Environmental charity Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 are announcing the five charities which have received a share of £400,000 to run a pioneering device lending scheme to provide tablets and data to people who need them.
Grants between £55,000 and £83,000 have been made to five organisations across the UK who provide crucial support to groups such as women seeking refuge from domestic violence, refugees, asylum seekers and people at risk of homelessness.
The five charities are Thames Reach; Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation; Willowacre Trust; Refuge; and Leeds Refugee Forum.
Between them they will provide more than 1,000 tablets to people living in temporary accommodation and who are digitally excluded.
The tablets will be powered by free O2 mobile data provided by the National Databank, set up by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation.
The tablets and data will help people to improve their digital skills, and to access essential services such as healthcare appointments, mental health support, training courses, and to apply for jobs and to take part in virtual interviews.
The grant fund is also supported by Amazon which is providing an additional £100,000 to support the running costs of the lending hubs.
The Tech Lending Scheme also supports the circular economy by rehoming tablets with people who need them, giving them a second life so they can be lent again and again, and prevents them from ending up in landfill as e-waste.
The initiative forms part of Virgin Media O2’s Better Connections Plan – the company’s new sustainability strategy to create a better, more connected and greener world for everyone. The Tech Lending Community Fund is one of the ways Virgin Media O2 will reach its goal to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by 2025.
The winners are:
Homelessness charity Thames Reach, which provides emergency hostels, day services, supported housing and employment, training and education schemes across London. The funding will help Thames Reach to provide 300 tablets and builds on their existing digital literacy skills programme.
Islington-based Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO), which supports women and girls from black and minoritised communities who are survivors of domestic abuse. The charity also provides general advice, Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) advocacy, counselling, digital support, functional and employability skills training. KMEWO will provide more than 100 tablets to help women access online support services such as welfare benefits, housing, health, education, and training services.
Scotland-based Willowacre, which works to reduce homelessness across the west of Scotland and provides a range of services including digital support, money advice, youth services, and furniture/white goods upcycling. The organisation will provide 250 tablets to help those who are at risk of homelessness to have the skills, technology and support to get online.
Refuge, the nationwide charity supporting women and children seeking refuge from domestic abuse, including refugees and asylum seekers, and those at risk of homelessness. The charity established a Tech Abuse and Empowerment programme in 2017 to increase safety, confidence, and digital knowledge amongst those they support. Refuge will provide 250 tablets to help women and children to access online services, education, training and entertainment.
Leeds-based charity Leeds Refugee Forum which supports refugees by providing training and resources to help them develop new skills and integrate into the local community. Thanks to the grant, the charity can provide 200 tablets to refugees across the city, building on their existing tech hub and digital literacy offering.
Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub said: “We are delighted to announce the recipients of the Tech Lending Community Fund. This unique community lending scheme has two key benefits: it allows people at their most vulnerable to access essential services and stay in touch with loved ones, and it also tackles e-waste by giving another life to unwanted tablets and diverting them from ending up in landfill or incineration.
“We look forward to supporting these wonderful charities with resources and guidance as they roll out their programmes, as well as witnessing the impact the tablets will have on the beneficiaries.”
Nicola Green from Virgin Media O2, said: “For people living in temporary accommodation and at risk of digital exclusion, having access to devices and data can be a lifeline.
“That’s why we’re proud to support these five worthy winners of the Tech Lending Community Fund to help them support vulnerable people so they can get online and access the services they need.
“This is just one of the ways Virgin Media O2 is working to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by 2025, as part of our new Better Connections Plan to help people to lead better, more connected, and greener lives.”
The Tech Lending Community Fund builds on Hubbub and Virgin Media O2’s Community Calling programme which launched in 2020 and has redistributed more than 10,000 donated smartphones and data to people who need them.
For more information about the fund and winners, visit https://www.techlendingcommunityfund.co.uk/