Tackling Digital Exclusion in Wales with the Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team
The Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team (EYST) is an organisation in Wales that was set up to fill the gap in provision for young people aged 11-25 by providing a targeted, culturally sensitive and holistic support service to meet their needs.
Since then, EYST has expanded its mission and vision to also meet the needs of young people, families and individuals including refugees and asylum-seekers living in Wales. It does this through the provision of a wide range of services including education, employment, health, family support and community safety.
Spark and Co. worked with EYST to tackle digital exclusion and support in the delivery of the organisations Crisis Fund.
The asylum seeking community is often faced with little to no support. This is due to the lack of access to public funds (if the case has not yet been processed). This continues to be a challenge even after a case has been filed, the asylum seeking community is often faced with little to no support.
EYST created a network of grassroots organisations to make sure that they had an insight into the crucial needs of this community. With growing needs and little public funding available, there was a risk identified that people could slip into depression and ill health.
Our research found that asylum seekers and refugees were already some of the most vulnerable in society, and we aimed to lessen this gap. EYST offered a link to their network, and the chance to reach more families due to their innovative referral network which included:
- EYST colleagues
- SASS (Swansea Asylum Seekers Support)
- ACC ( African Community Centre)
- ILA (Iberian and Latin American Association)
- SCVS ( Better Welcome project part of local CVC).
The diversity of groups involved and on the ground support meant that the partnership could reach a wide range of people.
We supported EYST with the delivery of their Crisis Fund. The Crisis Fund distributes funds to referrals, ensuring people are able to stay well informed and that their fundamentals needs were being met. The project had two elements: tackling digital exclusion and supporting mental wellbeing.
Tackling digital exclusion:
- Our support with the Crisis Fund enables 37 individuals to access equipment to get online; including the provision of 5 Laptops, 2 Smart phones, 2 data bursaries.
- There were also 7 Discretionary Fund referrals
The beneficiaries represented ten different nationalities, and were from all age groups. Single parents, single asylum seekers were represented more than other categories.
It was noted that many families had no tech equipment at home. In one case, saw four children all needed to do homework online without any laptop at home, and with no support from the school or council. Another case saw a job seeker with no recourse to public funds, unable to apply for jobs without a phone or data.
Supporting mental wellbeing:
- Once the digital equipment had been provided, we partnered with The Delicate Mind to deliver an online women’s mindfulness workshop for members of the community.
- 37 people were able to get online, with the tools and technology most suited to their needs
By having a referral system in place, people were able to access exactly what they needed (rather than receiving what an organisation assumes they need). This improved agency and sense of personal rights amongst the community. In the specific cases mentioned above, the family with four children were able to receive a laptop to do homework, thus lessening the digital divide gap in relation to education. The job seeker was able to receive a phone and data in order to access information online and improve their chances of finding employment.
An EYST staff member said “we were able to help more clients to access the internet, access education, find latest information about Covid-19 and vaccinations, reduce isolation and enhance their knowledge”.
- With the new access to digital devices, 6 women were able to join the wellness workshop, share experiences and take some time to focus on their mental health.
EYST member stated “Personally, I have enjoyed the session very much and it was a reflection time for me – to think about what matters the most and my dreams, goals in future. I have had some amazing feedback from all participants, and I look forward to another one in future.”