‘If I hadn’t had the laptop & Wi-fi connection, I would not be working now’

Connectability makes a vital difference to Norfolk jobseekers

Our Connectability project, which offers laptop loans and the use of internet dongles to anyone currently participating in our employment and skills projects will sadly soon be coming to an end, but we are immensely proud of the difference it has made over the 6 months of the project.

‘Lockdown has caused additional difficulties for many jobseekers who do not have any or regular access to computers and wifi’ explains Voluntary Norfolk’s Skills Connector Dr Verena Niyadurupola. ‘Before the lockdown, participants could access computers at friends’ houses, public libraries and charities, but the closure of public libraries and other community spaces and restrictions on social gathering indoors has prevented this.  Other participants, who have never used computers before, have been unable to access face-to-face digital inclusion services’,  Verena adds.

The Connectability initiative has helped jobseekers overcome some of these challenges.

  • Over the last 6 months, 26 participants received a loan of laptops and mobile Wi-Fi devices.
  • 15 participants participated regularly in our online sessions and wellbeing groups such as training on IT and job search skills, self-confidence, and weekly wellbeing groups delivered jointly with our partner organisations from the Norfolk Community College.
  • The initiative benefitted a total of 34 people and will keep improving people’s lives for long beyond its duration.
  • After approx. 3 months of having received the equipment

     72% of participants increased their online activity, e.g. taking part in online training, looking for jobs, joining virtual community groups and finding help online

     72% showed an increase in overall IT confidence, especially with regard to the confidence to find help online, apply for jobs and taking part in video calls.

     61% reported having more confidence to join virtual community groups and video calls with friends and family, and to find help online. In spite of lock down restrictions,

     50% of participants feel more connected with their local community than before.

And here’s what some of the participants had to say:

  • Even though I am still very new at this I feel very happy to be able to reply to e-mails, send my CV, and set up Zoom meetings. It has given me confidence and I feel better connected with others during the lockdown.
  • It has given me more confidence with IT. I have learned so much, as I had to start right at the beginning.
  • This was a great idea and worthwhile. It has given me confidence to get my own laptop. Thank you, I’m glad I did it.
  • [From a participant without a stable home]: I have been very unwell and having the equipment had a big impact on my studying and on me personally. When I get out of the hostel, I will be able to concentrate properly and make a real go of what never started.
  • If I hadn’t had the laptop+Wi-fi connection, I would not be working now.
  • Having the laptop has allowed me to take part in an amazing therapeutic intervention on Zoom, dealing with painful and traumatic memories. (….) Just to say how grateful I am, having the laptop has allowed me to feel much more connected with others and given me opportunities I may not otherwise have had. Thank you for this loan. I very much appreciate it.

Among the beneficiaries of the project is Shaun, who joined Norfolk Community College in September 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being long-term unemployed, at risk of homelessness and struggling with social anxiety, lockdown restrictions left Shaun in a very vulnerable place with little opportunities for social interaction and expression. After Shaun was supplied with a laptop, Shaun participated actively in Zoom meetings with support workers from the Norfolk Community College Project, and joined further online training and social groups. Since then, Shaun is looking more frequently and actively for jobs online, has regular phone calls with friends and family, and manages his finances online. He has gained more confidence in all these activities, and his wellbeing has improved. Shaun says: ‘I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to have the laptop, because if it wasn’t for this then I wouldn’t have had any contact with anyone over the winter and Christmas and I wouldn’t have improved my anxiety so quickly via the video calls.’

Voluntary Norfolk’s Connectability Scheme was supported by Norfolk Community Foundation through the Covid-19 Local Resilience Fund.