The UK government has set up a £2.5 million fund to provide devices, data and digital support to people with learning disabilities who can’t afford to get online.
The new Digital Lifeline scheme will fund 5,000 internet tablets preloaded with data and free tech support for those facing a combination of digital exclusion: cost as a barrier to internet access and increased social isolation caused by coronavirus.
It comes as recent ONS data found three in four people with a learning disability believe their wellbeing has been affected by the impact of coronavirus, compared with 37% of non-disabled people.
Studies have shown technology can help people with learning disabilities reduce feelings of loneliness and support their mental health and wellbeing.
The fund will ensure thousands facing financial hardship can enjoy the many benefits offered by technology and lead as normal a life as possible while restrictions are cautiously eased following the roadmap published by the government.
The first devices will be delivered from March and form part of a wide package of measures the government has taken to support disabled people during the pandemic, including making £4.6 billion available to local authorities to ease pressures on local services including adult social care and giving £1.2 million to seven learning disability and autism charities.
The government is working on the project with leading digital inclusion charities Good Things Foundation and AbilityNet, both highly experienced in helping disabled people boost their mental health and achieve their goals through digital technology.