Vodafone has provided unlimited data SIMs and dongles to connect more than 2,500 people in some of the UK's most disadvantaged areas.
Vodafone has announced it is working with the social change charity, Good Things Foundation, to connect digitally excluded families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.
Vodafone has provided unlimited data SIMs and dongles to connect more than 2,500 people, enabling them to access support services, online education and employment opportunities.
The Good Things Foundation’s Connecting Families programme crucially includes specialist one-on-one support to ensure that, in addition to devices and connectivity, every family learns essential digital skills so they can benefit fully from the tech they’ve been given.
Vodafone has also provided MiFi devices and unlimited data SIMs to support adults with learning disabilities and their carers via Good Things Foundation and Mencap, the UK’s leading learning disability charity.
Digital connectivity and skills are no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have
(Helen Milner, Good Things Foundation)
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 1.9 million households in the UK don’t have reliable access to fixed line internet, and as many as 11.7 million people lack the basic digital skills needed to support everyday tasks such as communicating, accessing healthcare and being safe and confident online. ONS data also points to the disproportionately negative impact COVID-19 has had on disabled people, especially those with learning disabilities, who are more likely to face digital exclusion.
Since March 2020, Good Things Foundation has distributed devices and connectivity to more than 13,000 families across the UK. It works with local community partners to ensure the programme reaches families most in need and where the tech will have an impact quickly. Anecdotal evidence from its work throughout the pandemic suggests many families have struggled to support children’s learning at home because one or both parents lack technology knowledge, and that accessing essential support services, healthcare and benefit systems has been an enormous challenge.
Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director, Vodafone UK, said: “Our purpose as a business has been supercharged during the pandemic, in particular our role in providing connectivity and support to vulnerable people in society who’ve been disproportionally impacted.
“Programmes such as schools.connected and The Great British Tech Appeal have played a big role and helped us reach more than 350,000 children and young people. I hope that, via Good Things Foundation and Mencap, we can support even more people at the time they need it most.”
Helen Milner OBE, CEO at Good Things Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Vodafone on the Connecting Families programme. The devices, SIMs and dongles have had a hugely positive impact for many families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.
“Digital connectivity and skills are no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have. People who can’t afford a device or data have struggled to access education, financial and job support, and health appointments.
“We know that digital access has been a lifeline to disadvantaged families and the need to work together to continue to work towards fixing the Digital Divide has never been greater.”
Phil Clark, Digital Partnerships Programme Manager at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The world we live in is becoming increasingly digital and, as we have seen during the crisis, it’s more important than ever to be digitally connected. People with a learning disability often struggle to access and use digital tools and it is vital that they are not left behind, particularly during the pandemic when so many have suffered.
“With the right support, people with a learning disability can use technology to be independent, stay connected and feel more included in their local community.
“We are incredibly grateful to be working with Vodafone and the Good Things Foundation to help connect more people with a learning disability across the UK – especially during such challenging times.”
Vodafone announced in March that it had donated 10,000 dongle devices to Business2Schools, which is distributing them to schools across the UK. It also made a £200,000 donation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s ‘Learn at Home’ campaign to enable it to distribute 500 computer kits to disadvantaged young people and provide specialist training to youth workers so they can teach digital and coding skills.
These donations follow Vodafone’s schools.connected programme, which gave 350,000 SIM cards to 9,000 schools and colleges across the UK, and its Great British Tech Appeal, which calls on the public and businesses to donate unwanted devices. Working with Barnardo’s, SafeLives and the British Red Cross, Vodafone then sends these devices to those most in need, with six months’ free connectivity. To date, the programme has helped over 5,000 vulnerable people.
Notes to editors
Good Things Foundation is a social change charity, helping people to improve their lives through digital. It tackles the most pressing social issues of our time, working with partners in thousands of communities across the UK and further afield. For the ‘Connecting Families’ programme, it works with Community Partners that are part of the Online Centres Network. They are invited to apply for devices and connectivity to distribute to individuals within their local communities where it will have most impact. The Community Partners will also provide the digital skills training.
Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. For advice and information about learning disabilities and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s freephone learning disability helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email email@example.com.
The COVID Recovery Commission has published a map highlighting the impact of the pandemic on deprived communities, including people more likely to be out of work and with worsening mental health. You can find more information here.
Vodafone’s donation of dongles to Business2Schools: The dongle and MiFi donation from Vodafone is worth more than £200,000. The devices can be paired with a Pay As You Go data SIM, making it affordable for families to have flexible internet access. Schools that received SIMs via Vodafone’s schools.connected programme can pair those with the dongle and MiFi devices.
The Vodafone schools.connected programme was created to help pupils who struggle to access education from home because they don’t have the right connectivity. It distributed 350,000 SIM cards to more than 9,000 schools and colleges across the UK to share with their most disadvantaged children and young people. Each SIM came with 30GB of data valid for 90 days. There is now another opportunity for schools to apply for free SIMs thanks to the partnership between Vodafone and the Mail Force Computers for Kids initiative. Another 150,000 free data SIMs are available to order by schools and further education colleges.
The Great British Tech Appeal is looking for any smartphone or tablet in working condition. Donating tech is simple, fast and free of charge. Complete a short online form to receive a donation kit with a flattened freepost box and pre-paid returns envelope. Devices can be posted at any post office or post box. Every device received via The Great British Tech Appeal will be data wiped, re-boxed with a cable and charger and redistributed with the help of charity partners. Recipients of a device will benefit from unlimited data connectivity for six months. To date, over 5000 devices have been distributed to those most in need.
 Before donating a smartphone or tablet, we recommend that every device is reset to default factory settings to remove password and pin data. Please also disable any ‘find my device’ functionality, such as Find My iPhone, or we won’t be able to process or donate your device.