Home-Start is working with BT to support families worst hit by the cost-of-living crisis, by offering 2,500 financially vulnerable households’ free devices and connectivity on BT’s Home Essentials social tariff.

Home-Start and BT’s partnership will help tackle the digital divide by offering the devices and connectivity to over 9,000 people. The move is set to provide those at risk of digital exclusion with a connection that helps unlock access to educational resources and job opportunities online.  

BT will be working with Home-Start UK to distribute devices to families supported by local Home-Start branches across the UK, and who do not have access to a fixed broadband connection, as well as giving them access to BT’s social tariff. 

BT Home Essentials is an industry leading social tariff for customers who receive Universal Credit and other means tested benefits, with average download speeds of 36 Mbps and 700 mins of calls for £15 a month – saving customers £240 a year³ compared to an equivalent package. 

A report from the Fabian Society, supported by BT, shows the widening digital divide in the UK. Within two years, nearly twice as many households are going without home broadband and relying only on mobile phones to access the internet. 

The report reveals just over one in 10 (12%) of homes had no home broadband connection in 2019. By late 2021 that had risen to more than one in five (21%), equating to roughly 5.8m households. 

Accessing the internet via mobile phone costs more per gigabyte of data than via broadband, the Fabian’s report ‘Bridging The Divide’ reveals. It means financially vulnerable families are paying more to get online as well as slower access speeds than if they had a fixed broadband connection.

More needs to be done to help low-income households find the packages that offer the best value to meet their data needs.  However, the evidence shows that even low-cost social tariff broadband is unaffordable for those households on the very lowest incomes.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, said: "BT’s purpose of Connecting for Good is at the heart of what we do, and having an affordable fixed broadband connection is fundamental to quality of life.

“We need to find sustainable ways to make the internet a level playing field for all. That’s why it’s been great to have run a trial in partnership with the Department of Education, and now we’re proud to join forces with Home-Start, as well as Buttle UK to get BT Home Essentials to those who need it the most.”

Peter Grigg, chief executive of Home-Start UK, said: “Families need to be digitally connected to access crucial services and create the best start in life for children. Research with our Home-Start network shows how a ‘digital divide’ leads to isolation for the most vulnerable children and families. Over half (51%) of Home-Starts say that the cost of data creates a barrier to families engaging online and 48% of Home-Starts report that not owning a laptop or tablet stops families connecting. 

“Digital access and skills are increasingly part of participation in society, and so we’re incredibly grateful to BT for helping Home-Start families. This exciting programme will reduce sources of stress for families, help meet the costs of digital data and kit, and build digital confidence and skills which we know will all make a difference for parents and their children. It’s fantastic that keeping families connected is at the heart of our partnership with BT.” 

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