Wandsworth Council has joined forces with Battersea Power Station (BPS) to support local families who are struggling to stay digitally connected during the COVID-19 crisis.
'Determined to ensure no child is left behind'
Councillor Will Sweet, Wandsworth Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services said: "Wandsworth Council is determined to ensure that no child is left behind during the coronavirus crisis, so we are delighted to work with Battersea Power Station to improve digital access in local homes.
Some families may not have the technology to enable their children to fully take part in lessons and homework while the schools are closed. Some residents rely on Pay As You Go data or don't have a computer for children to work on.
This initiative will provide much-needed support for families at this difficult time and I'd like to thank the Battersea Power Station Foundation and our Children's Services team for working in partnership to get this incredible project off the ground so quickly and out to the children who really need it."
The council is issuing emergency phone data top-up vouchers to school pupils this week, thanks to a £10,000 fund from the Battersea Power Station Foundation.
Aimed at tackling digital poverty which affects the ability of some families to continue their children’s education from home, hundreds of vouchers are being distributed to schools who will distribute them to those households in need of a data boost.
Working in partnership to deliver the new voucher scheme, the council and BPS listened to the experiences of local parents and carers who are facing problems when trying to download schoolwork and stay connected to teachers and the outside world.
Minister for London, Paul Scully, said: “The Government is doing everything it can to ensure that every Londoner is given the support they need to cope with the enormous challenges Coronavirus has placed upon our city.
However, the response to Coronavirus requires a collective effort, and I have been hugely impressed to see organisations across the capital pulling together to support the most vulnerable in their communities. This ‘Power to Connect’ campaign is another fantastic example of that.”
Working laptops or tablets needed
The ‘Power to Connect’ campaign also works with local community partners to improve access to computers or tablets. As part of the initiative, a new laptop and tablet collection scheme is helping both local families without a computer at home, and patients at St George’s NHS Hospital in Tooting, who may be struggling to stay in touch with loved ones during this difficult time.
Local residents and businesses across Wandsworth are asked to donate old laptops and tablets that are in full working order to be re-purposed by volunteers with IT experience who are giving some of their time and expertise to help.
A computer renovation hub has been set up with strict social distancing practices in place. It will be staffed by a minimal number of volunteers who will wipe the computers before turning them into Chromebooks. Each device will be thoroughly cleaned and delivered to community organisations, such as St George’s CE Primary School in Battersea, who will distribute them to local families and patients at St George’s NHS Hospital.
Alex Baker, Director of Communities and Sustainability at BPSDC, said: “The current lockdown situation is challenging for everyone but without access to a computer or broadband it can be an even more lonely and stressful experience.
We hope the ‘Power to Connect’ campaign will help raise awareness of the digital exclusion issue faced by many of the UK’s poorest families so it can be tackled both during lockdown and in the future to ensure those in most need are able to stay connected.”
‘Support to families’
Sarah Collymore, Headteacher at St George’s CE Primary School in Battersea, said: “The ‘Power to Connect’ campaign will be such a support to families on the estate who are home-schooling during the COVID-19 crisis.
The need for greater internet use at this time can prove impossible for families using Pay As You Go data or without computers, with children struggling to access their online learning. Lockdown can also be extremely lonely if you have no way of communicating with the world outside. However, as data credit runs out and families need to prioritise food over internet access, they can be left feeling isolated, disconnected and unable to access the wealth of home-learning resources out there.”
How to help
If you would like to support the ‘Power to Connect’ campaign through computer donations, by volunteering IT expertise or your time to collect and drop off the refurbished Chromebooks, or by making a donation to the data top-up voucher fund, further information on how to get involved can be found at www.powertoconnect.co.uk/
Find help for local residents and businesses from Wandsworth Council at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/coronavirus and follow on twitter @WandBC
For further information on Battersea Power Station, please visit batterseapowerstation.co.uk/ and follow @BatterseaPwrStn to keep up to date with the latest news and events