'Digital Access Fund' needed so children can get online

The IPPR is calling for an emergency 'Digital Access Fund' to provide tablets or other digital devices to households where children cannot get online.

This comes from fears that some children will be unfairly disadvantaged by the measures to combat the Covid-19 health crisis.

The think tanks says that an estimated 1 million children and their families do not have adequate access to a device or connectivity at home, and more than a third (36 per cent) of 16 to 24 year-olds live in mobile-only households. Many children rely on internet access at school, in libraries or other locations all closed during the crisis. Children without home internet access are already at a known educational disadvantage and this is likely to worsen.

So that children can access learning resources online, the IPPR also calls for mobile network providers to extend free data for use of BBC and other educational websites.

The IPPR is also calling for the right to paid parental leave for those who need to look after children, under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, following similar measures in other countries where schools have closed including France, Italy and the US.

The think tank is also calling for an increase in the child element of Universal Credit and child tax credit by £10 a week, and removal of the two-child limit and the current benefit cap – boosting income for families receiving these benefits by £1,400 a year on average.

It also wants a one-off emergency Child Benefit payments of £30 each for 12.7 million children, and an extra £5 per week for each child throughout the crisis, to put money in the pockets of those who need it urgently, and in recognition of higher costs of caring for and entertaining children at home Owners of private green spaces to be urged to offer them for public use, especially near crowded town and city neighbourhoods, and priority to be encouraged for use of public parks by children without access to gardens or other open spaces

The recommendations follow IPPR analysis which found that children risk being particularly impacted by key aspects of the UK-wide response to the coronavirus epidemic.

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