Good Things Foundation, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The APLE Collective, Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC and Mastercard have formed a coalition of partners to offer immediate support to digitally and financially excluded people in the UK, with a focus on those in poverty hit hardest by the impact of COVID-19.
Digital inequality has for some time risked exacerbating poverty and reducing financial wellbeing. However, the need to bring together digital skills and inclusion - and practical help with money - has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis.
The coalition seeks to address this challenge by supporting those most in need. The ‘Leave Nobody in the Dark’ campaign highlights these issues and more importantly addresses them with practical help: personal 1-2-1 support, digital devices and bespoke online resources.
In the UK, 11.7 million people lack basic digital skills1 and there are an estimated 1.9 million households with no internet access.2 This digital divide is most pronounced for those living in poverty; almost half of those with an income below £11,500 lack essential digital skills compared to less than 11% of those with an income over £25,000.1
An estimated 6 million people have fallen behind on a household bill due to Coronavirus,3 and the data shows that the least digitally engaged are more likely to be paying higher household bills irrespective of income, household or age; for utilities alone, they are spending an average of over £348 more per year.1
The programme will deliver*:
Helen Milner, CEO, Good Things Foundation commented: “COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the links between digital exclusion and poverty. Too many people are locked out of online savings, help with debt, and essential support because of digital exclusion and data poverty. As part of this cross-sector coalition, we’re committed to changing this, so nobody is left in the dark.”
Kelly Devine, Divisional President, Mastercard UK & Ireland commented: “When people thrive, economies thrive. To recover from COVID-19 in a long-term, sustainable way, we have to make sure that everyone is included. Helping people access the digital economy, and feel confident in doing so, is a critical part of that. There is no more crucial time to ensure that everyone is connected and has access to the digital services and resources that they need. Now is the time to act, to ensure nobody is left in the dark.”
Helen Barnard, Acting Director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “In the UK we recognise that being able to use digital devices and get online is essential to manage our finances and participate in modern society. People on low incomes were struggling against a tide of rising costs, low wages and inadequate social security before coronavirus and the lockdown has only made things worse. This scheme is crucial to ensure that people are not locked out of digital opportunities at a time when they are most needed - with huge disruption to the labour market, more people needing to apply for social security online and children having to access online learning whilst schools are closed.”
Jeff Mitchell, Founder of Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC commented: “People we work with from disadvantaged communities say vital information about ways to get ahead is hidden from them. Lockdown has reinforced this for households with no access to the internet. With millions more now on the breadline, digital tools and resources produced specifically for them should come into their own. Guided support through the process will also help end exclusion.”
APLE Collective commented: “APLE Collective welcome the work of Good Things Foundation in addressing the digital divide. We believe that only by including the voices of people with lived experiences of poverty can effective changes to anti-poverty policy and practice be achieved.”
Case study – the difference digital skills can make
Kerry, 30, found herself in a difficult situation with debts mounting up. “I was in quite a bit of debt - I had an overdraft in my bank which kept going up and up and up. The money was going in but it wasn’t balancing out. It was very difficult; I became a bit of an insomniac wondering if I would have enough money to feed my son”.
After attending IT sessions with Black Country Click Start and Housing Association whg, Kerry is now in control of her finances. “They helped me to set up an online bank account and from there I progressed. Now I manage my money a lot better.”
Kerry is now debt free and says “Even the slightest little things you can do in your day to day like using spreadsheets or online banking can help. You wouldn’t think having an app would help you but just having that helped me not be in debt!”