The Council’s digital inclusion project ‘Get Connected’ is open to low-income residents on Universal Credit or with little or no qualifications. The council has 120 laptops available for loan for a period of 12 months to eligible residents. They will be supported throughout the year and encouraged to sign up for courses which aim to improve their confidence, employment prospects and connectivity and reduce social isolation.
Nine million people in the UK can’t use the internet or their device without help and 4.7 million don’t have any digital skills at all. There are 700,000 children currently without devices whilst remote learning has been rolled out across schools for most pupils.
In September, The Education Secretary announced plans to provide devices to children in the UK. However, the DFE have not followed through with the devices promised in September, leaving many schools to rely on the support of charities and local businesses to plug the gap.
North Somerset Council has launched a Special Interest Group to look at the Digital Divide to see how it can further help residents struggling with access to the digital equipment and skills that this pandemic has made essential.
Cllr Huw James said: "Shrinking the digital divide and eradicating inequalities exacerbated by digital access are going to be a huge part of our recovery and resilience from Covid-19 here in North Somerset. We know that children without internet-enabled devices, digital skills and workspaces are going to suffer as a result of their education; and we know that basic digital access is going to become a minimal requirement for employees going into the future."
He added: "We know that as well as economically disadvantaged groups, black residents and minority ethnic residents like gyspy, roma and travellers in North Somerset are really struggling from the lack of digital access, infrastructure, and skills. I urge the Government and our Universal Service providers such as BT to properly resource our efforts to fix the digital gap here in North Somerset, at the moment it's not enough"
Other Schemes available at the moment:
- BT Basic: The Universal Service Obligation provision of broadband for individual receiving means-tested benefits. https://www.bt.com/help/landline/getting-set-up/help-people-with-impairments-or-with-particular-needs/how-do-i-find-out-more-about-bt-basic
- BT ‘Lockdown Learning’ Support: BT is offering free BT WiFi vouchers to schools and charity partners to pass on to parents and carers of children lacking the connectivity they need to access home schooling digital resources. https://newsroom.bt.com/bt-announces-lockdown-learning-support-scheme-for-kids-and-families/
Extra Data from Providers: Schools and families can request free mobile data increases for students without broadband and/or who can't afford extra data for devices. Three, Smarty, Virgin Mobile, EE, Tesco Mobile & Sky Mobile are all taking part in the scheme. https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/about-increasing-mobile-data
- The Nerd Herd: A group in Clevedon are collecting unused IT hardware, components, or peripherals to refurbish and give to homeschooling students through Clevedon Aid. https://www.facebook.com/Tnhsolutions/posts/2815215952075040
Bristol Computer Reuse: Providing budget laptops and desktops for the elderly, carers, and people receiving benefits. https://www.bristolcomputerreuse.org/
Schools across North Somerset are also running individual schemes, ask your child's school what support is available. Many schools are accepting donations currently.
- Digital Inclusion Skill Resources: https: //www.connectingbristol.org/themes/responsible-innovation/digital-inclusion-project/digital-inclusion-resources-learn-new-skills-or-run-a-project/
If you would like to find out more about the Council's work on digital inclusion, contact the council's digital inclusion project co-ordinator Jane Goodison on 07990 805 512 or [email protected]. If you would like to let your local Lib Dem Team know about digital schemes, resources, or problems in your local area, contact [email protected]
'Get Connected', which has been funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, will help people to:
- get and set up free IT equipment for them to take home
- learn how to use it and access IT courses
- use the laptop to go job hunting and find work
- access useful online services
- feel confident in the digital world
- get connected with family and friends