The Traumatic Stress Clinic (TSC) at Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with Asda, Helpforce, Jangala and AbilityNet* to provide digitally excluded service users with the means and skills to access remote therapy and resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.
TSC clinicians identified over 20 service users who were digitally excluded and unable to engage with remote therapy following the disruption in face-to-face appointments. Thanks to the donation of 20 tablets and five internet connectivity devices, the TSC supported its most vulnerable service users in accessing online therapy, while dedicated technical support ensured that service users also developed the necessary digital skills to access online services beyond therapy, including setting up emails, connecting with family and friends or engaging in educational activities.
Talking about the issue of digital exclusion amongst service users, Julia Gillard, Clinical Psychologist at Camden & Islington (C&I) explained, “Digital exclusion is a huge problem, with 22% of the UK population lacking the digital skills needed for everyday life. There are many groups that face a higher risk of digital exclusion in the UK, such as people with a disability or chronic illness, people in lower income groups or who are unemployed, migrants and refugees or people with English as a second language. As such, digital exclusion creates significant barriers to employment, education, health and well-being.
“While Covid-19 has accelerated the digitisation of public health services, education and employment, it has also heightened the negative impact of digital exclusion on service users accessing mental health services in the Traumatic Stress Clinic. To help solve this issue, we’re working to support digital inclusion for our service users and are pleased to have secured support from four key partners. We’re hugely grateful for this support from these organisations during this difficult time”.
Her colleague, Jocelyn Blumberg, TSC Clinical Psychologist at C&I, added: “Many of our service users do not have, or cannot afford, smart technology that would allow for remote therapy, and the lack of access to therapy is having a noticeable negative impact on their mental health.
“We’ve been able to help service users with trauma-focused therapy remotely, as well as provide access to a range of online resources. It is incredibly empowering to see a project like this come to life and see how it will contribute to an improved quality of life for all service users involved”.
A C&I service user, who has been issued with a tablet, said, “Having access to the internet is so important because it stops me feeling isolated. It feels better for my mental health to be connected online and the range of online content stops you from feeling down”.
Notes to Editors
* Helpforce and Asda
Helpforce is a charity that partners with health and care organisations to increase volunteering opportunities. As part of the #TabletsWithLove campaign, which ran across the summer from May 2020, the campaign lead Jacqui Barrett, secured a donation of 20 tablets provided generously by major UK retailer, ASDA, which have since been distributed amongst C&I service users. Started by Jacqui, the #TabletsWithLove campaign encouraged organisations to donate over 400 free devices across NHS Trusts, to help patients gain access to technology and connect with their loved ones.
Jangala is a UK-based charity dedicated to enabling internet access for people in need of urgent humanitarian aid or longer-term development assistance. Jangala recognise the importance of providing internet for those who are digitally excluded and, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, have developed a new product; Get Box. Get Box is a paperback-sized, internet connectivity device that provides low-cost, secure and rapidly deployable Wi-Fi. The box can be mailed to a user, who then simply plugs it into mains electricity and within one minute has access to a highly secure Wi-Fi network running over a 3G/4G SIM card. Get Boxes were kindly donated to five TSC service users at C&I who did not have the means to access a secure and reliable internet connection needed to access their remote therapy.
AbilityNet is a charity supporting people of any age, living with any disability or impairment to use technology by providing specialist advice, services and information. AbilityNet identified a core group of volunteers, trained by the TSC in working with service users with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and will be providing TSC service users with personalised support in using their new tablets and internet connectivity devices and learn new digital skills. This will ensure service users are able to access online therapy, browse the internet or use apps crucial to overcoming the barriers digital exclusion previously posed to their well-being.
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