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Adults facing ‘digital divide’ exclusion too

Council leader says internet access is a ‘fundamental’

13 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Emma Whitby at the virtual AGM

ADULTS are finding themselves on the wrong side of the “digital divide” in the same way that large numbers of children were revealed to be without computers or the internet.

Thousands of school pupils were found not to have access to a device when learning switched online during the first coronavirus lockdown.

But the council was told this week that their parents and other adults were also suffering simply for not having the right tech at home.

The Islington Parent Carer Forum has called on residents to donate old devices to help others stay connected through the new lockdown.

Co-chairs Kelly and Abbie, who asked not to be identified by their surnames, said: “We’ve seen a lot of parents and carers struggling with a lot of stuff mentally, financially and socially. With everything being done virtually, they’re quite isolated.”

They said: “All of a sudden everyone is forced to stay at home and lots of people are excluded from that. It means parents are emotionally impacted because they are isolated and can’t get out to meet with other people.

“There are lots of services now that are giving out refurbished laptops but we need more information. If anyone has any donations, come to us so we can let families know.”

Emma Whitby, chief executive of Healthwatch Islington, also called for the need to supply Islington adults with laptops and computer skills after surveying residents about their experiences with health and social care.

“People want to look after their own health and well-being but they haven’t got a clue where to find information from,” she said at the Islington People’s Rights virtual AGM held via Zoom on Tuesday.

“The internet is a good thing and it can really help to alleviate social isolation for residents but definitely, people need support to use it.”

Council leader Richard Watts said most second-hand laptops have gone to pensioners and adult community centres.

He said: “Because of security requirements for schools and the software that schools use it’s cheaper to buy a new laptop than it is to recycle an old Chromebook.

“The digital exclusion gap is massive but it is not just about kit, it’s about broadband connection and the infrastructure that sits behind getting on the internet as well.

Cllr Watts added: “Internet access is not a luxury, it’s a fundamental of modern life. All of the benefit system is moving online, school work has moved online and the ability to have computer skills isn’t an add-on now, it is a fundamental life skill.”

He said the council has received funding from Cripplegate Foundation to help overcome the digital divide.


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