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Abri Housing – Digital Training for Residents

Cosmic and Abri Housing (formerly Yarlington Housing Group) have been in a long-term partnership, providing dedicated training and support to residents across Somerset and beyond. In 2020, the well-established routine of weekly drop-in sessions, equipment training and bespoke one-to-one support took a knock when Covid-19 disrupted plans. 

Our Digital Skills Trainers have been seconded members of the Abri team in Yeovil since 2015, working to develop trusting relationships with thousands of digitally excluded residents, many of whom struggle to either access or get to grips with technology. Over the years we have regularly reported on individual case studies of residents benefiting from our support: heart-warming tales of individuals finding new hope and opportunity in their lives through newly acquired digital skills. 

Here’s some reflections from our trainers on how they responded to the Covid-19 challenge: 
Remote training is particularly difficult when teaching an individual how to do something online; certainly, for some customers initial in-person meetings are preferred. Yet, we were still successful in supporting 155 customers during the pandemic and help reduce the digital divide.

How were we able to do this? Creating printed guides and How-To videos certainly played a part in the success of the transition from face-to-face to remote learning. But by far the biggest reason for the success would be the introduction of the ‘Team Viewer’ software. With its end-to-end encryption and closed loop technology it made it an ideal solution for some of the issues the trainers were faced with. Team Viewer enabled us to gain remote access to a customer’s device and in turn we were then able to show, guide and point learners in the right direction. Using this software with a customer was as good, if not better, than an in-person appointment (with some exceptions for more vulnerable individuals). 

Overall, we would say that the use of this software, especially in the case of the equipment familiarisation sessions, gave the customer a more detailed bespoke service. This was mainly due to the fact that we were working on a one-to-one basis, so the customer was able to learn at their own pace and ask more questions, when compared to being in a group environment. However, we maintain that the group environments are a great learning experience, as customers get to know other people in their neighbourhoods and create friendships – which has always played a positive part for our social impact.

Whilst remote support is effective, and can work extremely well in certain circumstances, like many things it is not for everyone. Whilst we are thrilled to have successfully supported 155 customers in 2020, our engagement was less than in previous years. The Abri support service has always gone beyond pure digital skills training – with transformational support for individuals. Nevertheless, we can proudly look back on another successful year of essential digital support for these housing residents – and at a time of critical need.