Support in Mind Scotland has been successful in winning funding to start a new digital project, U Learn IT, at the Stafford Centre in Edinburgh.

'U Learn IT' will be a 24-week project for up to 10 people with mental health issues who are socially isolated within the community, and for whom learning computer skills will enable them to feel less isolated. The project will begin in December.

John Philp, Assistant Manager at the Stafford Centre, explained: "The emphasis will be on teaching basic computer skills so by the end of the course people will know how to use and access the internet safely, shop online safely, create an email account and send and receive emails. 

"Anyone who completes the 24-week course will be afforded the opportunity to become a peer volunteer, to help and support others within the centre who wish to learn basic digital skills.

"We hope offering computer skills and peer support the project will soon become a fixture at the centre, and if successful, it could possibly be replicated in some of our other resource centres across Scotland."

Over the past three years, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (SCVO) Digital Participation Charter Fund  – supported by the Scottish Government and BT – has supported 143 projects across Scotland to get people online and develop basic digital skills.

This week, Round 5 of the Charter Fund made awards of over £145,000 shared by 17 organisations from across the country, which work either to support working age people to increase financial capability, employment and other economic outcomes; or support older and disabled people to reduce social isolation and loneliness.

Scotland is already a ‘digital nation’, with eight in ten households having an internet connection, and six in ten people utilising smartphones. However research conducted by SCVO’s Digital Team earlier this year, in conjunction with the University of the West of Scotland, showed that around 21 per cent of adults in Scotland still do not have basic digital skills. 

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said:   “The internet opens up a world of opportunity to everyone. It enriches people’s lives financially, socially and culturally and has the power to make a real difference to the way in which we live. It helps people to keep in touch, learn new things, save money, find work and stay healthy.

"I’m delighted that we can provide funding to these 17 community organisations. Getting people online and developing digital skills within Scotland’s communities is key to a Fairer Scotland.”

SCVO’s Digital Director David McNeill said: “With the ubiquity of smartphones and the central role the internet plays in most of our lives, it’s perhaps all too easy to forget the significant minority who do not have digital confidence, skills or access. Those being left behind are likely to face other challenges, such as unemployment, and therefore end up being doubly disadvantaged.

"Evidence from our research earlier this year tells us that approaches to overcoming digital exclusion must be embedded in a broader approach to tackling social exclusion. The projects funded will benefit those most in need of support.”