Advice NI’s digital inclusion project wins Aontas Star Award for Ulster and helps older people access over £400,000 in unclaimed benefits

Advice NI has proved that technology isn’t just for the young. The organisation has just won an all-Ireland award for its older person’s digital inclusion project, Supporting Active Engagement, which is funded by Big Lottery Fund.

The project has empowered hundreds of older people across Northern Ireland to use computer technology and helps them secure all of the benefits to which they are entitled, yielding over £400,000 in unclaimed benefits! The project has also led to many older people across Northern Ireland having access to Wi-Fi for the first time, hugely enhancing their ability to contact friends and relatives online.

Aontas, the national adult learning organisation, gave Advice NI one of seven prestigious Star Awards in Dublin on Monday (23rd February 2015) and recognised the project as Ulster winner for 2015.

Supporting Active Engagement teaches older people in sheltered housing throughout Northern Ireland how to use computer tablets, helping them to get online and to access information regarding their rights and entitlements via Advice NI’s social justice websites, Rights 4 Seniors and POP NI. The Advice NI team follow up and offer financial support and benefit checks to all of the older residents to ensure they are accessing their full range of entitlements.

Big Lottery Fund awarded Advice NI £500,000 in April 2013 to develop and manage the Supporting Active Engagement project over the next 5 years.

Project manager, Ciarán Arthurs, says:

“Sarah Lynch who manages the project’s team of volunteers, and Seonagh George, who offers the older residents free and independent benefit advice, have done fantastic work within 2 years. With the support of our superb volunteers, Supporting Active Engagement has trained over 240 older people how to get online and stay there. We have also gained over £400,000 of previously unclaimed benefits for the older people we have met across the north of Ireland. It is outstanding that their work is recognised with a prestigious Aontas Star Award.”

Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI says:

“This is a tremendous achievement for the staff and volunteers involved. It has helped many older people to access their rights and entitlements as well as enabling them to access online goods and services. An unforeseen consequence of our work is that many of the Folds we work with have now installed Wi-Fi and older people are using this as a means of keeping in touch with friends and relatives”

Joanne McDowell, the Big Lottery Fund’s NI Director said:

“This award shows the positive impact that the Connecting Older People programme is having on the lives of our most vulnerable older people in Northern Ireland. The programme is supporting a range of vital projects such as Supporting Active Engagement to transform the lives of older people in our communities and it’s great to see the good work of Advice NI being recognised.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Advice NI is the umbrella body for the independent advice network in Northern Ireland and has approximately 60 members across NI providing advice on a range of issues including benefits, debt and housing.
  2. If you would like to find out more visit our website.  
  3. Aontas is the National Adult Learning Organisation. It is a non-government membership organisation.
  4. If you would like more information on the Aontas Star Awards visit click here.