At our Trustee Development Day last week we were considering future challenges and priorities. It is already clear that there is an increasing dependence upon digital skills and access, whether claiming benefits, using the “government gateway”, banking and finance – along with a host of other services. In Citizens Advice Rushmoor we are already delivering webchat and email advice, recognising that this is the preferred route for many clients to get advice, particularly those who are working full time or unable to call in for face to face advice.
At the same time as offering these new ways of accessing our service, we also know that many people are being left behind by rapid changes and the move to “digital by default”, which will mean increasing exclusion and isolation for some. This was brought into sharp relief by the results of a recent survey of our clients in Aldershot and Farnborough, which showed that
· Nearly 40% described themselves as having “no basic digital skills”
· Over 35% did not have any internet access
· 8% only have internet access through a smartphone
· Only 50% have internet access at home
As we know that many of our clients are from more vulnerable groups in society, and are often dependent upon state benefits, these figures really focus the need for provision of “Assisted Digital” services. We will be developing our future strategy and plans over the next couple of months, and expect to see this as an emerging issue – so that we can ensure that everyone has access to the help they need.