The Age Friendly Banbury partnership is continuing its support for local older people with its Connect! project. The first phase of the project aims to help existing users, who already have access to a device, become more confident. This will enable them to do more – such as shop online, access services, socialise, find information, and connect with friends and families.
Partners in the project include: Citizens Advice, the Royal Voluntary Service, Cornhill Companions, Age UK Oxfordshire, Banbury Mosque, Activate Banbury, Cherwell District Council, Sanctuary, and OCF. Citizens Advice are providing training for volunteers, DBS checks and reference checks. The Royal Voluntary Service are the point of contact for all referrals. All partners are providing volunteers and their expertise. Sanctuary Housing and Cherwell District Council have given funding support.
Age Friendly Banbury is also delighted to have the support of Banbury based telecoms business Cloud 9, who have offered data and advice services. Cloud 9 has signed up to the AFB Pledge – the first business in Banbury to officially do so! Based in the Hanwell Fields area of Banbury, Cloud 9 will be offering monthly drop in sessions with help and advice on IT queries for local older people.
Project partners are currently looking to recruit more volunteer trainers, who will be supported by Citizens Advice and undertake online training. Residents of Banbury and surrounding areas are encouraged to sign up for the service, which will be delivered following COVID guidelines when it is safe to do so. Training is offered on a one to one basis in the home. The RVS are ready for local older people to sign up for Connect! by calling 01295 264214. It is hoped that larger numbers will now engage in the service, as lockdown eases and most older residents have received at least their first vaccination.
Plans for the next phase of the Connect! project are underway. The Connect! partners are actively searching for offers of low cost data from telecoms organisations wishing to support the initiative, looking to expand beyond Banbury into Oxfordshire once the current set up is established, and will be asking for donated devices and project partners willing to data cleanse, to allow them to support those residents who do not have access to a device currently.
Connect! is already working closely with OCF and its latest project – Getting Oxfordshire Online – which seeks to tackle digital exclusion across the whole of the county, by putting the infrastructure in place to deliver a sustainable, long-term solution. By 2025, the majority of those who are not currently online should have the digital access they need.