Addressing Digital Poverty in the UK: The Comensura story
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5 minutes

Addressing Digital Poverty in the UK: The Comensura story

The global pandemic drove a range of changes in the world of work. For us at Comensura, the switch to remote and then permanent hybrid working shone a light on a range of things, but one issue we perhaps didn’t expect to become so prominent is the level of Digital Poverty in the UK.

Digital Poverty in the UK

The digital divide was already a real issue before the pandemic. People of all ages – from those in education through to the older population – were facing digital exclusion through a mix of limited household incomes, internet connectivity issues and a lack of tech skills.

In fact, according to Lloyd’s Banking Group’s Essential Digital Skills Report, “11 million (21%) UK adults lack the digital skills needed for everyday life, meaning they’re unable to do things such as make a payment online, write an email or find a job.”

Once the pandemic hit and lockdowns forced people into a virtual word, this digital divide grew.

While it’s a broad issue impacting people of all ages, during Covid-19, it was more apparent in the education sector.

A Government review of learning during the pandemic revealed that in May and July 2020, senior leaders and teachers reported that limited internet access was a significant challenge for around a quarter of their pupils. Around 4% of students were estimated to have had no access to a digital device at all during the first lockdown.

Ofcom also reported that 20% of children did not have consistent access to a suitable device whilst 84% of teachers predict that the attainment gap for pupils increased over the lockdown period.

Our Fighting Digital Poverty Project

When we shifted our teams to remote working, we found ourselves with an abundance of equipment that could no longer be used. Laptops, PC’s, keyboards, screens and more were being stored in unused office spaces, serving no further purpose.

At the same time, our people were seeing first-hand how Digital Poverty was exacerbating digital inequalities. Many of our team are parents, so they knew first hand that there were people across the UK without access to the equipment needed to home school. Teachers across the country were doing everything they could to support children’s education remotely, but schools simply didn’t have enough physical resources to hand out to those in need.

To tackle this, our team took action and called on the rest of the business for support – and the Fighting Digital Poverty Project was the result.

Driving digital inclusion

Impellam Group’s vision is to be a trusted, caring and responsible company. We live through our Virtuoso culture, and we help our people find meaning in what they do. When launched the Fighting Digital Poverty Project, we gained backing right from the top of the business.

Having found a charity that can take old equipment from businesses, safely remove all data and repurpose them to be used by others, we were able to send an initial batch of 300 PCs and laptops to people across the UK who were in Digital Poverty.

But the project didn’t stop there.

Having the backing of the wider Impellam Group as well, the redistribution of equipment is continuing for several of our sister brands. The Group is also supporting skills development in local communities to further help close digital inequalities.

Our staff are given two days off each year in addition to their holiday allowance to use for volunteer work and CSR related activities. As part of the Fighting Digital Poverty Project, we’ve had teams giving their time to help train others in the local community on the core digital skills needed in the modern world of work.

We’ve worked in partnership with our Local Authority customers and pulled in contacts from across our supply chain to deliver workshops to vulnerable people and communities across the UK. And we will continue to provide this for the foreseeable future.

Can you help?

As more office spaces are reduced, equipment shelved to provide home sets up and even as systems are upgraded, businesses across the country will be sitting on items that others can really use. With a Cost-of-Living crisis making digital poverty more widely felt across the UK, allowing anything to go to landfill when it could help others makes no sense.

Employers may have concerns around data protection – particularly with laptops and PCs – but there are compliant and safe solutions. If your firm has any equipment that can be repurposed to help those in digital poverty, reach out to charities such as WeeeCharity today.

You could change someone’s future – so what are you waiting for?

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