To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the barriers facing care leavers in being approved for contracts with broadband providers.
14 January 2021
We are aware that care leavers are less likely to have access to a device and internet package than their peers in the general population and that, consequently, they were likely to be at higher risk of loneliness and isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. That is why, in April 2020, we prioritised care leavers for receipt of laptops and 4G wireless routers that the department distributed to local authorities as part of a £100 million investment in technology access for vulnerable children and young people.
Of the 220,000 laptops and tablets, and over 50,000 routers that have been distributed, 148,000 have been provided specifically to children with a social worker and care leavers. This has meant that thousands of care leavers have digital access to allow them to participate in learning online and to maintain contact with their Personal Advisers and with other support networks and access support services online. A copy of the guidance issued to local authorities is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/laptops-tablets-and-4g-wireless-routers-provided-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
Since these devices were distributed, we have extended the data packages provided, with all current SIM card contracts remaining active until July 2021. A copy of these details is available at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/devices/preparing-4g-wireless-routers#contract-length.
All local authorities have a duty to consult on and publish a local offer for their care leavers. This includes care leavers’ statutory entitlements, as well as any discretionary support and services that the local authority chooses to provide. Some local authorities have included supplying mobile phones, data packages or other forms of digital access for their care leavers during COVID-19 and may consider making this part of their local offer going forward.