Bridging the digital divide for care experienced young people in Scotland

Date: 6th August 2020
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms, Basic Health and Welfare

using computer.jpg

This briefing explores the digital divide between care experienced young people and their peers. It touches on the challenges and solutions to digital exclusion before and during COVID-19 restrictions. 

Before the pandemic there had been very limited discussion about the digital needs and rights of those in the care system, or those at points of transition. One of the few available studies found that both staff working in children’s services and young people themselves had significant gaps in digital skills and digital literacy which has intensified during COVID-19.

More than half of Scotland’s local authorities contributed information to the briefing, shaping an understanding of the issues of digital exclusion. Three challenges were identified  by all local authorities:

  • Lack of access to hardware including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
  • Lack of consistent reliable access to broadband and Wi-Fi.
  • For some young people, gaps in digital literacy or confidence.

The short-term solutions that have been taken by individual practitioners, throughcare and aftercare teams and local authorities to address digital exclusion for their care leavers have included:

  • The purchasing and provision of IT hardware including laptops, tablets and smartphones to care experienced young people who required these.
  • Funding for additional data allowances, provision of dongles, and in some cases the installation and funding for home broadband.
  • Relaxation of some of the local ‘rules’ and restrictions around use of particular social media platforms by local authorities, agencies and organisations including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

The briefing goes on to evaluate these solutions and how often these responses were ad hoc and part of a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision.

The long-term solutions should be underpinned by an acceptance that digital connectedness is a basic right and necessity for care experienced young people. IT equipment and digital connection need to be incorporated into care leaver grants so that no care leaver entering into their own accommodation is without online access. The briefing highlights what this package should include.

  • Read the briefing here.