Thousands of low-income households without internet access are being helped to get online through the Connecting Scotland programme.
The Scottish Government announced it will invest £15 million in the programme, which aims to prioritise disadvantaged families with children and young people leaving care. In total, around 23,000 households will be assisted through the initiative, with each receiving 12-months unlimited data and technical support to get online safely and securely.
Suitable recipients will be identified by local authorities and third sector organisations which apply to the programme on behalf of those they support, and each household will be linked with a ‘Digital Champion’ to provide six months of training and support.
Commenting on the programme, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “It has never been more important to be connected and online. It enables us to access information about how to stay safe and healthy during Covid-19, keep in touch with friends and family, and study or work.
“I am therefore very pleased to be able to extend our Connecting Scotland programme and tackle the digital divide by reaching over 30,000 households across both phases that are experiencing difficulties with online access.”
Campbell added: “An additional £15 million will help thousands of families and young care leavers who could not otherwise afford to get online, making sure they are not further disadvantaged by providing the necessary hardware, data, and skills they need to get connected.”
The Connecting Scotland programme is delivered in partnership with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), local authorities and a range of local, public and third sector organisations.
This second phase of the Connecting Scotland programme builds on a £5 million investment earlier this year to get up to 9,000 households with people at clinical or high risk from Covid-19 connected online.
David McNeill, Director of Development at the SCVO said the initiative has helped improve connectivity for thousands of households during a difficult period.
He said: “The first phase of Connecting Scotland has made a significant difference to the lives of thousands of people who were missing out on the benefits of being online. It has enabled them to stay connected to friends and family, informed and entertained, and able to continue with learning and work.
“This additional investment will enable hundreds of organisations from across the public and third sectors to provide support to those who need it most, removing the barriers related to the affordability of kit and connectivity, as well as helping to build digital confidence and skills.”
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Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive of Children 1st commented: “Children 1st were delighted to take part in the first phase of the Connecting Scotland programme to help families without access to IT to cope through coronavirus. Good digital access is essential to keeping both children and parents connected to education, their friends and families and to wider support from charities like Children 1st during these extremely difficult times.
“It’s great to see the programme being rolled out to reach even more families.”