Grampian Regional Equality Council (New Scots Digital Inclusion Project)

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Lead Organisation:
Grampian Regional Equality Council Ltd
Award Amount:

The project was run in three ways.

Firstly, we used the project to develop a digital inclusion connectivity partnership for Aberdeen City and Shire. This partnership brought together organisations that need to hear and understand barriers to digital inclusion and learning for New Scots. These partners, who have signed up to the project, already had many of the solutions to these issues, and will be able to work together to meet most of the remaining gaps. As well as digital access, this connectivity partnership also considered English language learning and the way this intersects with digital access and learning.

Secondly, by taking on the learning from the existing digital champion model, we aimed to train a digital family member in every New Scots family in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire and evaluate the impact this has. We wanted to work with existing digital community champions within the New Scots community to develop and deliver this model.

Finally, the development of a digital welcome pack will be a new toolkit, aimed at providing a useful tool for newcomers to the North East of Scotland with limited digital skills, cultural knowledge, and/or English language skills.

New Scots reached

Key Information

Our project aimed to:

  • Identify barriers and opportunities for digital inclusion and partner organisations better understand these.
  • Increase access to accredited learning opportunities. Increased skills and confidence. Ensure organisations are better connected and access/referral routes are improved for learners and that gaps in provision are identified and potentially met.
  • Increase community capacity for peer-led learning and support. Increased community knowledge and sustained impact. Reduce digital barriers. Increase knowledge, skills and access to services.
  • Increase knowledge and access to services.

Key Information


Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Refugee Council, Workers Education Association, North East Scotland College, Friends of Amal Project, Al-Amal Project, Assalam Project, LEAD Scotland

Geographical reach

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire


01/09/2021 – 30/11/2022

Target Groups

New Scots in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. Future refugees, asylum seekers and migrants..

Project Type

Supporting innovation


Over the last few years, the shift to digitalisation has been rapid. The public sector has been developing strategies for digital services, some with a defined policy objective of digital first and digital by default. Inclusion frameworks have been drawn up to underpin digital strategies, but the pace of change has created a void and left behind large sections of our communities. Driven in part by the impact of Covid 19 restrictions, the automation and digitalisation of key services has become more prevalent i.e. GP appointments, opening bank accounts, applying for benefits, job applications, online shopping etc. Families lacking the hardware, access or skills to fully participate in this digital society and economy have become more disenfranchised and excluded and less likely to be able to access the information, support and resources they need and are entitled to.

We have been resettling refugee families in the north east for more than 5 years ago. We take pride in ensuring our resettlement approaches are honest, effective and put families at the centre of their own learning and integration journey. We’ve adapted, developed and evaluated our integration approaches but the elephant in the room is that without the digital skills, knowledge and access to be able to contribute and engage, clients can be hugely disadvantaged. As the Carnegie Trust UK stated, digital access, infrastructure, kit, affordability, confidence and developing skills and opportunities is essential in building capacities in a post Covid society.

Involvement of New Scots in project

New Scots, refugees, and people seeking asylum were at the heart of our project from the beginning and throughout. Community feedback and experience at the start was crucial as the base from which the project built. As above, we engaged a lot of people. It was also key to developing a Welcome Pack that works for New Scots in Aberdeen City and Shire. As we’ve highlighted in terms of digital inclusion, language can be a barrier. We budgeted for significant interpretation and translation, and used it accordingly. We ran the same event multiple times often, or drop-in style events, so that more people could access, based on times of day they were available. We ran some women-only sessions at the request of women in the community. The biggest challenges were probably around online fatigue that many people felt during the height of the pandemic, and broader meeting or institutional fatigue where some communities, particularly: those from Afghanistan living in hotels, felt they had spoken to so many professionals without seeing meaningful action or change, that they didn’t see the point now; and the Syrian community who perceived a significant loss of support after their initial leave to remain period. We did have to cancel one mapping event with the Afghan community as a result, but broadly we tried to address this by sharing information, clearly, timely, and with expectation setting at the beginning.


Overall, we undertook all of the planned activities, although the demographics of Aberdeen in relation to New Scots changed dramatically between our initial application and the beginning of the project, and our Council partners faced significant increased resettlement demands, which practically limited their involvement, and meant the project was broadly more reactive than intended.

We did undertake some additional activities though, around social cartography. We welcomed Guillermo to work on the project part-time to run a series of workshops around community mapping. This included identifying areas of the city where people felt happy, where people felt confused, and where people would like to share with others. This added to the original digital welcome plan, and allowed us another co-production opportunity to highlight places and spaces in Aberdeen that local New Scots wanted to share. It also allowed us to identify areas of the city where people were having problems, and seek to address those, mostly around accessing Council services, and UK Government welfare systems. It also gave us an opportunity to map the city in such a way that it was clear that New Scots mostly only engage with a relatively small axis within the city, from Dyce to the beach, to the city centre, to Duthie Park, but not much else.

Challenges encountered

The main challenge was engaging partners as broader demands on them increased substantially as resettlement increased locally, from Afghanistan, then Ukraine, and then widening dispersal of people seeking asylum. There is also some institutional fatigue amongst New Scots locally, where there are concerns that their participation doesn’t lead to meaningful action to improve services or support. On a practical note, not having a project officer during a key delivery stage in the summer, and delays in payment of project funds also created some logistical challenges. Otherwise there were pandemic deviations, mostly that events were restricted to online in the first half of the project by COVID-19 protocols.

The positive aspects of taking on a new approach (innovative)/How the project has expanded on existing examples of good practice

Overall, the innovation was mostly around the partnership approach to tackling digital exclusion, and it wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped, but we’ve still learned from that; if nothing else around capacity, expectations, and commitments. We have made meaningful connections, both with existing and new partners, and there’s scope to take this further, just that the actions we identified for the partnership haven’t progressed enough. There should be more space for collaborative projects, and specific to digital inclusion in Aberdeen and Shire, more coordination and cooperation is still needed. As above, we are looking to embed this learning into our planning and approach beyond the project. We also believe there are more applications of the social cartography activities, and are keen to explore those.


We have gained valuable insight into the barriers to digital inclusion New Scots communities face locally. We’ve connected with local digital inclusion partners, and we’ve raised awareness about the barriers local communities encounter. We have learned a lot about digital skills opportunities, and we have new referral and signposting pathways. We’ve developed a Welcome Pack in co-production with local communities, and we’ve learned a lot about the applications of social cartography. We’re happy to share with interested parties. In hindsight, we’d probably have tried to do more to address partner capacity issues, but realistically without additional funding to add capacity, we’re not sure what GREC could have done.

We’re moving the Welcome Pack to it’s longer term home at in March 2023, and we hope that it will be inspiration and information for other areas. The co-production aspect of this part of the project was probably most important, in that participants highlighted it as a strength, and in that it allowed us to deliver a stronger tool. There will be more to learn as people use the Welcome Pack, and we hope to find resources to maintain and develop looking ahead.

The social cartography sub-project also has scope for replication, here and elsewhere. Again, participants really enjoyed the community mapping events, and the data about the places and spaces people interact with, both positive and negative, has applications beyond what we’ve done so far.

Project Partners