To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure every care leaver in England has access to a digital device and the internet for at least 12 months when they first live independently.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure that all services provided by local authorities for care leavers include access to a digital device and the internet.
In April 2020, the government invested £100 million into laptops and 4G wireless routers for disadvantaged students to enable them to engage in remote learning. This was also made available for children with a social worker and care leavers, to improve digital access to support and services. The department has so far delivered over 220,000 laptops and tablets, and over 50,000 routers to local authorities to distribute to vulnerable children and young people in their local areas.
Of these devices, 148,000 have been provided specifically to children with a social worker and care leavers and the guidance issued to local authorities identified care leavers as a priority group. Responsibility for identifying which young people require devices lies with local authorities. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/laptops-tablets-and-4g-wireless-routers-provided-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
These devices are an important injection of support from the government for care leavers who are at greater risk of isolation and, alongside many excellent local initiatives, have helped to improve digital access for this cohort.
All local authorities have a duty to consult on and publish a local offer for their care leavers. This includes care leavers’ statutory entitlements, as well as any discretionary support and services that the local authority chooses to provide. Some local authorities have included supplying mobile phones, data packages or other forms of digital access for their care leavers during the COVID-19 outbreak, and may consider making this part of their local offer going forward.
Mark Riddell, the government’s National Adviser for care leavers, and departmental officials from the Care Leavers Policy Team are actively engaged with the organisations campaigning for better digital access for care leavers.