Breaking through the digital divide

My name is Lucy and I’m a Complex Needs Worker for Women’s Lives Leeds, based at Women’s Health Matters.

Over the last few months we have been making enquires as to where we can access some IT resources to help the women we support get connected online and feel safe. I wanted to share how we had a breakthrough in obtaining some IT equipment really quickly and found this in the community of Beeston where Women’s Health Matters is located and is where I live too.

To be fair we have been successful over the pandemic in obtaining funding and being on a reserve list with 100% Digital Leeds, who have massively helped our Rainbow Hearts group for women seeking asylum.

However, another woman that I support had not been successful through another programme and missed out on the chance for a much needed tablet – we were too far down various waiting lists to get something straight away.

Then, on Friday 19 June after exhausting all avenues of a chance to find something I took a break and looked at Twitter. I saw a tweet from a service from The Tech Ladder promoting their work and picture of women overjoyed at receiving a free tablet and data.

Seeing this I retweeted explaining that I work at a local charity and something like this would be invaluable to the women that we support. No less than five minutes later my tweet was replied to saying ‘we can help, call this number!’ And by 1pm I was stood at the doorway of Elsie Reed, founder and director of The Tech Ladder, and with the required social distancing measures communicating the protocol of disclaimers through our masks.

Ed Carlisle had brought around the tablet that was donated by Baz in Hunslet. You can’t get better than some good grassroots organisation.

The Tech Ladder is a holistic social enterprise ‘switched on’ technically and for the community needs too. They also work sessional hours alongside staff within the community hubs at Dewsbury Road and Hunslet offering techy advice.

The altruistic aspect of this service is to help support people who are financially disadvantaged, not only with accessing devices but once they have obtained it offering telephone support, online and onsite training. They provide opportunities for personal and economic development in terms of job searching, assistance with interview skills mentoring and apprenticeships.

The Tech Ladder have utilised their networking skills (Elsie is also a Rotary member) with people who can help people stay connected and stay safe in these uncertain times.

The service was invaluable to us here at Women’s Health Matters showing the need to help break down digital barriers for people who need them most at this time.

At Women’s Health Matters, we work with women who have unequal access to health and support services due to poverty, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or traumatic personal experience.

We provide intensive one to one and group support across Leeds within the following areas: Domestic Violence and Abuse; parenting; women with children living in someone else’s care; women seeking asylum; women with learning difficulties; and women with complex needs or mental health and well being needs.


Photo: Lucy Potter collecting the tablet (left); Elsie Reed, Director of The Tech Ladder (right)