UK Online Centres / Online Centres Foundation Annual Review
April 2011 - March 2012

Online Centres Foundation UK Online Centres

Digital government

With the government's commitment to saving money meaning more and more services are moving online, we are committed to ensuring the nation's digital skills can keep pace with this rate of change.

We're supporting government departments with their implementation plans so everyone can benefit from easy-to-access public services, and believe our network will play a vital role in getting people up to speed with these new services.

Jobcentre Plus Digital Champions

The Jobcentre Plus Digital Champions initiative, first established back in 2009, has continued to go from strength to strength during the last year, with dedicated Jobcentre staff pointing people in the direction of a local UK online centre where they can go to find help and support. A number of UK online centres even deliver sessions within the Jobcentre itself, or hold special sessions for the jobseekers who are referred.

A second annual joint-marketing campaign, held in conjunction with Jobcentre Plus, cemented this relationship, strengthening the referral relationships that already existed between many UK online centres and their local Jobcentre, and establishing new ones.

Since we've been working with UK online centres there hasn't been a single person who has failed to get the hang of computers. It's rewarding seeing people being apprehensive to becoming confident internet users.

Kim Sweeney, Digital Champion, Jobcentre Plus

Channel Shift pilot

In our home city of Sheffield, we piloted a project into Channel Shift, along with partners including the Department for Work and Pensions, Post Office, Sheffield City Council, Citizens Advice Bureau and Cabinet Office.

The project aimed to support more people to use online public services through developing partnership referral mechanisms between local community organisations, with local UK online centres supporting the delivery of online services. The project has helped us to develop a model for moving transactions online that we hope can be scaled up nationally, and we'll be working closely with partners to achieve this.

Working in Partnership: Sheffield Channel Shift

Take a look at why some of our partners got involved with the Sheffield Channel Shift project, and why they thoughts it was such a success.

Saving government money

In 2011-2012, all of our centres were tasked with promoting online government services, and encouraging their learners to transact with government online wherever possible. 46% of the learners that visit UK online centres shift at least one government transaction online, and if each contact which is done online saves the government £8, this equates to a huge total saving of over £150 million between April 2010 and March 2012.

Former builder overcomes surgery to find work

A Newcastle man has gained IT skills and found work following operations which left him unable to return to his career in construction.

John Shrimplin, from the Walker area of Newcastle found himself facing a late-life career change following a full double knee replacement which left him unable to handle the heavy manual labour he had done all his life. Refusing to give up work, the former builder, 63, knew he needed to gain some new skills to find new job opportunities.

John says, "The job centre referred me to Newcastle Futures for advice on what direction to go in next, and it was them who recommended I try the computer and internet courses at the Thomas Gaughan Community Centre. I knew I couldn't go back to work as a builder after my operations and I'd need some new skills to get into a different line of work so I thought ‘why not?' I definitely wasn't ready to give up work for good."

It was these computer courses that were to help John find his new direction. He says, "Before coming to the centre I had no experience of computers at all, I'd never even tried one! I was nervous to be honest. Like trying anything new, you get frightened of showing yourself up. The staff were excellent though and I found it all really interesting."

For Hazel Lapidaki, the Resource Centre Manager for Newcastle Futures, who use the Thomas Gaughan Community Centre for outreach services, John's experience is all too familiar. She says, "We do a lot of work now all across Newcastle that's a direct response to the current economic situation. Although we continue to work with the long term unemployed, increasingly we're now seeing people who have been in the same job for decades but because of redundancy are back in the job market without the computer skills they need to search for work."

John sympathises, "I honestly think the internet is the only way to find work now. You only have to go to the job centre to see that everything is ‘apply online' or ‘email your CV'. Before I learnt how to use computers, I just wasn't hearing back from employers at all and it really could be quite disheartening."

Fortunately John was soon putting his new skills to good use, "I wrote up my CV on the computer and I was soon using job search websites and applying online."

For John, learning new skills at the centre made a real difference to his attitude to work. He says, "To be honest when I first started looking for work after so many years in the same kind of job, I didn't have a clue where to start. Going to the centre gave me the confidence to realise all the different kinds of jobs I could give a try."

John's now about to start work as a cleaner for the local university and he couldn't be happier. He says, "Although it's a cleaning job I will need to use a computer for some tasks so I'm pleased I get to keep up my new skills. And it's just great to finally get back to work. I was determined not give up and since learning how to use a computer, my new skills mean I don't have to!"