AN East Lancashire charity which supports refugees and asylum seekers has launched an internet cafe to help them develop their IT skills.

Pendle New Neighbours has opened the computer hub at Suite 203, Pendle Business Centre, Commercial Road, Nelson.

The project has been paid for with a grant of £78,971 from The National Lottery Community Fund over five years, This will fund the two part-time supervisors and the eight computers that have been purchased for the internet café.

Opened on Friday, it will help asylum seekers and refugees in Pendle to learn basic IT skills which will help to improve their self-confidence and life opportunities.

It will make an immediate difference to their lives by providing a place to go and socialise as an alternative to feeling isolated in their own rooms.

Most asylum seekers cannot access wi-fi in their accommodation and will be drawn to a location with which they are already familiar.

The internet café will be open every weekday from 1pm to 4pm.

The sessions provide an opportunity to learn basic computer skills, to seek information about education and jobs, check travel arrangements, explore what’s on and where to go in the local area, and communicate with family and friends.

The sessions will be supervised by a staff member with IT skills and available to support the users if required.

There will also be an adjacent room in which to relax and chat over a coffee.

Pendle New Neighbours was established seven years ago when the first Syrian families arrived in the area, with the aim of welcoming newly arrived migrants on behalf of the local community.

The group has grown rapidly over the past couple of years and registered as a charity last year.

Four staff members and a team of volunteers deliver the services.

These include a daily drop-in to provide an advice, support, and signposting service; and an informal programme of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

Mary Thomas, who is chair of Pendle New Neighbours trustees, said: “We are very grateful to everyone who plays the National Lottery as they have enabled the Community Fund to support our cause."

Present at the official opening was Pendle MP and government minister Andrew Stephenson who said: “It is good to see this project being supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.

"Pendle New Neighbours do such valuable work, and this grant will allow them to do even more.”