Digital Exclusion and the Poverty Cycle

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Digital Exclusion and the Poverty Cycle

As we move into a more digitally connected future those without basic digital skills are at risk of being trapped into a cycle of poverty.

Many jobs that traditionally did not require any digital or computer knowledge now do and those without these skills are at risk of being trapped in low paid work or unable to find employment at all. Jobs such as care work now require workers to have some digital knowledge, as care plans, day planners and wage sheets are being moved to a digital format. With warehouse and factory work people are required to use computers and hand-held scanners as part of their job. Even fast food restaurants now make use of technology, both for ordering and food production. Those who are unable to use this technology are at risk of becoming unemployable.

According to the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index in 2018 8% of the UK population, or 4.3 million people, have no digital skills at all. In the workforce the 10% without basic digital skills earn approximately £13,000 a year less than those with digital knowledge. For people not in work this means they are less likely to gain employment and if they do it is most likely to be in a low paid job.

Lloyds Consumer Digital Index.

However it is not just employment opportunities that cause the poverty cycle, those lacking in the digital basics end up paying more for their goods and services. It is increasing difficult to shop around for cheaper utilities such as gas and electric without having the digital skills to access the internet.

Cuts to public services are also forcing people online to get the help they need, locally if people are looking for affordable housing from housing associations they are asked to do this online, this again excludes people without basic digital skills. Even finding help is difficult without these skills, how do you find a food bank and its opening hours without going online?

Even the benefits system is now digital, it is no longer a case of visiting the Job Centre if you are out of work, because Universal Credit is claimed online and trying to talk to them over the phone results in long waiting times. Staff at Job Centres do not have access to all of the information they used to and advise claimants to wither go online or call in.

The biggest problem people face is trying to access digital skills training, there is very little training out there for people without digital skills. Many organisations are forcing people to access services in a digital fashion, but do not teach them how to do it.

So what can be done to improve digital skills and help lift people out of the poverty cycle?

The people without digital skills can be some of the hardest people to reach. Traditional teaching methods, such as a classroom environment may not suit their learning requirements, as not everyone is starting from the same point. This is where Digital Champions can help. They are a team of volunteers that work with individuals on a one-to-one basis, working with them to see what digital skills that person needs and developing a strategy to teach those.

Do you know someone that needs help with their digital learning? If so take a look at the sessions on offer locally here.

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