Free laptops and internet access for low-income Wirral families
Wirral has announced the local roll out of a ground-breaking scheme to give low income families a free computer and free internet access.
The scheme is part of a national drive to close the digital and educational divide between householders and help keep parents in touch with their child's progress.
It is hoped that the Home Access computer initiative will benefit the whole family - research has shown that pupils could improve by two grades at GCSE with a computer at home, unemployed parents can use the internet to apply for jobs and improve their skills, and each computer will also be loaded with a suite of software to support literacy and numeracy for all the family.
Families with children in years 3 – 9 (approximately age 7 – 14), who are entitled to free schools meals, will be able to apply for a grant to buy a computer and internet connection from an approved supplier, after meeting strict eligibility criteria.
Looked after children up to the age of 18 will also be eligible, and the scheme will offer bespoke packages to provide more support for children with special educational needs.
The general public will also be able to buy Home Access kits, so parents can be sure that the equipment they buy is fully security checked, safe and has all of the software needed to support learning.
The programme is being rolled out nationally after successful pilots around the country showed a positive impact on both the pupils and their parents.
Cllr Phil Davies, Wirral’s cabinet member for children's services and lifelong learning, said: "This initiative means families can come together, learn together and reap the rewards together.
"Helping children succeed in school and get the skills they need will set them on the right track to get good quality jobs in the future.
"In Wirral, we are already working with our schools and computer learning centres to support families in Wirral to ensure they get the free kit, and know how to make the most of it.
"We aim to encourage as many eligible Wirral families as possible to apply for and receive this equipment in their homes.
"We see this as a unique opportunity to begin bridging the digital divide, engage parents in their child's learning and develop the whole family’s ICT skills," he added.
Wirral Council is taking an active role in supporting families through the process, and is delivering leaflets schools and organisations throughout Wirral next week.
The council is also working in partnership with its computer learning centres, One Stop Shops and Children’s Centres, who will be helping parents to obtain and fill in the forms they need.
Families who are awarded the grant will also be able to get help in choosing the right equipment and accessing training sessions and support services.
All Home Access computers will come with rigorous security testing, pre-set parental controls and will be loaded with a copy of the award winning e-safety guide 'Know IT All for Parents'.
All computers will also have a pre-set homepage which includes a 'report abuse' button.For information on how parents can apply for a Home Access Grant call 0333 200 1004 or visit www.homeaccess.org.uk to get more information and request an application form.