Church of Scotland says more must be done to get Scots online

By agency reporter
April 8, 2015

The Church of Scotland has highlighted the price paid by the one in five Scots households who do not have internet access. As the Scottish Government launches its latest initiative to improve digital participation, the Church says too many Scots are still facing barriers to getting online.

The Rev Sally Foster- Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council, said: "We welcome the Government's 'Let's Get On' campaign as a very necessary initiative. We remain concerned at the number of people paying a 'poverty premium' when they can't buy goods cheaper online, can't access employment opportunities, or even meet benefit conditions.

"Statistics show poorer areas have the lowest number of households with internet access. Local churches across Scotland are already helping provide people with the knowledge and resources to get online. We want to see more done to tackle this problem and we believe the Church has the resources to play a big role in this."

Church of Scotland supported initiatives include:

- Chalmers Church, in the Strutherhill area of Larkhall, have a programme aimed at helping people find work by providing guidance on job searching, providing assistance in preparing CVs, and in filling in online job applications. The Rev Andrea Boyes, minister at Chalmers Church, said: "In many ways it's hard work, but in other ways it's a simple formula: Chalmers Church + Volunteers + Computers = Success!"

- Cranhill Development Trust, based in Cranhill Church in Glasgow has received funds from the Scottish Government People and Communities Fund, supported more than 400 people to get online in 2014. The Rev Muriel Pearson, minister in Cranhill Church, commented: "As one of the participants in our projects said recently, 'Getting online has given me my life back. I went to classes that improved my skills, I became a volunteer and I'm now applying for work. I thought it would have been a lot more difficult to get online but the tutors at my classes made it very easy. I would recommend getting online to everyone as the internet gives you another outlook, connects you with people and helps increase your knowledge and skills. It is great to see our Church being used in this way.'"

- Glasgow Kelvin College which has a 'click and connect' centre in the former Sunday school room in the Cranhill Church building and provides tutors for digital inclusion classes. The latest development ensures that an employability worker will be running outreach sessions in neighbouring Ruchazie Church, and Glasgow Kelvin College have just agreed to place five new PCs there as a 'click and connect (light)' centre.

Sally Foster-Fulton said these are just some of the initiatives already underway. "People need to be able to access computers and to get online. Libraries and other publicly accessible computers are often only available for an hour at a time. Churches have the flexibility to allow people to spend longer on their computers and to be supported while they are there.

"It can take at least 1.5 hours to fill in the Universal Credit form, even assuming you know what you're doing and feel confident with computers so some of us need extra time and encouragement. We would encourage churches which are not already doing so to consider how they might be able to be involved in this work."

[Ekk/4]

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