BT, the country’s biggest communications provider, is stepping in to help some of the families most in need and unable to afford home broadband

Today, BT extends its support for families worst hit by the cost-of-living crisis by partnering with family support charity Home-Start UK to offer 2,500 financially vulnerable households’ free devices and free connectivity to Home Essentials. The industry leading social tariff will also be available to families in need nationwide through the ‘Connected Families’ scheme available through Buttle UK and Barnardo’s following a pilot scheme in partnership with the Department of Education.

Home-Start supports families with young children across the UK who are facing a range of challenges. Now, local Home-Start branches are also being gifted 500 Samsung tablets to help their volunteers reach more families and develop new ways to support families who need it.

The move is set to provide those in need with a connection that helps unlock access to educational resources and job opportunities online and help people make the most of life in the digital world and learn new digital skills.

BT will be working with Home-Start UK to distribute devices to families supported by local Home-Start branches across the UK giving them access to BT’s social tariff and a fixed broadband connection. Families in temporary accommodation, with no fixed address or those in need of emergency support are being given mobile devices and prepaid SIMs to ensure that everyone can make calls and get online.

In addition to the Home-Start UK partnership, BT is joining forces with charities including Buttle UK and Barnardo’s to trial the ‘Connected Families’ scheme to give more families access to the internet through Home Essentials.  

This follows a pilot in partnership with the Department of Education, to give some of the lowest income and hardest to reach families fully funded broadband with BT Home Essentials.

It comes as 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.

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, CEO at 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.”

Joseph Howes, CEO of Buttle, said: "We have been delighted to work with BT to provide access to home broadband for the families and young people we work with.  In a survey of frontline professionals, we conducted in 2021, 57% of families they work with were reported as struggling to access the internet. This lack of access affects so many areas of life, but for those that are already struggling it means increased isolation, challenges accessing key services and shopping as well as the impact on children’s education.

“We have seen how offering the Home Essentials package is helping to address this, as has been the work we have done with BT to allow our Chances for Children grants to fund broadband contracts on behalf of the most vulnerable families. We have been very impressed with the thoughtful way in which the team at BT have dealt with those that are struggling on low incomes, and in particular those in the customer services team."

BT currently supports nearly 1 million vulnerable customers on a range of subsidised or discounted tariffs including Home Essentials, which was introduced to follow on from the previous service, BT Basic. Home Essentials was launched alongside BT Here For You Hub to bring together BT’s wide range of products and services for those who need extra help in one easy-to-navigate place.

Home-Start’s goal is to make sure that no parent or family feels alone in the critical task of raising children. Throughout the UK, Home Start build compassionate communities of support for families, parents and children facing a wide range of challenges. Find out more about how Home-Start may be able to help you and your family or about how you can become a Home-Start volunteer and make an impact for families across the country. 

BT wants to help people make the most of life in the digital world and has already helped 14.7 million people learn new digital skills. BT’s ambition is to help 25 million people in the UK improve their digital skills by March 2026.  Further resources can be found here.

Are the UK’s operators doing enough to support their most vulnerable customers during the cost of living crisis? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain event

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