By Daniel Hunter

Social landlords are urged to bid for funding to design innovative projects to help their tenants get online with the launch of Digital Deal today (Thursday).

Digital Deal is a cross-government fund of £400,000 to encourage social housing tenants to improve their online skills. Social landlords will bid for match-funding to run innovative projects for their tenants, bringing the total amount to £800,000.

Schemes such as e-reading rooms to promote digital learning and one-to-one internet support are already run by some social landlords, and the Government wants to help build on this good practice.

"The internet plays a key role in many people’s lives and indeed most employers look for good online skills in their candidates. Yet many tenants in social housing don’t have access to the internet," Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, said.

"So we are launching Digital Deal to support those who want to get online so they can access the opportunities the internet opens up — for example to help search and apply for jobs, find out about community services and to manage their benefits online."

Most claims to Universal Credit will be made and managed online to make the transition into work easier by encouraging claimants to develop the IT and internet skills employers look for.

"The internet is a huge force for good for the majority of people who use it but for too long there has also been a left out minority that includes many social tenants," Communities Minister Don Foster added.

"The Government wants everyone to see the massive range benefits of getting online — from looking for jobs and accessing local services to keeping in touch with friends and family.

"The funding we are announcing today will help many more social tenants get online — not all of them nor overnight, but this is another important step towards making this country one of the most digitally inclusive in the world."

Digital Deal is being managed by Online Centres Foundation, the organisation behind the 5,000 strong UK online centres network.

"With more than a quarter of those living in social housing not using the internet — alongside many more who don't have the skills to get any benefit from the internet — Digital Deal represents a huge opportunity for the social housing sector to really innovate in the way they support tenants to improve their online skills," Helen Milner, Online Centres Foundation chief executive, said.

"Universal Credit presents a huge potential to support people without digital skills to improve their skills, not only so they can make claims, but so they can find work, save money, connect with friends and family and learn more."

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