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Digital Inclusion Digital

Greater Manchester commits to tackling digital inequality with new care leavers initiative

Greater Manchester drives commitment to levelling up for young people and tackling digital inequalities with a new connectivity initiative for care leavers

  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority are providing care leavers with free data connectivity for 12 months, devices and free training 
  • It is estimated that there are 4,200 care leavers in Greater Manchester who are digitally excluded in some way or face levels of digital poverty  

In a drive to address inequalities and levelling up across the region, Greater Manchester’s leaders, private and public sector and young person’s charities have worked together with the Greater Manchester care leaver’s network to design a comprehensive package of support including access to free data connectivity for 12 months, devices and free digital skills training to support care leavers to build their skills and confidence online and benefit from opportunities to thrive. 

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) estimates there are 4,200 care leavers up to the age of 25 across Greater Manchester and all are believed to be digitally excluded in some way. Greater Manchester has some of the highest numbers of care leavers aged 17-21 in the UK. In 2021, there was a 6.7% increase in care leavers, higher than the average for England. 

Most care leavers must learn to budget and look after themselves from a far earlier age than their peers, whilst the national average for young people leaving home is 26, young people leaving the care system at 181 are having to make decisions to live independently without family support. This means that they face increased pressure, have less disposable income and struggle to afford basic essentials including digital devices and connectivity, meaning they are at a higher risk of becoming digitally excluded. 

A lack of digital access and skills can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education, which both in turn are associated with poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy and financial exclusion 

A successful pilot for the connectivity scheme took place in Salford, delivered as a partnership between Salford City Council, GMCA, Good Things Foundation, Salford Foundation and Virgin Media O2. Free data was donated through the National Databank, set up by Good Things Foundation and Virgin Media O2. 

A service user, who benefited from the initial pilot in Salford, said: “I’m really grateful for being provided with the SIM card.  At a time when I have been struggling for money, this is a real help and allows me to keep in contact with my friends, family and services. 

The pilot was able to support 48 care leavers in Salford, with 60% successfully supported with connectivity and 20% signing up for additional skills support. A total of 61% of those supported were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children highlighting the depth of the support needed for young people facing disadvantage in Greater Manchester. and the pilot also garnered national interest from Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, who advised the pilot should be shared nationally and available for all care leavers. 

In May 2021, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity, and technology to get online.  

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “I’m delighted this initiative will be rolled out wider, after a successful pilot supporting care leavers in Salford with the skills, kit and connectivity needed to get online and benefit from the digital world. We know that young people leaving care are in need of support in this space which is why this work is so vital.  

If Greater Manchester is truly going to be a world leading digital city region, we have to make a big commitment to fix the digital divide, the consequences of not doing so are severe. Our young people deserve every chance to fulfil their potential. 

As part of that ambition, The Mayor established a Digital Inclusion Action Network which brings together a cross sector of organisations to lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion in Greater Manchester and this pilot is one example of how the collaborative network delivers positive social outcomes.  

More information on Get Online Greater Manchester: for care leavers is available.

Article Published: 25/08/2022 17:05 PM