Those previously without devices or connectivity had the opportunity to access online learning, apply for jobs and attend interviews, and connect with friends and family. These are things that the majority of people rightly take for granted.
But government has stopped issuing laptops, and the internet access is set to end in November 2020.
We also know that many care leavers were unable to access the devices – or secure an internet connection to go with them. In a survey of local authorities, covering more than 6000 care leavers between them, 40% said that none of the care leavers they worked with had received a laptop or tablet as part of the Government-funded scheme. This was due to a variety of issues, including IT problems, distribution delays and confusion over eligibility criteria.
Being connected to the internet is vital for the c. 80,000 care leavers in England aged 18-25. Not only does it mean they can continue studies or employment at home and in the absence of face to face learning, but it allows them to connect with their peers. Without a computer and internet access, care leavers who already face considerable challenges feel more isolated and are further disadvantaged.
1.As a first step, we want to see the government extend the existing scheme and commit to making sure care leavers can access it easily. That means clear guidance, fast delivery and appropriate training for users
2.We also want to ensure every care leaver in England has a laptop and internet access for at least 12 months when they first live independently
3.And we want to see government guidance setting out that all local offers for care leavers include the right to a device and internet access
Having reliable internet access makes a huge difference to those care leavers who have been able to take advantage. Taking it away would not only be a backwards step, but would have a potentially damaging effect on these young care leavers’ ability to learn, communicate and work effectively. It would plunge many into digital poverty.
Devices and internet access are crucial to minimise disadvantage and maximise opportunity. Digital access should be a right, not a luxury.
Carefree Fostering Independence Cornwall
Care Leaver Covenant
Care Leavers National Movement
Children’s Rights Alliance England
Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Digital Access for All
Drive Forward Foundation
Family Rights Group
The Fostering Network
Greater Manchester Youth Network
Independent Children’s Homes Association
Just for Kids Law
Leap Confronting Conflict
National House Project
National Network for the Education of Care Leavers
Partnership Young London
Plus One Programme: Derby Theatre
St Christopher’s Fellowship
Youth Work Unit