Hello, my name is Cosimo Matteini and I am the Digital Inclusion Coordinator at Hestia. My background is in mental health and I joined Hestia just under ten years ago, when Hestia won a contract to integrate existing service in Kensington and Chelsea. I started as an outreach worker, then I then held the roles of volunteer and befriending coordinator and outreach team leader.
In 2020, whilst the country was in lockdown, I joined a lottery-funded project to strengthen our delivery of safe and effective mental health services digitally. I was seconded into this role, and because of my experience working with volunteers, I was tasked to recruit volunteers to support the work of the project. Within the pilot, we were able to provide devices to some service users who did not have one. I recruited some volunteers as remote digital champion, to support service users setting up and using their first device.
The support from the first three digital champions was well received, and it achieved significant impact in developing digital skills and confidence. Because of its success, it was expanded to the rest of the organisation and more volunteers were recruited. After having spent some time revieing the process, analysing needs and impact and strengthening the team, the service has recently been relaunched, with a team of 12 volunteers.
Volunteers in my team support service users on day-to-day skills like sending emails, downloading apps, joining or starting a videocall, booking a taxi, shopping online and stay safe. These skills help service users participating more fully into society, keep in touch with others, accessing services and preparing for work.
My next step will be working with partner organisation to increase access to devices and data, as many service uses still haven’t got access to internet. Unfortunately, the cost-of-living crisis will make things worse, and this is going to be the next challenge.
I am grateful that Hestia gave me the opportunity to move from an operational role to a central service. I am also so proud that Hestia recognised the impact of my work and the importance of digital inclusion and has made this role permanent.