A new project is being launched in the county to address digital inclusion and help people who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation to get online.
Called Pembrokeshire Digital Connections, the project brings together Community Hub partners Pembrokeshire County Council; Hywel Dda University Health Board; the Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) and Delta Wellbeing along with Digital Communities Wales, Age Cymru Dyfed, PLANED, Span Arts, VC Gallery, POINT and a number of other community partners.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the role of digital connections has become more important than ever.
With 5,600 people shielding at the height of the pandemic in Pembrokeshire, as well as thousands more self-isolating, many people have found staying in contact with friends, family and neighbours more difficult.
Undertaking tasks such as shopping, getting up to date information and accessing community services has also been hard. However, for those who are not online, these connections and activities are even more problematic.
Pembrokeshire Digital Connections hopes to bring together existing and new initiatives so that there is a clear and easy to understand digital offer for people who may be experiencing loneliness or social isolation, or who could improve their wellbeing by getting online.
The project will support people to gain the skills, knowledge, support and confidence to get online, as well as provide equipment on a short-term loan basis so that people can ‘try before they buy’.
Across Pembrokeshire, there are a number of community-based projects to help people get online and they have been working hard throughout the pandemic across local communities.
These include Digital Communities Wales providing tablets to care homes so that people can connect with their families; online wellbeing and social activities; the loaning of equipment; and improving the digital skills of volunteers.
There are also new initiatives funded by the West Wales Care Partnership Transformation programme, which will be launching shortly to improve digital inclusion for those people who are not online and would like to do so.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transformation and IT, Neil Prior, said: "It really is never too late to get online, and as we move into what could be a long a difficult winter for many people, this initiative could be a lifeline.
“If you've been putting off getting online for whatever reason, why not give this a go? There's nothing to lose and it could really make a difference.”
Marc Davies from Digital Communities Wales explained: “The work of this partnership will aim to support those who are furthest away from having the skills, ability, and confidence to use technology for health, welfare, and practical purposes.
“We will be seeking to train local 'Digital Companions' which calls upon the good will of those who have moderate digital skills to consider supporting those who need help.
“Peer to peer, or support through a trusted face within our active communities is vital to build resilience and help individuals as we aim to recover and counter the impact of the pandemic.
”Our work will be 'people focused', technology is one element that we know can significantly help during these challenging times.”
Gwyneth Jones (PAVS) welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the new project: “Community Connectors are looking forward to working with partners to enhance our collective digital offer to people in Pembrokeshire, so that more people can access on-line services and information, stay connected with their families, take part in activities and learn new skills.”
If you know someone who would benefit from some support to get online or you would like to find out more about the project, please contact the Pembrokeshire Community Hub on 01437 776301 (Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 5.00) or firstname.lastname@example.org