introduced and developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to prevent isolation for some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.

The programme provides one-to-one basic digital support via digital platforms such as telephone, Facetime, Zoom and MS Teams, to prevent isolation for the most vulnerable residents who are unable to leave their homes. The service also aids residents to develop and learn skills of using digital technologies such as smartphones, tablets, computers and laptops which has enabled digital literacy and confidence across the borough to grow.  From helping people to get online, to educating families on how to stay safe online and teaching children to code. The Wigan digital community can help everyone embrace digital technology safely and confidently.

The programme tackles social exclusion as well as digital inclusion and has evolved into a digital community partnership involving organisations such as Wigan and Leigh Carers and Think Ahead Stroke. The upskilling of residents has created less reliance on council services. This feeds into the council’s five year strategy of improving connectivity in the borough by making sure:

People can access a wide range of digital learning, skills and educational resources Businesses can connect with each other and develop opportunities to grow their market People can access health and wellbeing services across the borough


Through funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, a lending library for tablets will be made available for residents. Dependant on their needs, residents are being buddied up with volunteers and council staff to provide the services that they specifically need. This can range from online food shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family, regular wellbeing and check in call’s, and upskilling one’s own personal development by looking for employment opportunities.

Wigan Council is open to networking with councils and/ or organisations who would be interested in finding out more on this initiative, or who have begun to roll out digital transformation programmes across a local community. For more information please contact - [email protected]

  • All our residents and businesses can interact digitally with our key services


Stockport Council - Delivering a holistic digital inclusion programme

Stockport Council have delivered an holistic digital inclusion programme through their Adult Social Care service

This video presentation from Mark Fitton, Director of ASC, Gill Owen-John, Commission Manager and Emma Bowe, Transformation Programme Lead – guides the viewer through their approach and the impact they have had on the community through the initiative.


[Mark Flitton]

I just wanted to start really by saying thanks for giving Stockport the opportunity really just to present some of the work that we've been doing around the sort of digital piece really.

My name is Mark Fitton I'm a director of adult social care here in Stockport and I think you know if I think back to recent times I think we've always been a council certainly that has been keen to ensure that we're exploiting forms of metaphrase you know, digital schemes and digital era as much as we possibly can in terms of whether that's a direct service delivery or ensuring that our workforce were as equipped as best as possible really to be an agile workforce, a workforce that doesn't have to necessarily just work from an office base as such, and obviously part of the initiative around Covid more recently has been the sort of greater use of teams and the way that we've managed those virtual meetings and our ability to continue to deliver on an agenda really as we've as we've moved throughout this pandemic.

What this presentation is going to just concentrate on though is where we've tried to sort of include you know a digital offer in relation to direct care and I think we begin the presentation by looking at the council's approach in general and then focusing on two specific elements within adult social care in terms of direct service delivery and how we've used technology in relation to whether that's ensuring that people can remain connected during this pandemic, particularly those most vulnerable people where for example in care homes, where lockdown is impacted significantly in relation to visiting you know and people in very difficult circumstances may well be sometimes the end of life care and how we maintain some at least social contact for those individuals but also how we've worked with health colleagues in relation to virtual consultations and also remote monitoring of people's health and long-term conditions so I won't go into the detail as such in terms of introduction but I think that's what we want to focus on for this short period and the presentation from Stockport.

So I'll hand over to I think it's Emma Bowe in the first instance that's going to take us through this and then Gill Owen-John from the Stockport team thank you.

[Emma Bowe]

Thanks Mark can I ask you to move there's a couple of slides on please Tom, can I have the next one please okay so my name's Emma Bowe and I am the transformation programme lead here at Stockport.

I just want to take a couple of minutes of your time to talk to you about some of the wider work that we're doing here at Stockport and can I have one slide back please sorry. So what I just wanted to talk about was a little bit about how he approached digital and how that helped us in our response to Covid-19.

So our overall vision for digital at Tyneside is to be 100 per cent digital borough where our residents can thrive and no one's left behind or faces inequalities as a result of their digital situation, Digital inclusion is really important to us and we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to engage with technology and we understand the close link between digital inclusion and social exclusion and through our work we are recognizing the importance of getting that digital inclusion right so that we can start to access some of the inequalities and to support individuals and one of the things that we've been doing for about two years now is our digital inclusion alliance and this is a council-wide piece of work called Digiknow and we came together as a council with some like-minded partners including our citizens advice the job centre plus and our social housing provider as well and it was having that digital inclusion alliance in place really helped us to respond quickly to Covid-19 and to harness some of the previous learning that we've done so at the start of the lockdown we saw demand absolutely rocket for devices, pieces of kit and also the support with how to use those pieces of kit and we found that quite often that was from individuals that hadn't previously been that interested to be honest in having access to digital but they recognised the importance of digital to help them to shield effectively and to also stay in touch with their family friends and their loved ones and so as a result we've launched a number of digital initiatives across the council.

Can I have the next slide please? So this infographic is just to give you a flavour of some of the work and that we've been doing during Covid council-wide so we can see that we worked with the DfE and we've distributed laptops and those of them to children with a social worker we've distributed them to year tens who receive free school meals and we've also been supporting the voluntary sector as well because what the voluntary sector have found is that all those face-to-face meetings and face-to-face engagements that they would have had just just couldn't take place anymore and so we've helped them to use zoom so that we could continue to support residents and one of the really good schemes we've had is some of the work that we've done in adult social care around helping old people to stay connected and we worked with DevicesDotNow to distribute residents, some tablets to residents to help them get online and we've got a lovely story of a lady called Mabel who's, she's in her early 90s and her daughter lives abroad she'd not seen her for many years and she was socially isolated as a result of the lockdown and the impact that having that digital device has had for her and what Mabel will say is when she's felt low or she's felt lonely she's been able to pick that device up and connect have a chat with her family and friends so one of our key things is about in using technology for well-being during the Covid-19 scheme and as part of this digital and inclusion work that we've done we grew the number of volunteers that we had and so these are individuals I think we have 12 individuals prior to the lockdown and we've grown that number and they are guys that work to support individuals access the tablets so if there's any challenges that they don't know how to use and they can provide some really practical support with the use of those and what that kind of led us to was some specific work that we've done in adult social care around connecting residents to their loved ones.

Can I have the next slide please? Thank you, so this is our digital support to the care sector and at Stockport one of the things that we really try to do is to put the residents at the heart of everything that we do and as Mark said in his introduction we recognise the challenges in the care sector in terms of not being able to visit not being able to see loved ones and also where you've got individuals that might have end of life support needs just making sure that you can try and keep people connected as much as we possibly can so following on from some of the other schemes that we've talked about we launched a specific adult social care scheme and as a council we purchased a number of and we distributed those out and donated them to our care sector so there were that went out and they went to residential and nursing homes within the borough they went to LD providers who support individuals residentially that would be supportive living or it could be a residential care home and also we've got our own in-house water tenancy scheme as well in Stockport so we provided those those guys with some tablets as well and the primary aim of these tablets was to support individuals to connect with their family and friends so we sent them out pre-loaded with apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom and we gave them access to digital champions that I mentioned before so that if there were any individuals within that care home that didn't know how to use the kit, we could provide them with some really practical support, things like setting up a Zoom account for example and so we distributed those out and we asked the care homes to primarily use it for visiting but also we started to work with some of the care homes to hold professional meetings as well, now council will always host the professional meeting because we do it through Microsoft Teams and the council will host the meeting, we would invite an individual care home in but it's one of the ways that we're starting to overcome and look to how we could use this technology for the future to support us in the longer term so just in terms of this scheme and before I hand over to my colleague Gill I just wanted to share a couple of case studies with you of some of the feedback that we've had so the case study that you can see on the screen is a lady called Edith and there's a picture there of her using her tablet and it was really lovely that Edith was able to celebrate her 93rd birthday with her family using the android tablet and we've got a quote there from Edith and she said that it made her birthday she'd not seen her son daughter-in-law or grandchild since the start of isolation and it was absolutely fabulous and then her son has also kind of said that he's been really thankful for that opportunity to be able to to connect with his mum and just have a lovely experience in what is some really quite challenging times and I think for me and the quote that I've then I had added on from the care home manager Martin it really hits the nail on the head for me that it amazes him that people from all over the world have been able to connect and it's great in times of great uncertainty families need to reconnect and it's been a great tonic for residents and relatives alike and I think that that's really true and it has been a great tonic for those who have been involved.

Can I have the next slide please? Okay so just another a couple of case studies here we've also got Nora there's a photograph there of Nora as you can see and Nora's using her tablet. At the point when we had a conversation with Nora it'd been about eight weeks since she'd been able to see her family and she'd actually been able to connect with her granddaughter Keeley who lived over in South America and she thought that was absolutely wonderful that she'd been able to do that and speak to someone so far away and because obviously flights have been stopped and she's not been able to get in touch with her and so that's another really good example of how it works.

And then last but not least we've got Gerald who's a resident one of our supported tenants and you can see a picture there of him using that tablet and he's connecting with family and friends as well so it's been it's been a really well received scheme across each of the sectors that we've supported really can we have the next slide please?

Okay and on that point I'm going to hand over to my colleague Gill.

[Gill Owen-John]

Hello good morning everybody I'm Gill Owen-John I work in adult social care as a commissioning manager with a particular interest in technology I'm just going to talk a little bit about some work we've been doing with some of our health partners using technology during the Covid times so talking a little bit first of all about a project that we've got using a Norwegian company um called Dignio.

This was a project we started at the end of last year which was intended really to work with people with long-term conditions in their own homes particularly people with COPD used in Bluetooth devices to take vital signs off, so heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation etc. Working with our out of hours GP provider Master Call and we funded this project through winter pressures money and I think when we were having meetings at the back end of last year they'd had quite an unpleasant flu season in Australia and we were predicting that that might come to us well we didn't get that but we got something else instead so I think we then moved into looking at the potential of this equipment and to deal with people with Covid within care homes and we had intended initially to use it with people in their own homes in the community but we were starting with care homes because it was a good sort of pilot site for us to have staff on hand to help with the measurements etc and obviously the moving into the community has been a little bit derailed by the virus but we have expanded it significantly within the care homes now and since we've been unable to go directly into the care homes we've been able to remotely onboard people and carry out video consultations picking up early signs of Covid infection so that people can be isolated quickly to protect other residents and we're now using the kit to support early discharge from hospital, the care home managers have embraced this quite enthusiastically and we've also had some feedback from the care workers to say that they've they feel quite empowered by being able to use the kit to help people to get better care there's just a little case study there about Bill who's a gentleman who was a resident in a care home where the remote monitoring picked up that he had a raised temperature and reduced oxygen saturations so remotely we were able to provide appropriate care for him.

He did swab negative in the end but it meant that we were able to keep other residents and healthcare staff safe but provide Bill with the best care available. We've also just started using another application with care homes which is the CV-19 safe steps app I don't know if other people are aware of that being used in other areas in Greater Manchester again this was originally intended for a different purpose it was around we just go back one slide it was originally around falls prevention but it has been now repurposed to pick up what they're calling soft signs of deterioration in care home residents which is if people just aren't quite themselves and so maybe if someone doesn't have verbal communication or isn't able to give an accurate history of how they're feeling this picks that up from a sort of subjective care worker point of view to flag up that somebody might not be quite themselves and every resident is RAG rated on a daily basis and that information is sent through to their allocated GP practices and to help GPs with prioritising work and make sure they know which residents need their attention most urgently.

Okay next slide please Tom. This is just the final slide just a little bit about our standard telecare service really we noticed we have a very good telecare service within Stockport and we did notice early on that there was a reduction in demand for telecare during the early lockdown period and I think that was for a variety of reasons we had a new client record system that the social workers were struggling with we also moved our social work team out of the hospital and started a discharge to assess model but we were very aware that the telecare service could provide really good backup for people and during the time when maybe their relatives weren't able to visit as often as they had been in the past we therefore, with our providers Stockport Homes Care Call we developed a non-contact installation process to increase confidence and ensure safety for staff and residents so people could actually be in a different part of the house while the installation was going on and a lot of the history taking and information given was done over the telephone and since then we've developed further our fast track installation service which we set up a couple of years ago with support of the LGA and NHS Digital and Social Care Digital Innovation Programme around fast track installation of equipment including own phone ready to go telecare kits to facilitate hospital discharge and avoid hospital admission and in addition to doing all that our telecare service also developed a well-being check call for over four and a half thousand of their service users providing regular welfare calls food parcel deliveries medication deliveries and hobby packs so they've really stepped up to provide a really good service for us during the time.

That's it, thank you very much.


And Councillor Prior if I could just a final couple of comments before going to the questions if that's okay I'm conscious of the time but so just a couple of things I hope that demonstrates really sort of our commitment in terms of you know we have a revised operating model for adult social care in Stockport that we're still working to implement over time really but I think right from that sort of prevention side of things even whether that's in care homes where arguably you're not preventing you know any further deterioration in people's physical well-being but certainly from a well-being point of view this significant impact that something as simple as a tablet and being able to see somebody was immense and the stories speak for themselves in terms of that impact but right the way through as well to the Dignio where people do have long-term conditions and what our colleagues will tell us is that the kit actually detects deterioration and changes in people's condition before people themselves even know that there is going to be a change in their overall condition so they're able to intervene at a much earlier point in that person's care and support needs and intervene in such a way that it gives a real positive outcome to those particular individuals and my final comments was whether that's from a point of view of transformation about social care in Greater Manchester with our living well at home sort of initiative then you know tech and digital forms a key part of that, and we're you know we want to sort of drive on in relation to you know how kit and tech can enhance people's care but also experiences really to live the life that they want to live but also most certainly definitely locally a very strong commitment to wanting to even if it's a simple as what kit is already out there in everybody's homes including you know mine and yours in relation to just the simple things like Alexa what could that give to us in terms of an overall offer around health and well-being so just some final observations but thank you very much for your time.

Leeds Council - Digital inclusion and COVID-19

The importance of digital inclusion has taken on a new urgency as people are advised to stay at home to shield themselves or family members. More and more people are coming together online to keep in touch and stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis. But people who don’t have access to the internet, or the skills and confidence to use it, are becoming increasingly disadvantaged and isolated. 

Leeds Council’s 100% Digital Leeds team have identified a citywide responsibility to engage with professionals and practitioners, staff and volunteers, community based assets and people with lived experience of tackling barriers to inclusion. With many Conversations with these groups do not focus on ‘digital’, they focus on people: who are they, what are the important issues in their lives, what do they enjoy and what challenges do they face? The team’s first priority is to listen and our second priority is to learn. They spend time in communities, listening to people with lived experience of poverty, inequality and exclusion and work to build relationships based on trust, respect and understanding. 

The 100% Digital Leeds team have engaged with over 200 community groups and organisations over the last two years of the 100% Digital Leeds programme. In talking to organisations and getting to know communities that are most affected by social and digital exclusion, the team have been able to work with them to find the right approach. They take a ‘furthest first’ approach, focusing on the most vulnerable in line with the council’s ambition to reduce inequalities and improve the health of the poorest the fastest. During lockdown, the team have focused on making sure that partners had the tools to continue to connect with and support their service users to be more independent and live better lives. More information on the 100% Digital Leeds response to COVID-19 is available.

Kent County Council - Digital Video Carephones Service

Kent County Council rolled out a digital inclusion support package across the locality to alleviate pressures on vulnerable and shielded people who experienced heightened risk of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The support package was supplied in partnership with assistive care technology provider Alcove and a health and care transformation consultancy Rethink.

The partnership provided 2000 Samsung 10-inch tablets to vulnerable individuals and clients eligible for social need identified through the council’s adult social care practitioners. The tablets provided an easy and accessible one touch video calling service for those that found themselves digitally excluded and lacking digital skills to access everyday technology. Each device had a built in smart SIM card that established a connection with the strongest signal, not requiring the user to rely on a Wi-Fi connection to operate.

This helped to break down barriers for the user to engage with family members, friends or council staff. This reduced the need for face to face interactions while supporting individuals to remain connected to the support they needed including the usual number of appointments. This approach enabled the safeguarding and preservation of wellbeing of users, while enabling the continuation of social connections with those closest to the individual.

The tablet used the Alcove enabled app, which is screen locked to the device, to access the simple video calling software through a grid of preapproved 6-8 contacts. This provided an easy level of functionality and prevented cold calls, providing the individual peace of mind over unsolicited calls. Those contacts only needed to download the app or respond to calls via internet browser to engage with the user in a simple and accessible way.

The device was ready for out of the box use and posted to the individual. Once charged and turned on, it was ready to launch. As a level of further support, the grid of contacts included a technical support option that was available from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The accessibility of the tablet was intended to help grow and build confidence in users, allowing them to develop their digital literacy and in doing so, help increase their ability to use technology to make other improvements in their everyday life.

At the time of writing, Alcove and Rethink were exploring the possibility of linking the device to other pieces of equipment to build capacity to improve the offer and develop and encourage individuals to further their appetite for digital learning.

Feedback from the early stages of the pilot showed that there has been a rapid increase of quality interactions and improved social opportunities for those vulnerable residents. There are also positive cost implications for the council in terms of saving travel costs and improving the council’s sustainability and climate contributions. It has also allowed staff to deliver services in a more efficient, effective and safe way, providing them with enhanced time resource to commit to other areas of work.

Contact: Dave Harris, Senior Commissioner & SRO of Kara Project, [email protected]