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Is it possible to get free laptops or computers? We bank online, shop online and even have to speak to bots – that’s an imitation human to you and me – when we want to navigate modern life.
But there are still 11.9 million people in the UK, 22 % of the population, who do not have the digital skills needed for everyday living. While research by Statista, revealed that in 2022, only
48% of households, consisting of a retired adult, dependent on state pensions, had a PC.
A lack of digital skills and access can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life. It’s claimed it can lead to poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness and isolation and less access to jobs and education.
Add to this that it can mean paying more for essentials, financial exclusion and an increased risk of experiencing poverty. And with government and local services increasingly moving online too, people who are digitally excluded will lack a voice and visibility in our modern age.
During the pandemic the Government spent £400 million providing disadvantaged young people with laptops and tablets as part of their Get Help With Technology Programme.
But now, in our tough economic climate, trying to find hundreds of pounds for a personal computer of any type is tough ask. So what help is out there?
It isn’t easy to get one but there are schemes out there especially designed to help low-income households access to the tech they need.
If you are on universal benefits, a student, disabled or a low income family, then the Charity Excellence Framework may be able to help.
They offer a wide range of laptops, computers, software and IT support and equipment and have a comprehensive list of organisations who may be able to help in your area. charityexcellence.co.uk If you don’t have access to a computer, try contacting the library or a community group for help or call 07595371444 for more information.
The Good Things Foundation is a charity which was set up to fix the digital divide. They encourage companies to donate their IT equipment to their National Device Bank and the IT equipment, once professionally and securely wiped of all data, can be re-used across community organisation nationwide. To find out more go to www.goodthingsfoundation.org
If you have a disabled or seriously ill child, the Family Fund can provide grants for technology to support them with their learning and digital development.
You can apply if you are the parent or carer of a disabled child and meet the eligibility criteria. Go to familyfund.org.uk for more information or call 01904 550055 where someone will be able to give you help with an application.
If you aren’t eligible for a free computer you may be able to get one much cheaper than in the shops through organisations like Get Online@ Home. They sell heavily discounted computers and tablets to customers who meet the criteria for their subsidy scheme.
You need to be part of a low-income family that receives state benefits, lives in a community with a limited access to technology or is disabled.
their PCs range from £99, laptops from £199 and tablets from £139. Even if you aren’t eligible for the subsidised price, the devices are still available to purchase and much cheaper than average. PCs from £119, Laptops from £219 and Tablets from £159.
The devices are not bottom of the barrel rejects, they are refurbished and specifically for low income customers. getonlineathome.org for more information about how they might be able to help you.
There are disability grants available for children and adults to help with technology equipment, including computers. There is a whole list available on disability-grants.org but these can change so check them out carefully to find the ones which may suit your needs best.
The Restart Project is based in North London but they list reuse projects across the UK that accept devices that people may no longer need but which can be repaired and refurbished not only to help people but also to reduce the e-waste mountain. therestartproject.org
With Fresher’s week underway at universities across the UK, students may be turning their mind to having a laptop or other PC. If a student has a long term health condition or specific learning difficulty like dyslexia or dyspraxia, then they could be eligible for a Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA). However the student will have to contribute £200 towards the computer. If you think you might be eligible for funding which can be several thousand pounds, then go to www.gov.uk and look at their finance student section and where to find your local DSA assessment centre.
AbilityNet has a UK wide network of tech volunteers who offer support to older people. Whether you need assistance setting up a new device, connecting to the internet or need support connecting to family and friends online, abilitynet.org.uk can help.
Volunteers are DBS checked and can assist you by phone, over the internet or at home. They can help you choose equipment that meets your needs as well as guidance on how to shop safely online. They will try and find a volunteer in your area. Call 08000487642 for further information.
If you want to see how you fare with a computer before committing to buying one of your own, why not pop into your local library? Their computers are available and will give you an idea of whether potentially owning your own PC is for you. They will also have information about groups in your community who may be able to offer training as well as cheap and refurbished devices.
Don’t be afraid to ask and who knows, it could open up a whole new and exciting world.