#GetOnlineWeek tackles loneliness for Leeds residents

Organisations and charities are coming together this week to encourage more people to get online and become part of the virtual community.

A campaign this week, launched by the Good Things Foundation, hopes to get more people online and offer them a chance to stay connected with friends and family.

Local charities are hosting free activities all week, teaching people new skills and helping them establish new support systems in their community.

People in Action is a Leeds based charity which is taking part in the campaign and has launched a number of additional sessions for online members.

People in Action, when asked about the activities they provide, said “We recently got some Lottery funding to make them even better, meaning we can employ professional practitioners to run some really great, inclusive and engaging activities.”

“We’re trying really hard to reach out to those that are digitally disadvantaged, which has been a struggle. We have bought a load of tablets with our Lottery grant to lend out to members without access to tech.”

Access to the internet nationwide

According to the Office for National Statistics, 80% of households with an adult over the age of 65 do have access to the internet.

There are concerns however, that those who don’t have access to the internet or are unsure how to use it have become lonely during the Coronavirus pandemic. And even those who do have an internet connection may be unfamiliar with certain types of software, such as Zoom.

Rachel McHale, from Age UK Leeds, insists that “older people are often lonely and isolated and the lock down restrictions make this situation worse.”

The #GetOnlineWeek campaign isn’t just about helping older people however, with charities offering services to anyone who’s looking for help online.

Jason Tutin, who works for Leeds Libraries, says campaigns like this are important for anyone trying to access the internet.

“There may have been a perception that digital inclusion was a problem that only affected older people who hadn’t grown up with technology – and it would cease to be an issue as newer generations grew older. But that was the perception 20 years ago and it shows no sign of going away any time soon.”

Back in 2018, the Office for National Statistics released data which showed that nearly 5.3 million Britons had either never used the internet before or had not used it for at least 3 months.

Figures also showed that:

  • 79% of this total was people aged 65 and over
  • 23.3% had some form of disability.

This ONS data shows that older people aren’t the only ones that may experience isolation and loneliness because of a lack of internet access.

With further restrictions being put into place, having access to the internet will become even more important to many households in the coming weeks.

Jason Tutin insists that this campaign shows that anyone can be unfamiliar with the internet and that anyone who has began to feel isolated should take advantage of the sessions being offered this week.

“It’s not just an issue for older people: it’s also people on low incomes, people with learning and physical disabilities, people who are homeless, refugees and asylum seekers, people with long-term health conditions and others.”

“Lack of digital skills and confidence aren’t the only barriers to inclusion, it’s also about access and accessibility and motivation.”

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