Why 80,000 vulnerable young people are at risk of digital poverty

The government is planning to end the Coronavirus digital access scheme for care leavers, leaving 80,000 young people at risk of digital isolation.

Many of us couldn’t imagine daily life without technology. Whether or not we want to admit it, we have become reliant on our phones, computers and laptops. Particularly during Covid-19, technology use has skyrocketed as the only way to work, learn, and communicate.

For young people, technology is more than a way to work and learn; it is a primary form of social connection. Generations are now growing up attached to devices, with phone calls, browsing, games and messaging apps at their fingertips.

For care leavers, using digital technology is equally important, but it isn’t always equally accessible.

The government recognised this when they funded digital access to care leavers between the ages of 18 and 25 during the Coronavirus pandemic. Experts called this scheme a lifeline as it allowed care leavers to stay digitally connected to the world.

Due to the social isolation caused by the pandemic, we have seen mental health deteriorate. When a group of young people were surveyed by Young Minds about the impact of the Coronavirus, 80% said that the pandemic has made their mental health worse.

If this indicates the general feelings of our youth, it is difficult to picture the impact the pandemic has had on already vulnerable young people. Many care leavers do not have close friends or family to rely on and depriving them of digital connection could be harmful.

Digital access has never been more important and ending this scheme is damaging for thousands of care leavers who do not have the money to fund it themselves.

We must minimise disadvantage and maximise opportunity for care leavers. A step in the right direction is to keep them connected by continuing the digital access scheme.

At Bold Leap, we support the continuation of the digital access scheme. We urge the government to actively support care leavers by connecting them with every opportunity possible.