Innovative partnership provides route out of digital exclusion and into work
A new scheme is supporting more than 100 long-term unemployed people in the Liverpool City Region into the workplace, by providing them with computer equipment, access to the internet, and digital skills training.
This innovative scheme is delivered by Pathways to Work and has been developed in partnership between Jobcentre Plus and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Households into Work programme, with funding from DWP’s Flexible Support Fund.
Eligible participants, including more than 70 Households into Work clients so far, receive a desktop computer or laptop, free internet access for two months, along with a computer desk and chair set up for them in their home.
Participants in the scheme, which runs until March next year, have to do a Level One course in Internet Safety for IT Users and upon completion of an assessment they are allowed to keep all of the equipment they have been given. The assessment is normally taken in a classroom, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, Pathways to Work is radically changing the way they conduct the 20 minute multiple choice assessment.
An 18-seater bus has been converted so that trainers can travel to the homes of people who are unable to come to them, giving the option to take the assessment on board.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“When I was elected I pledged to drive towards making the City Region the most digitally inclusive place in the UK.
“Our Households into Work programme has worked with more than 1600 people across the last three years, helping them overcome the barriers that prevent them from entering the work place.
“The pandemic has shown us even more strongly just how essential technology is in connecting us to work, learn and access entertainment.
“A lack of digital skills and IT equipment is a major barrier holding talented people back, especially now when we are more reliant than ever on technology to access services and job opportunities, as well as keeping in touch with each other. That’s why during the first lockdown we funded a number of schemes tackling digital exclusion through LCR Cares and that’s why we are backing this scheme now.”
Joe Anderson Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment and Skills at the Combined Authority and Mayor of Liverpool said:
“Giving people access to equipment and digital skills has never been more important, particularly given the impact of coronavirus on our communities. It helps people to keep working their way through courses, stay in touch with learning providers, search for jobs and gain skills that will be crucial in the future.
“So much has had to be put on hold this year and it’s essential these opportunities can be taken up, allowing eligible Households into Work and Job Centre Plus clients to move back towards employment.”
Peter Jamieson, Group Director for the North West and North Central Region at the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“Our partnership with Pathways to Work and the LCR Households into Work programme has provided a lifeline for people who are socially excluded during the pandemic due to not having the skills and equipment to get online. Many training and job search activities have moved online. So if you do not have access to a device and WIFI, along with digital skills, your chances of getting a job are much smaller.
“We are delighted that Jobcentre Plus was able to fund this project through our Flexible Support Fund and are so pleased to hear the difference it has made to so many people.”
Jamie Bills from Pathways into Work has overseen the conversion of the bus into a mobile learning unit. He said:
“We have seen the landscape of teaching and delivery change dramatically over the last 6 months. We have found it imperative to have a joined up tactical approach to combat digital exclusion across the region. Pathways to Work is working closely with the Households to Work team at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and DWP to collectively make a measurable difference.”
Households into Work has supported more than 1600 people over the last three years. With a team of 25 advocates based in all six Liverpool City Region local authority areas, they work with disenfranchised, long-term unemployed people who, because of their circumstances, have difficulty finding and sustaining employment.
Lucy from Knowsley took her Level 1 assessment on the bus. She said:
“The computer is allowing me to complete online courses which are going to help me back into the workplace and to be able to have the bus come practically to your door to be able to take the assessment in a Covid safe setting is brilliant. It’s really made a difference to me.”
Pathways to Work is running until March 2021. For more information on the Households into Work programme or to find out how you can be referred go to: https://www.liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk/what-we-do/households-into-work/