Three ways we’re helping tackle the digital divide

Thursday 25 February 2021

With millions of children barred from classrooms by covid over the past year, there’s a growing digital divide between those with resources for home learning and those without. Find out what Action for Children is doing to help

We all know the closure of schools has been tough on kids. There’s so much that children are missing out on, like friends, structure and social interaction.

But what about keeping up with education itself? While all schools must provide some support for distanced learning, concerns are mounting that the most vulnerable children are being left behind.

One year into the pandemic, many children live in families who are struggling to afford food – let alone laptops, tablets and broadband internet required for home schooling.

With the help of our supporters and partners, Action for Children has stepped in to help bridge this ‘digital divide’.

One: helping children in crisis with our Emergency Fund

Last year, Action for Children launched our Coronavirus Emergency Fund to help those children and families hardest hit by the pandemic.

Thanks to the generosity of thousands of everyday supporters, as well as our corporate partners, this Emergency Fund has also been able to support children who had no way of joining in online classes once urgent needs for food and clothing had been met.

Among them is 13-year-old Jake, who lives with his parents and two little sisters, Rosie, 5 and Holly, 4 and who is excitedly awaiting the arrival of his third sibling. However, just before Christmas last year, the family found themselves homeless when their new landlord gave their home to somebody else without warning.

Thankfully, Jake was receiving support from the Action for Children Blues Programme, to manage the stress and the ongoing trauma of being homeless.

However, when the second lockdown hit and children were expected to learn online, Jake’s mum Leanne became increasingly concerned:

"We don’t have a laptop or a tablet so he couldn’t log on. I told the school, because I didn’t want him to fall behind and then they told us that Action for Children were getting him a laptop. I couldn't believe it."

Now we are in another lockdown, he can do his [online] lessons so it has massively, massively helped.

Jake's mum, Leanne

"But it’s great for the girls too, because if he isn’t on a live lesson or learning, then [his sister] Rosie can join her classes and feel like she is normal at school too which is really nice.”

Two: providing vital tech through corporate partnerships

Even before the pandemic, young carers had extra challenges to deal with when it comes to education. Their school attendance and attainment tend to be lower than their peers on average, and since their parents are often not in work due to illness, their families are forced to get by on lower incomes.

Action for Children supports young carers across the country. We knew straight away that the young people we support would be among those least likely to have access to a laptop for learning from home.

Smiling boy with laptop learning from home

Thanks to Chromebooks donated by our partner Dell Technologies, young carers like Billy (pictured) have the resources to do schoolwork from home

Thanks to our strategic giving partnership with Dell Technologies, Chromebooks have been donated to 100 young carers, like Billy, pictured here.

His mum said, “I just wanted to say a massive thank you for putting Billy’s name down for a laptop. He’s been using [it] this afternoon for a meeting with his teacher. It’s fantastic so we just wanted to say a big thank you for thinking of him and of course a big thank you from Billy."

“These Chromebooks will significantly help the young people we work with to be able to access online learning and to stay in contact online with their friends, which is also important for their wellbeing"

Kevin Downing, Action for Children’s lead practitioner in Cornwall,

Action for Children and Dell Technologies have been working in partnership for over a decade, during which time Dell has raised more than £2 million to fund our Inspire IT programme. Find out more about our corporate partnerships.

Three: calling on Government to help close the digital divide

Our analysis of applications to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund revealed that almost a third (31%) of families didn’t have the resources to support children to learn from home. Since then, we’ve been raising awareness of the way this ‘digital divide’ risks harming the most vulnerable children and families.

With a third UK lockdown looming in December 2020, and with it the closure of schools, Action for Children called on the Government to provide laptops and equipment to those children at risk of being left even further behind. On 12 January, the Government responded by announcing it would be providing 300,000 laptops for schools to distribute to the most disadvantaged children in England.

Even when children return to school, those without adequate technology and resources as home will struggle to catch up.

We’ll continue to push for the most vulnerable children and families to be prioritised in the coronavirus recovery. Find out more about our work on policy and campaigns.

Help us do more

Children in the UK have missed out on months of classroom teaching as a result of the pandemic. For those children most affected by the digital divide this will have an impact long into the future.

Find out how you can help by donating, partnering or joining our campaigns.

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