Vodafone has announced it is working with the social change charity Good Things Foundation to connect digitally excluded families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.
Vodafone has provided unlimited data SIMs and dongles to connect over 2,500 people, including almost 150 families and adults with disabilities in the South West, enabling them to access support services, online education and employment opportunities. The Good Things Foundation ‘Connecting Families’ programme crucially includes specialist one-on-one support to ensure that, in addition to devices and connectivity, every family learns essential digital skills so they can benefit fully from the tech they’ve been given.
Vodafone’s has also provided Mi-Fi devices and unlimited data SIMs to support adults with learning disabilities and their carers via Good Things Foundation and Mencap, the UK’s leading learning disability charity.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 1.9 million households in the UK don’t have reliable access to fixed line internet, and as many as 11.7 million people lack the basic digital skills needed to support everyday tasks such as communicating, accessing healthcare and being safe and confident online. ONS data also points to the disproportionately negative impact Covid-19 has had on disabled people, especially those with learning disabilities, who are more likely to face digital exclusion.
Since March 2020, Good Things Foundation has distributed devices and connectivity to more than 13,000 families across the UK. It works with local community partners to ensure the programme reaches families most in need and where the tech will have an impact quickly. Anecdotal evidence from its work throughout the pandemic suggests many families have struggled to support children's learning at home because one or both parents lack technology knowledge; and that accessing essential support services, healthcare and benefit systems has been an enormous challenge.
Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director of Vodafone UK, said: “Our purpose as a business has been supercharged during the pandemic, in particular our role in providing connectivity and support to vulnerable people in society who’ve been disproportionally impacted. Programmes such as schoolsconnected and The Great British Tech Appeal have played a big role and helped us reach more than 350,000 children and young people. I hope that, via Good Things Foundation and Mencap, we can support even more people at the time they need it most.”
Helen Milner OBE, CEO, Good Things Foundation said: “We're delighted to be working with Vodafone on the Connecting Families programme. The devices, SIMs and dongles have had a hugely positive impact for many families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK. Digital connectivity and skills are no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have. People who can’t afford a device or data have struggled to access education, financial and job support, and health appointments. We know that digital access has been a lifeline to disadvantaged families and the need to work together to continue to work towards fixing the Digital Divide has never been greater.”
Phil Clark, Digital Partnerships Programme Manager at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The world we live in is becoming increasingly digital and, as we have seen during the crisis, it’s more important than ever to be digitally connected. People with a learning disability often struggle to access and use digital tools and it is vital that they are not left behind, particularly during the pandemic when so many have suffered.
“With the right support, people with a learning disability can use technology to be independent, stay connected and feel more included in their local community. We are incredibly grateful to be working with Vodafone and the Good Things Foundation to help connect more people with a learning disability across the UK - especially during such challenging times.”
Vodafone announced in March that it had donated 10,000 dongle devices to Business2Schools, which is distributing them to schools across the UK. It also made a £200,000 donation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s ‘Learn at Home’ campaign to enable it to distribute 500 computer kits to disadvantaged young people and provide specialist training to youth workers so they can teach digital and coding skills.
These donations follow Vodafone’s schools.connected programme, which gave 350,000 SIM cards to 9,000 schools and colleges across the UK; and its Great British Tech Appeal which calls on the public and businesses to donate unwanted devices. Working with Barnardo’s, SafeLives and British Red Cross, Vodafone then sends these devices to those most in need, with six months’ free connectivity. To date, the programme has helped over 5,000 vulnerable people.