AbilityNet solves IT issues free of charge for older people and those with disabilities in Fife

Getting to grips...with new technology is not always easy but AbilityNet's team of ITCanHelp volunteers are just a call away for people aged 55 and over and those with disabilities of any age here in Fife.
Getting to grips...with new technology is not always easy but AbilityNet's team of ITCanHelp volunteers are just a call away for people aged 55 and over and those with disabilities of any age here in Fife.

A charity which helps disabled people and those aged 55 and over is now making inroads in Fife.

AbilityNet is a UK-wide charity which aims to change the lives of disabled people by helping them to use digital technology at work, home or in education.

Mic issues...Stephen Mackay from Cupar called on AbilityNet for support when a mic started playing up during his weekly radio show. His wife Trudi also got a helping hand with some smart phone issues. The couple were delighted with the free, professional and friendly service they received.

Mic issues...Stephen Mackay from Cupar called on AbilityNet for support when a mic started playing up during his weekly radio show. His wife Trudi also got a helping hand with some smart phone issues. The couple were delighted with the free, professional and friendly service they received.

However, it also offers free IT support at home to people aged 55 and over and anyone with a disability, be that physical or mental.

Since January 2018, that service in Scotland has been co-ordinated by Chris Grant, a 26-year-old from Invergordon who gave up work due to health issues.

With time on his hands, Chris wanted to help others and came across AbilityNet.

He now co-ordinates all requests for the ITCanHelp service in Scotland.

Overseeing the volunteers...Chris Grant from Invergordon is the charity's Scottish co-ordinator for the ITCanHelp service and hopes to attract more volunteers to get on board.

Overseeing the volunteers...Chris Grant from Invergordon is the charity's Scottish co-ordinator for the ITCanHelp service and hopes to attract more volunteers to get on board.

And in recent months, Chris has noticed a big uptake in calls from the Kingdom of Fife.

He said: “We’ve spoken to a lot of third sector organisations in Fife and done quite a bit of promotional work too.

“And that seems to be paying off as we have noticed an increase in calls coming in from Fife now.

“The ITCanHelp service is available free to anyone aged 55 and over or people of any age with a disability.

“Our volunteers, who are all Disclosure-checked, will visit people in their own homes to help diagnose and fix technological problems.

“Volunteers can help install and set up hardware, software, internet and email, as well as change settings to make equipment more user-friendly.

“A lot of the calls just now are related to iPad usage but we’ve also helped people set up Candy Crush on their phones, assisted with smart phone usage and helped people who are having issues with their new TVs.

“We give people the ability to access modern technology on their own, by giving them a steer in the right direction to start with.

“Access to the internet can be hugely empowering, especially for those who have limited mobility or are unable to get out and about as much as they would like.”

Chris is also working closely with the police and the Royal Bank of Scotland on its Friends Against Scams initiative to offer advice to keep people safe on the net.

He explained: “We’re in the early stages just now but our aim is to ensure that we give people advice which will keep them safe when using their phones or the internet.

“There are so many scams that can catch people out – we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

With just 42 volunteers across Scotland, Chris is also hoping more will sign up.

He added: “I co-ordinate all the calls and assign jobs to our existing volunteers, who are spread far and wide across Scotland.

“We have three in Fife at the moment but we’d like more as calls are increasing.

“The volunteers get a lot out of it too – not only are they helping people but they enjoy the craic and, of course, tea, coffee and cake is always welcome!”

Robert Tomlin started volunteering last month and is really enjoying it.

While he lives in Perth, he is often called to jobs in Kinross and Fife too.

Robert currently works in a supported women’s unit, helping people with learning disabilities, but is aiming for a career in social work.

So AbilityNet is helping to develop his skills further.

He said: “I wanted to do something in my spare time that would help other people which is why I volunteered. I’m really enjoying it.

“I’ve tackled a variety of jobs so far, everything from loose wires to support with internet banking and setting up emails.”

Robert was on call when Stephen and Trudi Mackay from Cupar needed support.

Stephen (56), who is a part-time taxi driver, also fronts a weekly radio show.

The Celtic rock show, which airs from 6pm to 8pm every Tuesday on www.skyhighradio.co.uk, has listeners from as far afield as America and Germany.

But when his mic kept on cutting out, he needed help.

He said: “I did a year-long community radio course run by Moray Firth Radio and met Chris up there.

“So I’d heard about the ITCanHelp service and decided to give it ago.

“My wife Trudi was also having issues with the Cloud; Robert was able to help her, as well as sorting my mic.

“His support was invaluable – and he didn’t make us feel stupid either.

“Working in the taxi, I hear how worried older people are about all the banks closing in Fife.

“Having volunteers like Robert on call to help with the likes of internet banking, free of charge, will be a huge support to them. We can’t praise the service enough.”

To request a visit, use the form at www.abilitynet.org.uk, call the helpline on 0800 269 545 or email enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.