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Council to tackle digital exclusion in Coronavirus response

Published Tuesday, 11 August 2020

City of York Council will be hosting a digital inclusion workshop with Citizens Online and Explore Libraries this week, to bring city partners together to share insight and best practice .

Going forward in partnership the aim is to join up activity, share information and resources and encourage collaboration.

Throughout lockdown, the Council have been working in partnership with organisations across the city to promote digital inclusion for residents and tenants who lack connectivity or access to digital devices.

As facilities such as libraries and the council’s West Offices were required to close at the beginning of lockdown, residents who did not have internet access or computers at home were no longer able to access these public facilities. As part of our emergency response to the impact of Coronavirus, the council and partners expanded and initiated a variety of schemes and work to address the growing need for internet access. These schemes included:

  • Eligible residents who lack internet access at home have been supported through lockdown with devices such as smart phones and laptops (plus data) through York’s emergency funding scheme. Households in need of devices were identified in partnership with support workers and charities across the city.
  • Around 50 laptops have been loaned by York Learning to learners wanting to continue their studies during lockdown who didn’t have the equipment to do so. Those already on accredited courses such as apprenticeships, computer skills and functional skills courses in maths and English have been prioritised.
  • Independent Living Centre tenants without online devices have been provided with smartphones and three months of mobile data to keep in touch with friends and family, and to ensure they can order any food and prescriptions they need. Where they have been allocated, the tenants are regularly video calling, ringing and texting friends and family members which, they say, has been a lifeline.  When the time-limited contract expires, tenants can continue to use the phone when they buy and add their own sim cards. This means they and staff can also keep in touch which helps break down isolation.

Throughout lockdown, York’s superfast broadband network has also been further extended to now reach 72% of the city.

Cllr Carol Runciman , Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care said;“Whether it’s ordering your weekly food shop or prescription, accessing council services, contacting family and friends, applying for jobs, continuing school learning or working from home – lockdown has shown us just how vital internet connectivity is for everyone.

“This year has presented us with an immense challenge, but also a great opportunity to advance our work for digital inclusion, to address the need within our communities and make a real difference in York.”

 

Cllr Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities, said: “It’s great to see that learners have been getting the most out of the loaned laptops with support from York Learning staff.

"As a result, they have been able to join zoom courses, online chats with their tutors and are accessing further online resources and information. This wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant support and resources offered by the fantastic York Learning team.

“As we focus on York’s recovery from Covid-19, I look forward to meeting this week with organisations from across the city to share our learning and the experience of residents affected by digital exclusion through lockdown. Moving forward, we need to work together to harness the potential of this new connectivity to make sure we can build stronger, more resilient communities across York.”

If residents are on their own and struggling to manage, or don't have any support, but need it because of COVID-19, we may be able to help. Contact the COVID-19 Helpline for York, by email: covid19help@york.gov.uk, or telephone: 01904 551550.