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Mayor of Greater Manchester calls on industry to support digitally excluded young people

14 January 2021

Categories: Digital and Technology

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

New analysis from GMCA has found that less than half of young learners in the city-region in need of a device have so far been supported. GMCA estimates that the national programme may support up to 80,000 remote learners in Greater Manchester, but 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. 

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. 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.

Chair of Greater Manchester’s Youth Task Force, Diane Modhal has been announced as the lead for this drive to businesses to help disadvantaged young people as part of the Young Person’s Guarantee for Greater Manchester.

Organisations including, ANS Group, Auto Trader and Arup Group have already pledged to support phase two of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund through financial donations and the donation of the data packages and technology needed for young people to continue their learning from home.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy 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.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the digital divide across Greater Manchester has intensified. Recent research from the University of Liverpool and the Good Things Foundation, suggests as many as 1.2 million people across Greater Manchester could be excluded in some way from the opportunities that digital brings.

In December 2020, GMCA brought together senior leaders, industry, community groups and local government to tackle the digital divide and set out ambitions to be 100% digitally-enabled city-region with the formation of a new Digital Inclusion Taskforce. This new phase of the Tech Fund will build on the model developed when the fund was first launched by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham in April 2020.

Last year, the GMCA in partnership with Virgin Media Business launched the Tech Fund, the fund allowed 567 ‘digital kit bundles’ to be distributed to disadvantaged and digitally excluded young people and their families across the region. The ‘digital kit bundles’ which included a laptop or tablet and the required tools to gain internet access, were made available to digitally excluded pupils, working closely with schools and colleges to identify those in most need.

Greater Manchester businesses are being called on to support the fund to address digital and social exclusion in Greater Manchester and ensure young people across the city-region have equal access to learning and opportunity, regardless of background or situation.

Lou Cordwell, Co-Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Greater Manchester businesses have already gone above and beyond in their response to the pandemic. It has been inspiring to see the community come together, with countless generous acts by businesses across the city-region to help people during what has been an incredibly difficult period.

“With another national lockdown bringing the issue of digital exclusion to the fore, we are reissuing our appeal for businesses to help us empower some of our most disadvantaged young people. Through donations of equipment like laptops, sim cards, portable hotspots and dongles, or through a financial donation to the fund, you can help us ensure they don’t miss out on vital learning.

“Greater Manchester’s future prosperity depends partly on giving all of our young people access to an education that will help them thrive. Tackling digital exclusion is an important part of this, and we appreciate any support our businesses can offer.

Find out how your business can support the fund 

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