Back in August we were delighted to welcome 19 new Charter Fund organisations on board, and on Tuesday this week we joined one of them, The Marie Trust, as they hosted a ministerial visit by Kate Forbes, MSP

The Marie Trust, a Glasgow-based charity for the homeless, supports individuals who have a range of complex needs. With skilled crisis intervention teams based in their centre, they provide advice & advocacy and mental health, addictions and other specialist counselling services. They have a dedicated training suite where they operate a wide programme of skills development activity, from life-skills and further education opportunities through local college partners to volunteering and employment support. They also have a not-for-profit café on-site – a great facility which helped them gain accreditation as a Healthyliving plus Award Service, and which also serves as a Training Kitchen to offer further opportunities for on-site learning.

Following a period of research, they identified that their service users would benefit from the introduction of dedicated Digital Café, operational 5 days per week, to complement their existing services and provide a range of dedicated drop-in sessions such as a job club, Universal Credit support, financial inclusion/budgeting assistance, healthy living coaching and wider skills opportunities. Following a successful application to the Digital Participation Charter Fund, the project kicked off in September and we were delighted to be able to join Frances McKinley and her team today as they proudly showed off the fruits of their labours to Ms Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy.

With the buzz of the morning food kitchen very much in full swing, our tour took us to meet with some of the service users. We heard first hand what difference The Marie Trust is making to their lives and how they were finding their introduction to the world of digital, thanks to the new WiFi in the café area, dedicated Digital Café iPads and volunteer support. We then had a wider walk round the building to see the training area and the very professional kitchen. In fact, their Head Chef was trained and worked for a previous Master Chef winner.

Ms Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is delighted to continue to work in partnership with SCVO for round seven of the Digital Participation Charter Fund which plays a huge part in tackling digital exclusion and helping people to access the support they need.  Yesterday, I visited the Digital Café at the Marie Trust and was heartened to see such great work from a very dedicated team of staff and volunteers making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people.”

Frances McKinlay, Chief Executive of The Marie Trust, said: “The Digital Café is already complementing the existing range of services we provide and has created an accessible environment that will empower our service users to increase their confidence with digital technology. Our volunteers will also benefit as they will be trained as Digital Champions, enhancing their own individual development, but crucially allowing them to work more closely with service users across all our programmes. Our aim is to see the Digital Café embedded as a centralised resource, volunteer-led and tailored totally to the digital needs of the service users. We are so thankful to SCVO for their support through the Charter Fund, both in terms of the financial investment and their knowledge & guidance.”