Having internet access within the home is fast becoming a necessity, not a luxury. The divide between those that are with broadband and those that are without because they cannot afford it is creating a social divide. Digital exclusion is therefore a tackling poverty issue.
Twenty per cent of social housing tenants who are not online cite that it is because they cannot afford home broadband. This equates to over 40,000 tenants across Wales who cannot afford to use the internet and take advantage of:
- Saving money through purchasing products/services online
- Searching and applying for jobs
- Accessing online education and information services
- Improved, fast communication with family and friends
- Accessing online public services, including health services and remote monitoring
Having online access also leads to improved wellbeing and mental health, especially for the elderly. A study at the Phoenix Centre found that internet use leads to around a 20% reduction in depression classification and, compared with the digitally excluded, internet users feel less lonely and their personal wellbeing is enhanced.
Having access to the internet can mean the difference between work and unemployment, inclusion and exclusion, and happiness and depression.
Helping tenants to get online involves supporting them with developing online skills, helping them to realise the benefits of using the internet, and enabling them to have access to the internet. Community hubs currently provide a fantastic resource to up-skill the community through online training courses and some also provide free internet access. However, not everyone is able to access these facilities, especially those isolated or housebound. Of those that are online, 84% prefer to access the internet within their own home.
‘Fighting Poverty’ is about tackling the root causes of deprivation and enabling those in poverty to have the same opportunities as others. It is one of our five key aims in our CHC Corporate Plan and we therefore support our members to impact positively on the economic, environmental and social circumstances of tenants, leaseholders and communities. Our Your Benefits are Changing campaign and Moneyline Cymru service have done just that, and we are now looking to further support our members to raise the benchmark and help tenants to get online in the comfort of their own home.
To find out more about the work we are involved with on digital inclusion, contact Hayley MacNamara on firstname.lastname@example.org .