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‘Technological poverty’ fears spark call to action for county’s children

PUBLISHED: 16:32 13 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:20 14 July 2020

Fears disadvantaged children are facing increased technological poverty have sparked fresh calls for action to provide families with laptops. Photo: Getty/Stock

Fears disadvantaged children are facing increased technological poverty have sparked fresh calls for action to provide families with laptops. Photo: Getty/Stock

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Fears disadvantaged children are facing increased “technological poverty” during lockdown have sparked fresh calls for action to provide families with laptops.

Fears disadvantaged children are facing increased technological poverty have sparked fresh calls for action to provide families with laptops. Photo: Nick ButcherFears disadvantaged children are facing increased technological poverty have sparked fresh calls for action to provide families with laptops. Photo: Nick Butcher

County councillors are set to vote on plans to set up a non-profit to refurbish and distribute donated corporate computers for children.

It comes after the government provided just 1,800 laptops for children in Norfolk - which critics slammed as a “drop in the ocean”.

The council said it was working to support schools and families.

The motion, put forward by Norfolk County Council’s Labour group, would - if agreed - see the council aim to set up the scheme by October this year, and provide an initial 10,000 laptops.

Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Photo: SubmittedLabour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Photo: Submitted

READ MORE: Almost 2,000 laptops to help Norfolk pupils learn from home - but critics say it’s not enough

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour councillor for Great Yarmouth, said the motion was a “clear opportunity for Norfolk to lead the way in overcoming barriers to learning”.

He added: “It is imperative that young people have access to appropriate technology in order to reach their full potential. We need to do more to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds and we need to do more to end our county’s technological poverty.”

The motion, which will be debated at a full council meeting on Monday, July 20, states: “Public Health England data shows 21,670 children under-16 are living in low income families in the county.”

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

READ MORE: Referrals drop by half, parents ‘humiliated’ and going without sleep - the impact of coronavirus on Norfolk’s most vulnerable families

The council has “insufficient information” on whether “poverty impacts on educational achievement”, the motion states.

“However, the lockdown has highlighted the gap between educational opportunity and achievements of young learners from different backgrounds. The gap that already exists has been widened by remote learning and a lack of laptops and connectivity for children from less well-off backgrounds. This is a long-term, systemic, and urgent problem.”

The motion calls on council leader, Andrew Proctor, to authorise a business plan for the charitable non-profit, and for the council to agree to fund the costs of setting up the scheme via a grant, as well as offering short-term support from council staff.

READ MORE: SPECIAL REPORT: ‘Failed and forgotten’ - are a generation of our children being let down?

Mr Smith-Clare said the plan for the business would also see it offer apprenticeship opportunities.

John Fisher, children’s services cabinet member, said: “We have been working with schools and families to support learning throughout the lockdown and that has included our participation in the government’s laptop scheme.

“I will respond in more detail to the motion at full council.”

READ MORE: The EDP says... Our vulnerable children must be a priority as we recover


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