Meet the Digital Leader: Louise Blackwell – Community Development Officer, ClwydAlyn Housing

Louise Blackwell explains the key to being an effective Digital Leader is to begin with each individuals’ unique requirements by first starting with rudimentary First Click-style courses to get over fears about using technology then explore individuals’ wants, needs and passions.

See this page in: Cymraeg

How long have you been involved in digital health/inclusion and what positions have you held?

I’ve worked at ClwydAlyn Housing Ltd since 2019 and currently work as their Community Development Officer. I’ve been involved in the digital inclusion agenda for several years now – and have enjoyed working with other key partners (including; Communities 2.0, before it evolved into Digital Communities Wales, Barclays Digital Eagles and local schools’ digital heroes, etc.) to help enhance digital inclusion in the communities where we operate. I believe digital inclusion can bring great benefits in terms of improving mental health through alleviating isolation, by connecting families and communities.

What has been your proudest moment while in the sector?

I loved working with our Pentre Mawr sheltered housing residents and Ysgol Emrys Ap Iwan in Abergele, on an intergenerational paired reading project. I helped the scheme secure ‘Lottery Awards for All’ funding to run a project helping two generations come together and help each other. The elderly helped students with literacy while the pupils showed our elderly residents how to use Kindles – among other digital technologies – and through this, they also formed friendships. It was so mutually beneficial and a wonderful experience for all involved.

What do hope to achieve during your tenure?

I love working for ClwydAlyn and hope to build on what we have achieved already – helping more of our residents engage with digital technologies that have the potential to make a real difference to their lives. Whether this is learning to video-call their families who might live in another part of the world or learn how to use WhatsApp to save money on phone bills, for example.

In your view, what is the key to being a good Digital Leader?

Digital Leaders need to begin with each individual’s unique wants and needs – so must take time to listen to what their individual passions in life, their particular wants/needs and then show them how digital technologies can help them meet these! So for example, a hook for my dad – who had a degree in Egyptology – was to show him how he could access lots of free e-journals and current research about Egyptology online, whereas another resident may love music and therefore would benefit from being shown how to use a service such Spotify and/or YouTube.

What do you think will be the biggest changes in digital health and/or inclusion in the coming years?

Currently, many of the people who could most benefit from digital services are the least likely to be online (e.g. older people, those in deprived areas or in poorer health) and sadly I think we may potentially see this digital divide increase further as a result. This will have an adverse impact on those who remain digitally excluded if proper resources and support is not made available e.g. for Beginners Classes (like the old First Click courses that were invaluable) as there is still a real need for some people to learn the basics in I.T before they can become digitally included and then reap the benefits of this – in terms of saving money by shopping online or connecting with family and friends which will impact on their health.

In your view what are the key principals of effective digital health and/or inclusion?

  • For residents: digital health can mean better access to information and care/support, increased convenience, and more opportunities for people to have greater control of their own health and lives
  • For agencies: digital health can mean more effective delivery of services, better outcomes and reduced costs
  • All services should take into account the needs of people who may be digitally excluded, so people are not isolated.

In your experience, what are the biggest barriers to those in need?

Barriers include:

  • Fear – A worry among inexperienced users of technology that they will do something wrong combined with a lack of understanding, fear of cyber-crime, online banking and falling victim to scams etc.
  • Culture – A possible feeling of “I’ve managed all my life without computers, why should I learn now?”
  • Costs – Concern over outlay on equipment and contracts
  • Lack of skills – Individuals never having used a computer and possibly not knowing where to start.

To find out more about ClwydAlyn Ltd. work as a social landlord in general family accommodation, supported living schemes and housing with care and support, go to www.clwydalyn.co.uk.