EDUCATION: Mayor of Manchester’s call to support digitally excluded young people

“There is still a lot more to do to bridge the gaps in support Greater Manchester’s young people”

A recent consultation on the Young Person’s Guarantee for Greater Manchester found that young people needed better internet access and more support for those who are digitally marginalised.

Responding to this, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has called on businesses to support the Greater Manchester Tech Fund through financial donations and the donation of data packages and devices.

Launching phase two of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has an emergency response to support disadvantaged young people learning from home, following the lockdown announcement and the closure of schools and colleges.

Estimating that the national programme may support up to 80,000 remote learners in Greater Manchester, this will still leave 15,000-20,000 young people needing a device and data, including a large proportion of the 6,000 16-18-year-old college learners in the city-region who are estimated to be digitally excluded.

Andy Burnham has called on Greater Manchester’s business community to make a commitment in line with The Young Person’s Guarantee to support this initiative to ensure young people have the tools to continue their education during this period of lockdown and schools can be supported to deliver learning during this time, ensuring no one is left behind.

A donation of £300 can purchase a complete digital kit and data package bundle including access to internet and laptop or tablet for a digitally-excluded young person in Greater Manchester and to enable them to continue their learning at home.

Greater Manchester says around 15,000-20,000 young people are in need of a device and data

The Young Person’s Guarantee was established by the Mayor last year in response to the ongoing struggles the coronavirus pandemic was having on young people across Greater Manchester.

The consultation was carried out with local young people to gain an understanding of the issues that mattered most to them and another key issue it found was that young people are experiencing social disconnection because of the pandemic. The current lockdown which has seen schools and colleges closed to many young people has only served to exacerbate their digital and social exclusion.

Mr Burnham, said: “In Greater Manchester we have committed to tackling digital and social exclusion, by setting out our ambition to become a 100% digitally enabled city region.

“We know that there is a high percentage of young people across Greater Manchester who have become digitally excluded during this pandemic and their education has suffered.

“With this new national lockdown we risk turning the problem of digital exclusion into lost education and opportunity for our poorest and most vulnerable young people. Although efforts have been made nationally to tackle the problem of digital exclusion for young people, there is still a lot more to do to bridge the gaps in support Greater Manchester’s young people.

“That’s why I am calling on our business community to support the Greater Manchester Technology Fund, through financial donations and the donation data packages and tech, to help our most digitally-excluded young people stay connected and ensure all our young people have fair and equal access to learning and opportunity.

“Throughout this pandemic our business community has stepped up to support the most vulnerable in our community and this project is a chance for others to make sure that no young person in Greater Manchester is left behind. I’m proud of those businesses who have already come forward and I hope others will too.”

Diane Modahl, Chair of Greater Manchester’s Youth Task Force, said: “Digital exclusion was a major focus of Greater Manchester’s Young Person’s Guarantee.

“Young people themselves told us about their anxieties over keeping connected digitally, ranging from concerns over accessing resources for schoolwork, keeping in touch with their school friends or the ability to be connected to future employers. Those young people in our city-region who do not have easy access to these opportunities face being marginalised and at a disadvantage to their peers.

“Many organisations in Greater Manchester have come forward to offer their help with commitments for the Young Person’s Guarantee. I now extend my appeal to businesses across Greater Manchester to come forward again and ensure our city-region’s young people have the tools they need to achieve their aspirations.”

GMCA is also partnering with Business in the Community and The Prince’s Trust to accept donations of technology devices and smart phones to be redistributed to young people through schools, colleges, and support workers. The emergency response fund will continue to bridge the gaps in support secondary school and college students in Greater Manchester and communities.

Businesses are being asked to pledge to:

• Donate data packages particularly sim cards, portable hotspots, dongles and other connectivity devices
• Donate new devices particularly laptops, Chromebooks and iPads
• Make a financial donation to enable the purchase of digital kit bundles
• Donate unused working devices which will be repurposed by Business in the Community
• Volunteer time to become ‘learning coaches’ to train young people to use their new technology to access their lessons online
• To support the fund please visit: www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/GMTF

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