Over the past 5 years the way Reach Out learners access services and the Job Centre in particular has changed. WEA have used this as an opportunity to strengthen IT skills for learners. Many of our learners do not have access to a computer and in some cases this has led to them being unable to make a claim, for example, to DLA, ESA or JSA. In the past learners would have been able to get help filling in forms but with the new system this is no longer the case. A lack of confidence in using IT systems or just not being able to read or write has been a major hurdle for many of our learners. With literacy and numeracy being embedded in the entire Reach Out curriculum learners have managed to move forward within a supportive learning environment. The Reach Out project aims to provide flexible learning opportunities enabling the staff to respond to need almost immediately. Learners report back that because of becoming involved in classes like basic IT they now feel more confident about filling in forms and searching for employment.
Planning trips away and days out has helped learners gain a better understanding of what is involved. Reading timetables, price lists and ‘what’s on’ guides have helped with confidence and self – esteem. When learners engage with an activity that they really enjoy or have an interest in it helps immensely with personal literacy needs. For example: We have just completed a John Muir residential. One of the participants had limited reading and writing skills. As a result of a new interest, conservation and John Muir, they gathered up as much information as they could on the subject which were adopted as literacies learning materials. This brought up a whole new range of topics for discussion and the learners felt more inspired and more confident to address their literacies needs.