16 Feb 2023

Improving digital skills with Phoenix

Cleo Akbulut is a Phoenix resident who was helped by their digital drop-in service and is now working with them to support other residents in improving their digital skills. As a resident-led housing association, Phoenix’s model empowers tenants and leaseholders to improve their life skills. Their digital skills programme builds on the organisation’s existing work to tackle unemployment and digital exclusion, aimed at improving the quality of life of residents and everyone who lives and works in south Lewisham.

I’ve been a Phoenix resident for over a decade and didn’t fully understand what community housing meant until last year. As a former massage therapist, I wanted to create more security for myself whilst having a work-life balance, so I attended a workshop with Phoenix and an initiative called Strive Live to learn everything I needed to know to start my own business. 

I was excited to start the course, but I needed a digital device to complete it. I had been without a laptop for some time, which seriously hindered me in developing my skills for business and work, so I contacted Phoenix and spoke to John Thompson, a digital skills advisor, to see if my landlord could help me.

John is not only a fountain of knowledge, but he was also able to identify that I had a talent for digital appliances quickly and invited me to configure a Chromebook for my personal use, which I was able to keep. After accessing the service and reigniting my skill set, I felt very empowered and wanted to create that empowerment for others, so I volunteered to become a digital adviser with Phoenix.

I really enjoyed volunteering, and the interactions I had encouraged me to apply for a part-time position in the organisation as a digital skills advisor, which I was successful with. Now I work with John daily, and he continues to support me immensely by encouraging me in the role and filling me with confidence even when I doubt myself. I couldn’t ask for a better and more patient colleague and mentor.

Our offices at The Green Man double up as a public community hub, so staff are directly linked to residents, making it easier to communicate, collaborate and support our residents daily. Providing a device in the home permanently can provide immeasurable support to households, especially since Covid has digitised everything. 

Since joining Phoenix last August as a digital advisor, I’ve helped 55 people access internet data, via data sims and dongles, as part of our Connected Together Scheme. I’ve also provided 19 devices into the home.

I recall working with one resident who was feeling very digitally excluded and isolated. Despite having the means, she had no support. So, I invited her to one of the digital drop-in sessions I ran. In the beginning, she needed a lot of support, but now, with my help, she has improved her digital skills and attends to learn more and socialise. I can see that attending has increased her confidence with digital devices, but more importantly, her mental health, wellbeing and sense of happiness have improved.

I love this part of my job, the long-lasting impression that resonates with a resident who has been assisted. I would ask about household members and how they manage the rising cost of living daily, signposting them to other Phoenix services that can support them if needed. I find that starting my interactions with residents in a somewhat relatable and conversational style makes them more comfortable and open to sharing their situation. 

I’m glad people genuinely leave happy and feel their needs are being tended to. It’s great to know that I can provide residents with a solution to help them empower themselves and our community.