Accessing Digital Services

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

As part of your Community Sponsorship Application, the Home Office will ask you how you will empower the family you support to access ‘digital services’. This resource gives an overview of what your Group will need to think about and discuss in order to decide which services will most empower the refugees you will welcome in your community.  You will also need to decide what IT support you will and will not provide for the family.  Use our guide to explore what support you could consider providing.  

Providing IT Support to the Family

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, being able to digitally connect with the family you support is more important than ever. Making sure that the family are able to navigate technology will also help them to build more autonomy over claiming benefits, learning English, managing their finances and engaging with schools.

Many Community Sponsorship Groups have shared with us that they wish they had empowered the family they support to grow their IT skills early on in their support. This resource will help you plan how to empower the family to take responsibility for the technology you’ve provided them and outline some common challenges that Groups have faced in this regard.

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. The same is true for something as seemingly small as IT support. 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.  

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, so like a device that they would have bought for themselves, they are responsible for fixing and maintaining it or upgrading to a better device.

IT Support whilst a family is self isolating

All families arriving into the UK through resettlement programmes must isolate for 10 days in their home.  During this time, you can connect with the family members as needed, but many things will be done online in these days.  Ensuring the family feel comfortable accessing video calling platforms such as Zoom, What’s App or FaceTime will 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. 

Initial IT Support  

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, 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 owned a personal computer. 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.
  • 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 regularly 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. For example: a diagram of Ctrl+Alt+Delete and what to click next for when the computer freezes.
  • Look out for scams online: Tell them to beware of scams or phishing emails. Driving license scam as an example. 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.


Last modified
Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 14:47
Key things to do
  • Discuss as a Group which digital services you will provide and budget for.
  • Research where free digital services are available in your community.
  • Decide if your Group will provide devices such as computers or tablets.
  • Explore how you will support a family to access digital services when they are self-isolating