Digital Poverty Campaign features in CYPNow Digital Divide Article

Posted 17th February 2022

The National House Project supports young people leaving care to live independently. Its Care Leavers National Movement is made up of care leavers from local House Projects who meet regularly to come up with new ideas to improve things for young people.

In February 2020, the group discussed care leaver support packages, with many mentioning difficulties in affording WiFi. “By the time we next met, we had gone into lockdown and the world relied on WiFi, so our discussion came into stark focus, as the young people couldn’t keep in touch with a lot of important services,” says young people’s participation and development worker Rosie Blackett.

The National House Project was able to equip the 250 or so young people taking part in its projects with data connectivity and smart phones for the first three months of lockdown. “Then the government started offering devices but there were difficulties – there was only so much data on the routers allocated, the same laptops were offered to five- and 18-year-olds with no differentiation, many of the laptops had settings which meant you couldn’t use Google Chrome, for example,” explains Blackett.

The group reached out to charities like Catch22 and the Care Leaver Covenant and signed up around 30 organisations to the Keeping Care Leavers Connected Campaign, which lobbied nationally and locally for digital support for care leavers.

In March 2021, Islington Council became the first local authority in the country to commit to giving all care leavers 12 months of free WiFi. “It was the right thing to do,” says Brenda Amisi-Hutchinson, service manager for independent futures at Islington’s Care Experienced Young Person Service. “Thinking about our corporate parenting duties, it is important to us to offer what a reasonable parent would offer.” Other councils are also showing an interest.

While there is a lot going on to tackle the digital divide, care leavers can fall through the gaps says Blackett. “When we talk about the digital divide, we’re often referring to young people in education but many care leavers are not in education, employment or training.”

For care leavers, who may have lacked stable, long-term relationships, the internet is vital to keep in touch with friends and family as well as accessing services. “Whether it’s paying utility bills, doctors’ appointments, accessing counselling support or social workers and personal advisors keeping in touch through WhatsApp, everything is online,” says Blackett.

Triggered by the need to connect to young people during the lockdown, the National House Project has launched an online support platform for care leavers. Funded by the DfE, it will be rolled out to all local authorities, featuring tailored content and regional resources.

CREDIT: CYPNow - Digital Divide 

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