The pandemic has exposed a growing social divide as some of the city’s poorest children are left without access to laptops or reliable Wifi, a council chief has warned.
Some 5,000 kids across Birmingham lack access to a computer or struggle with poor connectivity, meaning their education has been halted until schools reopen.
Children living in poverty are said to be ‘suffering considerably’ without the means to homeschool effectively – with digital exclusion, social isolation, a lack of mental stimulation and even physical health issues among the problems.
But the impact also spans further as ‘children are being held back’ by homeschooling with no laptop, says Councillor John Cotton – Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities.
Speaking as part of a new campaign led by The Child Poverty Action Forum (CPAF), Cllr Cotton said: “The COVID pandemic has starkly exposed a digital divide that has been growing in our society for some time.
“Whilst many of us take connectivity for granted, there are young people in our city who are being held back – at school, from employment opportunities, and from the chance to participate properly in our society; because they don’t have access to something as a working laptop and reliable internet connection”.
The CPAF, along with respective partners, plans to support 1,000 families who have fallen victim to “digital poverty” through its Connect_in campaign.
The forum has teamed up with Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) to help provide refurbished laptops to youngsters in need.
BirminghamLive also joined with BEP this week to help urge others to donate money or old laptops as part of the Laptops4Kids campaign. Details of how you can help are in the factbox below.
BEP will initially contact schools on behalf of The Child Poverty Action Forum. The young people will then be provided with refurbished laptops donated by social enterprise Repc Ltd, specialists in IT recycling and reuse.
Millennium Point will be serving as a drop-off and collection point for the refurbished laptops, in partnership with the CPAF campaign.
Underprivileged families will also be given access to a stable internet connection, courtesy of Wow Dot CIC and their services and expertise, CPAF said.
Qasim Majid, CEO of Wow Group of Companies and recently appointed to join the board of The Child Poverty Action Forum, added: “We understand that the closure of schools has been challenging for all young people. However, those from the poorest families are suffering considerably; due to digital exclusion, social isolation, and a lack of mental stimulation.
“The issue of digital poverty has been present far longer than any pandemic; however, lockdown has certainly painted a deeply saddening picture of what the future of these young people could potentially look like, if we don’t step in to help now.
“In light of this, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work with The Child Poverty Action Forum and offer support, where I can.
“They are an incredible cause and it’s no surprise that collectively, we’ve already gathered so much support, for this campaign”.