New SCC scheme launched to help close the digital divide in Sheffield

Written by Sheffield City Council

A new scheme has been launched by Sheffield City Council which will provide grants to the voluntary, community and faith sectors to help digitally excluded adults get online.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced how reliant people have become on digital technologies for accessing public services, keeping in touch with family and friends or working in a range of jobs. It has also exacerbated the digital divide between those who have access to digital services and those who do not.

There are many barriers to getting online and one of the main barriers is access to devices such as laptops and tablets.

As part of the Device Loan Grant Scheme, eligible voluntary, community, and faith organisations can apply for Windows laptops or Android tablets (subject to availability) which they will be able to loan out to adults they work with.

In addition to the provision of devices, successful organisations will receive a one off set up allowance of £250 per device which can be used for a range of purposes. This might be used to fund connectivity, procure additional software, training materials or something else, as long as it directly supports the scheme.

The latest scheme is another step the Council has taken to help close the digital divide in Sheffield. Last year it provided significant financial support to enable thousands of school children to get online when schools were closed – providing more than 3,000 devices and connectivity in partnership with the Laptops for Kids initiative.

In January 2021, a Digital Inclusion summit, led by Councillor Terry Fox, also brought together more than 100 individuals and businesses in the city from various sectors to collectively address the digital divide in Sheffield.

Speaking about the latest grant, Cllr Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “We know that Covid has shone a light on digital exclusion in Sheffield, which is why the Council has been working hard to close the digital divide in our city – with last year’s work on the Laptops for Kids initiative and now the Device Loan Grant Scheme.

“I’m delighted that, by launching this scheme, we can once again demonstrate our commitment to supporting our communities by closing the digital divide.

“This will give much-needed resources to those voluntary, community and faith organisations already working with communities in Sheffield and help them support adults already using their services to get online and contribute to Sheffield’s recovery from the pandemic.”

To be eligible, organisations must be engaged in supporting adults in Sheffield and will have to meet one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Outcome 1: Support individuals who have been adversely affected by lack of access during the Covid pandemic to gain access to digital services;
  • Outcome 2: Support individuals in the development of digital skills and confidence using the internet and online services;
  • Outcome 3: Help to reduce social isolation and improve mental health; or
  • Outcome 4: Enable the development of skills to support employability or economic recovery.

Further information about how to apply for a grant to run a device loan scheme is available at: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/devicegrants

Closing dates for applications is noon, Friday 11th February.