Willow Walk residents in Cambridge can stay in touch with family and friends thanks to digital tablet

Residents at a supported housing service in Cambridge are benefiting from a digital tablet to use with one admitting it’s helped him cut down his drinking.

Willow Walk has been given a communal tablet, plus a Mi-fi unit which is a portable wireless router, and a data SIM card so residents can use it for entertainment, move on to find their own home or do a training course wherever they are.

Wayne Trickett from Willow Walk in Cambridge suing the digital tablet.

The supported housing service provides accommodation for people aged 18 to 65 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with support needs across Cambridgeshire.

Charitable housing association Riverside has purchased hundreds of the gadgets and technical equipment so residents in supported accommodation across the country can stay connected with the outside world during the Covid-19 crisis.

“I’m grateful for having access to the tablet as it keeps me entertained. I drink a lot so using it has helped me cut down my alcohol intake, I’ve really benefited from it,” says 30-year-old Wayne Trickett who came to Cambridgeshire to reconnect with his mum and ended up in Willow Walk.

“I enjoy using the tablet to listen to music, watch films and talk to people online, it’s been a lifeline. It’s nice to be able to sit in my room and watch what I want. Using it has done me well and helped me a lot.”

The digital tablets have either been gifted to people who need them or given to schemes which is then loaned to residents.

For Craig Teat, 42, the gadget has helped him cope with schizophrenia and depression. He added: “I use the tablet and the communal laptop to play games, watch videos and films. The tablet helps me take my mind of things and put me in a different zone to think about other things.”

Craig Teat, resident at Willow Walk.

The project is funded by the Riverside Foundation which is the housing association’s charity that helps people overcome obstacles for a better quality of life.

Tenants of all ages are benefiting from the initiative including those in our supported housing services for veterans’ who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, retirement living schemes, and supported accommodation for people who are homeless. The tablet will enable people to get online in their rooms, flats and bungalows while self-isolating from the pandemic.

£50,000 digital tablet project given to residents in supported housing services across the country.

Andy Cave, Riverside’s Project Officer who is managing the roll-out of equipment to residents, said: “These digital tablets are a lifeline for many of our customers who are in challenging circumstances, so it will enable them to keep in contact with family and friends as well as being able to check their benefit claims, look after finances and do all the other things we take for granted.

“We worked with EE to get the best deal for the equipment and provide an appropriate data package for residents. It is a vital resource to those that haven’t been able to use the communal lounge due to the government’s social distancing measures and as a result haven’t been able to access the scheme’s Wi-Fi.

“We have listened to what our customers have been telling us during lockdown and we believe this gesture will really help those people in greatest need. It will benefit people of from 18 to 86 and from all kinds of backgrounds, but who have one thing in common in that they have been incredibly isolated, frustrated and lonely during these last two months. We hope residents will feel less socially isolated as they will be able to keep in touch with loved ones.”

Riverside is one of the largest provider of homelessness services in the country, and its Care and Support operation works with over 16,000 customers every year.