The Digital Divide

SPIDER: Skills and Proficiency In Digital Essential Requirements

SPIDER was a survey study that aimed to understand whether people with severe mental ill health have the skills they need to fully engage with and benefit from the Internet and digital technologies

Access to the internet and knowing how to use digital devices are important for everyday life and work. Health services are becoming increasingly reliant on digital devices, which may exacerbate health inequalities already faced by those with severe mental ill-health (SMI). The restrictions imposed in social contact and mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated digitalisation of life and services on an unprecedented scale. This study aims to document the extent to which people with severe mental ill-health (SMI) have the essential digital skills to engage with the online world and identify the sociodemographic and health characteristics that influence this. Another aim is to compare our findings with publicly available data from the general UK population.


SPIDER-ED: Skills and Proficiency In Digital Essential Requirements - Engagement and Dissemination


Following on from SPIDER, a project funded by the CtG is being undertaken collaboratively with a PPI group. The PPI group is leading on developing creative resources that may be useful for supporting people to become more confident and digitally literate.

The resources are being designed for supporting those with lived experience of Severe Mental Ill Health (SMI) and healthcare professionals who care for them, with the aim of promoting confidence to have conversations about digital exclusion.

We are working in partnership with the Good Things Foundation and Equally Well.




DRAGON - Digital Resources and Going Online


DRAGON (Digital Resources and Going ONline) is an exciting new project that is evaluating how to best support people with Severe Mental Ill-Health (SMI) in completing the Learn My Way digital skills courses.


In an increasingly digital world, people with SMI are at greater risk of being ‘digitally excluded’: they may have poor access to digital technology or lack the skills and confidence to do things online.


“The Essential Digital Skills framework was used to assess the level of digital skills in people with SMI and found 42% of lacked foundation skills in comparison to 16% in the general population”. https://owlsresearch.york.ac.uk/about


Good Things Foundation have produced free online courses for beginners to help people develop digital skills to connect and be safe online (https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/learn/learn-my-way/). The courses are widely and successfully used. However people with SMI are often isolated and may lack confidence in their ability to learn new skills, so they are likely to need tailored support to use these packages.

The aim of the study is to pilot the Learn My Way course with people with SMI in a recovery college setting. The first five week course will be run at Durham Recovery College, where support will be provided by an experienced digital tutor and a peer support worker.

The research will involve the assessment of participants’ digital skills and confidence using the Essential Digital Skills Framework and Digital Confidence questionnaire at the start and end of the course and three months after attending the course. We will also gather feedback from both participants and tutors about experiences of the course.

Given the inequalities already experienced by people with SMI, any additional inequalities created by digital exclusion could have serious implications for their health and wellbeing. As health and other services make increasing use of digital resources, it is vital that people with SMI develop digital skills and confidence and so retain access to key services.

We are working in partnership with Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust, Durham Recovery College and North East and North Cumbria ARC.



Theme Lead: Dr Emily Peckham | emily.peckham@york.ac.uk