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CASE STUDY: Frank connects with confidence

Former travelling salesman, Frank, is one of hundreds to take part in The Bread and Butter Thing’s (TBBT) Connecting with Confidence partnership with Lloyds Bank and We Are Group, which set out to tackle digital exclusion at a grassroots, community level.

TBBT (external website) works in almost 40 low-income communities across Greater Manchester. It’s members face high levels of digital exclusion. For example, over a third of TBBT members only have a mobile phone to get online and almost 40% are unable to complete a basic set of online skills such as sending an email or creating a password.

Frank is one of them. Having spent his working life travelling the country and selling for companies from Cadbury to Cussons Soap, Golden Wonder Crisps to Brook Bond Tea, he is now retired and, although he does have a computer at home, it’s obsolete – along with his fax machine!

Frank said “I have a computer at home but I’m not a computer whizz kid. My daughter sets it all up for me.”

Feeling left behind by digital life, unable to afford to upgrade his technology and finding it hard to keep in touch with his family in Scotland, Frank was keen to take part in TBBT’s Connecting with Confidence project at his local hub.

The project combined three key elements: access to kit, data for connectivity and building up confidence online. Run by We Are Group expert trainers, the sessions provided a tablet and SIM card with six months data from Vodaphone included.

The sessions covered key skills such as setting up an email address and staying safe online as well as downloading and using apps. Follow up support continues to be offered with access to a free advice line.

Frank said: “I thought it was ideal. I would definitely recommend the training that is offered. It's very helpful. It sets you on the road to actually using the tablet. I found the training that I had was ideal for switching it on, putting your password in and getting to that first screen, you know, where your telephone or messages are. And then doing the emails etc. It was absolutely magic.”

Like many TBBT’s members, Frank lacked key skills and confidence online. “I wanted an update on computer know-how,” he explains. “Technology has moved on so fast. I grew up in the era of the video machine and tapes, I’ve even got a fax machine at home. But technology is moving on and a bit too fast for me.”

Now equipped with his new tablet and increased confidence, Frank has downloaded apps such as Facebook and has been able to send and share photos with his family.

As part of its core mission to ignite long-lasting change in low income communities, TBBT finds and develop partnerships that bring in external expertise to work with its members on a 1-2-1 basis, sharing bespoke advice, practical solutions and to further chip away at the costs of poverty.

For Connecting with Confidence, Lloyds Bank and We Are Group were pivotal partners. Piloting the project across a six week period, Connecting with Confidence ran 57 training sessions in 10 TBBT hubs, with 411 people taking part. Each session was open to eight TBBT members who had been identified as digitally excluded – this included members without access to a smartphone, tablet or home computer.

As Jane Partington, Partnerships Director of TBBT explains: “We work with people who are juggling complex lives – multiple jobs, caring responsibilities, health issues – whilst struggling on low incomes. They don’t have time or capacity to explore what the true benefits to being online are. They might use social media but they don’t access banking or pay bills online because that doesn’t feel like a priority for them.

“By investing in our members this way, we know that we’re delivering maximum impact for them and their families. They are now better equipped to access more support, shop more affordably and open up opportunities for employment, education and training and so on. This will manifest itself in really significant, tangible benefits for those individuals in the long term.”

TBBT’s role as the catalyst between its communities and partners – like the yeast in the baking of bread – puts TBBT in a unique position to create meaningful and lasting change for individual members and communities more widely. And it only starts with food…

Find out more about The Bread and Butter Thing's Connecting with Confidence programme (external website)

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