How Derbyshire students are helping to tackle ‘digital isolation’

A Derbyshire mental health charity is benefiting from the help of a group of student volunteers – thanks to a project between Derbyshire Voluntary Action and the University of Derby.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 9:24 am

Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support has attracted 18 students from the university to work on the charity’s Tech Buddy scheme, which pairs volunteers with individuals who are not confident or too anxious to use technology.

The volunteers are now working with people to ensure they are able to stay connected with friends, family and access the online support that is out there, avoiding what is known as ‘digital isolation’ and reducing anxiety around digital usage.

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Ellie Scott, peer and volunteer co-ordinator at Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support.
Ellie Scott, peer and volunteer co-ordinator at Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support.

The group’s work is now being celebrated as part of 2021 Volunteers Week this week.

Ellie Scott, peer and volunteer co-ordinator at Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support, which is part of national charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: “During lockdown last year when our face-to-face peer support groups were forced to move online, it was clear that there was a huge amount of anxiety within our service users around using the internet.

“This was creating a huge block for them and leading to the feeling of being isolated.

“It became clear that there was a real need for more support around digital isolation in our area and that’s when Tech Buddies was created.

“However, I soon realised I would need volunteers to help run the service one-to-one to give our service users the best possible support.

“After working with students from the University of Derby as part of a research project for one of their modules, we were thrilled when many of them said they wanted to become volunteers.

“We are so extremely grateful for the support we have from them, it really has been such an amazing help.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many people with reducing their feeling of digital isolation as we do.”

The charity was introduced to the students by Community Chesterfield.

Alison Gibson, community development worker at Community Chesterfield, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to hear from Ellie that such a big group of students have given up their time to volunteer and that they are making such a hugely positive impact on the Tech Buddy scheme.”

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