Edinburgh social landlord launches initiative to help unemployed get online

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A housing association in the Capital has launched a new project to improve digital skills for long term unemployed to help them manage benefits changes online – and move into the world of work.

Dunedin Canmore Housing has teamed up with social enterprise, community organisations and other housing associations to set up supported digital learning hubs in community centres across Edinburgh.

Working in partnership with Cre8te Opportunities Ltd., Digital Skills Academy and CHAI (Community Help and Advice Initiative) Dunedin Canmore launched the Positive Pathways initiative after winning grant funding to deliver learning and employability support for communities in Edinburgh.

The Department of Work and Pensions is moving a large number of benefit claimants online and job seekers need to conduct online job searches to show they are actively looking for work, on the basis that most jobs will require basic digital literacy.

As part of Positive Pathways Dunedin Canmore tenants will be supported to adapt to this change with computer based learning opportunities, from beginner level to fully accredited qualification in all Microsoft Office packages.

The Positive Pathways project will provide computer access, intensive one to one support to help people who risk losing benefits because they don’t have digital skills or access and accredited training opportunities.

Dunedin Canmore won a grant of £199,849 from the Scottish Government for the Positive Pathways project, following a pilot tenant support project working with CHAI to prevent homelessness.

The grant funding until 2015 from The People & Communities Fund will allow Dunedin Canmore and partners to continue providing the intensive housing support – and combine it with one to one support to move people into work and manage benefits changes.

People using the computers as part of Positive Pathways will also get help and advice on benefits, access to accredited IT training and intensive one to one support to tackle issues including addictions and mental health problems.

Conor Lanigan, Community and Business Initiatives Manager at Dunedin Canmore said, “This initiative will help people become better prepared to move into learning, education, training or employment. Help can include using hardware, software, opening email accounts, job searching, using websites and much more.

“Participants coming through the learning programme can access many more digital learning opportunities and can also be trained up as volunteers to deliver the beginner level digital literacy programmes in their own communities – and can use these skills to help them get work.”

As well as providing new computers and access to accredited training, the project is delivering specialist training to community centres on changes to benefits system and digital literacy.

Peter Airlie, Manager at Muirhouse Millennium Community Centre said, “The project is an absolute lifeline for people who don’t have computers at home or don’t really know how to use them. People could go to libraries to use computers but it doesn’t really work that way.

“They might not be able to access the machines for the time they need, or afford costs for printing. Or they just need help because they don’t fully understand all the changes coming in as part of welfare reform. And a major plus of this project is that we can also get specialised training on benefits changes. That makes a huge difference to us in helping make sure people don’t lose their income while they search for work.”