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Gaining vital computer skills thanks to Warwickshire Freemasons

More than 500 people in Solihull and Birmingham will be given the chance to learn vital computer skills thanks to a grant of £10,200 from Warwickshire Freemasons to the ReCOM charity.

There are hundreds of thousands of “digitally-excluded” older people in the West Midlands who are unable to access services and benefits online, apply for work or keep in contact with family and friends. These are part of an estimated 11.3 million across the UK.

Among several key ReCOM projects, its service in libraries across Solihull and Birmingham supports more than 300 people a year, most over 50, who need to improve their digital skills to search, apply for and secure work. The training includes building a CV and cover letter, set up and use of email, registering on job websites and completing online applications effectively – all while learning computer skills that can be used both professionally and personally. They also partner with other local support and employment organisations for help with interview skills, interview clothes, or related support.

The IT@Home project offers those who are housebound or tied to the home, an opportunity to regain a degree of independence with daily living activities through the use of IT. A ReCOM volunteer provides weekly home visits for up to 12 weeks, bringing IT training direct to the learner. This service reaches approximately 30 individuals a year, with the majority being between 75 – 85 years of age.

The Access IT project, based in Chelmsley Wood, helps around 100 people a year, mostly from older age groups. It is aimed at teaching basic IT skills, with emphasis on housing applications, Universal Credit, Tax Credits and other online forms. The service runs on two half days each week, offering one-to-one tailored training. The training is delivered in accessible, community-based locations by a combination of qualified tutors and trained volunteers.

Solihull has a high older population compared to the UK average. Between 1996 and 2016 the population aged 65 and over increased by 40per cent. Solihull’s older population represents 21 per cent of residents compared to the UK average of 18 per cent.

Birmingham, ranks as the sixth most deprived local authority area in England. Birmingham’s unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent is the highest of the UK’s core cities and significantly higher than the core cities’ average of 4.6 per cent.

The grant from Warwickshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Val Hamilton, Operations Manager, from ReCOM, said:

“We’re very grateful to Warwickshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It’ll really help us to reach hundreds of older people across Solihull and Birmingham and give them the vital computer skills they need for work and for life. Thank you so much!”

Geoff Walker the Provincial Grand Charity Steward said:

“I’m really pleased we’ve been able to assist ReCOM with their hugely important work equipping older people in our community with the knowledge they need to find work and access services online. In this day and age these skills are absolutely essential and ReCOM does a brilliant job in helping local people to master them.”

ReCOM are actively recruiting for a new Chair and Trustees. If you’re interested in being involved with the charity and would like to find out more please contact Carol Wood, Chair, on 0121 663 0335.

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