Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Integration  |  Stage: We are preparing for a family to arrive

Accessing digital services

A resource to help guide your Group in planning your approach to providing digital services and IT Support

Accessing services and details online will be essential for the family you support.  From registering for and managing their benefits through to connecting with friends and family across the world, developing IT skills will only be helpful.

An empowerment approach to IT support

We like to remind Groups that success in Community Sponsorship is when resettled families are able to do things for themselves.  Your Group’s role is not to be someone’s personal IT department but to help them build skills and confidence to navigate technical issues without your help.

Setting clear boundaries as soon at the family arrives will establish what help the Group will and will not provide. Setting boundaries around who is responsible for fixing a computer and how much time you’re willing to spend explaining certain IT issues or resetting passwords will help the family to understand their responsibility for learning these skills early on.  

In order to ensure that the family has reliable online access, you might consider using your funds to pay for two months of internet access, providing a tablet or computer and providing an unlocked SIM card that is already topped up with data as soon as they arrive. Groups have shared with us that most adult refugees arrive with a smart phone; so providing an unlocked SIM card with prepaid credit is suitable – remember that you won’t know what resources the family you are supporting have until they arrive. Some Groups who have not provided an internet connection in the accommodation have found that their local libraries provide free internet access. In encouraging the resettled family to access the internet this way, they have found it is an excellent opportunity for them to meet others and become acquainted with the wider local community.  You could consider looking at the charities connected scheme from Vodafone for initial data needs. 

Some groups have found that by gifting the family a device the family members assume that the Group will take responsibility for its care. Remind the family that their tablet or computer is theirs, you will not be asking for it back and like a device that they would have bought for themselves, they are responsible for fixing and maintaining it or upgrading to a better device.

You should also make sure you spend time with adults in the family exploring their ongoing digital needs; might they wish to remain on the same tariff of broadband you initially provide? How will they budget for this? How can they access the most economical package for their needs? Remember that you don’t need to have all the answers, explore what’s available with the family themselves. 

Initial IT support

As many forms of support continue to be provided virtually following the pandemic, ensuring the family feel comfortable accessing video calling platforms such as Zoom, What’s App or FaceTime can be essential. Help to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Ensure that guides to commonly used platforms are available in the property either as video or written guides to empower the family to work through this themselves. Guides for Zoom and Google Classroom are available in multiple languages.  If you are using a joint calendar with the family, ensure a shortcut is easily available for them to access this. 

Chances are at least one family member will be tech savvy when it comes to using their smartphone, especially for apps like WhatsApp, but a computer or tablet may be unfamiliar territory, so ask all family members how familiar they are with devices. Computer and tablet functions that you may find intuitive won’t come as second nature to someone who has never used a laptop. Although setting boundaries around your support is important, you’ll need to help the family build skills and confidence to work with new technology when they first arrive.

Some key areas of support when helping the family navigate a laptop or tablet will be:

  • Changing a device’s language: Changing the keyboard alphabet or computer language from English to Arabic and back again. This may differ depending on the brand or device but is usually an easy fix. A quick Google search will show you how to do this. You could consider purchasing a keyboard to attach to the device which is in the language spoken by the family. 
  • Email: Set up email for all adults in the family if they don’t already have one.
  • Passwords: The family will need to set and remember passwords for their computer, email, bank account and possibly their GP surgery’s appointment system. Many groups have found that the families they support forget passwords and need help in resetting them. Help the family to pick a memorable password but keep in mind that if their first language is Arabic; remembering a series of numbers and letters will be even harder. Help them to choose something memorable and secure.
  • Troubleshooting common issues: Make sure they know what to do if the computer freezes or the internet disconnects. In the first week, set aside an hour with an interpreter to do a tutorial with the family and go over common issues. You can take screenshots or create diagrams that the family can reference when you’re not around. 
  • Look out for scams online: explain how we all should beware of scams or phishing emails.  A good rule will be if someone is asking for money or personal info outside of a payment transaction, get in touch with a Group member to check.

The above points may require some repetition and practice when the family first arrives but with practice and clear boundaries, the family will build confidence and learn new skills that will help them access more services online.

IT support via remote access

You may also wish to set up a remote desktop app, which allows a group member to access the device of the family to provide additional support.  There are a number of services like Team Viewer and others which are free and paid for versions available – some have limitations, and it’s incredibly important that the family members are aware that you can, with permission, dial into their devices.  Ask them if they are happy with this, and agree how long you will have this agreement in place for.  Demonstrate how you will use this, how they can see you are using this.  Setting this up will ensure that you can provide IT assistance if needed.  Make sure you set up the software on the device prior to the family arriving.

Developing digital skills 

If using devices, receiving everything by email or using online booking systems is new to the family you welcome, you can help to provide a confidence boost that these skills will come in time.  One family we spoke to who was welcomed through Community Sponsorship told us that the thing she found strangest after she arrived is that everything is done via email, with limited post arriving through their front door, which is what they were used to in their host country.  As a group, you could help the family you welcome to prepare and adjust to this. 

  • Local libraries and community services may run introduction to digital skills courses 
  • Through your informal ESOL lessons, you could explore technology together.  Learning Unlimited have some lesson plans around technology, and Holex have produced a best practice guide with heaps of tips for supporting those who wish to develop their digital skills. 
  • Some groups have recruited for volunteers who they can match with family members to support their learning; consider whether any relevant companies in your area allow their staff to volunteer to use their skills to help others