Digital Champions Network for Housing launched to help people with Universal Credit

Founding members of Digital Champions Network for Housing

A new Digital Champions Network for Housing has been launched to help housing providers support their residents to get online and extend their digital skills ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit.

Ten housing organisations representing a combined housing stock of over 221,000 properties and 455,000 residents have signed up to be part of the Network as Founder Partners. They are: Eastlands Homes, Hanover, The Hyde Group, Midland Heart, North Hertfordshire Homes, Orbit Group, Peabody, Raven Housing Trust, Southway Housing Trust and Sovereign Housing.

Currently 4.1 million of those not online are estimated to live in social housing and a further 16 million people do not have Basic Online Skills. With 80% of all benefit applications planned to be online by 2017 and 90% of all jobs requiring ICT skills by 2015, being able to use digital technology is a must have in today’s modern society.

The network founders believe that building an army of Digital Champions, people who can help others to use the internet, is a sustainable and cost-effective way for housing providers to improve digital skills among their residents and tenants. This is a major challenge facing all housing providers in light of the Government’s Welfare Reform.

Powered by digital skills experts, Digital Unite and inspired by Affinity Sutton, one of the largest providers of affordable housing in England, the Digital Champions Network for Housing (DCN4H) is an innovative online platform to create, develop and support Digital Champions in local communities.

Extending the success and investment of the Affinity Sutton ‘Get Connected Project’, the DCN4H provides access to practical online courses, extensive teaching resources and a moderated community forum to support people with being Digital Champions. Furthermore the functionality behind the DCN4H enables each participating housing organisation to track activity and management data to measure and evaluate its impact and success.

Kathy Valdes, Business Development Manager at Digital Unite said: “In the wake of the Government’s Welfare Reform, supporting residents to engage with digital technology and make it a part of their everyday lives is an immediate challenge for housing providers.

“In our 17 year experience in delivering digital skills we know that the best and often only way to support people to get online is by having trained volunteers and staff working locally who can inspire and teach others and provide support in a digital emergency.

“The DCN4H provides housing providers with a practical and comprehensive set of tools to develop their own armies of Digital Champions. Most excitingly it will provide the conduit to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing across the housing sector, at both management level and on the ground, to tackle the issues of digital exclusion.”

Digital Unite is an independent organisation and one of the leading providers of digital skills learning in the UK. Affinity Sutton provides affordable housing in England.

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