As Covid-19 restrictions tighten, thousands of care leavers are being left without access to the internet, missing out on education, training and work.
Leading charities and youth organisations supporting care leavers in England have written to ministers warning that young people risk becoming “digitally isolated” as more lockdown measures are reintroduced.
The government announced a package of support for care leavers in April, including free access to WiFi and laptops. But the coalition warns that many of the 80,000 care leavers in England are still without access to technology, and the scheme also comes to an end in November.
Organisations including Barnardo’s, Catch 22, National House Project, The Children’s Society, and many more have come together to call the government to:
- Improve and extend uptake of the government scheme that provides digital devices and internet for all care leavers so they aren’t left digitally isolated.
- Ensure all care leavers in England have internet access and a digital device for at least 12 months when they first live independently.
Chris Wright, chief executive at Catch22 said: “For many young care leavers, having access to a laptop and a decent internet connection has been a lifeline during the pandemic. With the scheme ending and Covid-19 restrictions tightening again, there is a real danger of young care leavers slipping back into digital poverty in the coming months and beyond. We cannot afford to let the digital divide become even wider. We urge government not to desert these young people, and to keep them connected. Digital access must be seen as a right, not a privilege.”
Care leaver Luke Fox has launched a petition on behalf of the are Leavers National Movement in a bid to secure a debate in parliament on the issue.
He says: “Digital poverty is not just about teenagers and those leaving care getting free internet and devices as many will think. Everything uses the internet in this generation, and it’s only becoming more advanced and integral.
“Running a home, having a career, a social life and everything in between has become almost dependent on having this connection and these types of devices. That is the reason for the campaign, we want care leavers to have the same chances and success as those who were not in care. Is that too much to ask?”