Charity scheme to combat lack of computer access


Cut price computers are being offered to people on benefits under a pilot scheme launched this week.

Hailsham-based charity Computers for Charities has unveiled its computer voucher programme to enable low-cost computer access to recipients of state benefits.

The closure of libraries and the increasing reliance on computers by schools has led to the scheme, said a charity spokesman.

Three households received computers through the charity’s home delivery and setup service during the first day of the scheme on March 25.

Nationwide the charity has received up to 200 requests from “distressed” parents pleading for help, this includes around 50 in the Hailsham area.

Anyone in receipt of state benefits in the Hailsham area can receive a voucher to buy a computer for £50. The vouchers are limited to one per household.

Vouchers for eligible recipients have been issued to all schools within the Hailsham area plus church groups and social organisations.

Computers for Charities chairman Simon Rooksby said the viability of the programme depended on take-up, including any expansion to provide full regional access, with a review date set for May 1.

He said: “Nobody seems to know what the situation is. We’ve had dialogue with schools for months to find out if anyone knows the issues and nobody has any sense at all.

“We are hoping this exercise will give us audit material to take to County Hall and do a presentation about what the need is so it’s a double edged project.”

He added: “We’ve had calls from distressed parents who are right at the bottom of the pool and cannot give their kids a foot up.

“It’s the education system which has forced this into the curriculum.

!I was talking to a headmaster who told me they put teaching resources onto the school’s website so kids with homework have to be able to access that.

“Another factor is the drop in libraries and other public areas where people could get access to computers and also signing on has to be done electronically, so it’s very much coming down from above.”

Refurbished systems are supplied with preinstalled Microsoft Windows 7 Professional operating system, Microsoft Office, anti-virus program (Via Microsoft’s Technical access program subject to availability).

The charity was launched almost 20 years ago to improve people’s computer access. Its original aim in 1994 was to aid and support charities and voluntary organisations with IT advice and access.

But over the years the charity’s role has grown and diversified in response to varying need locally and internationally.

Increasingly over the past 12 months the charity has received requests from individuals seeking help, the majority of which were from parents of school age children on low income, said Mr Rooksby.

He added the divide was not limited to children and included disabled and unemployed people who faced similar issues including undertaking the mandatory job searches.

To access a voucher contact the charity on 01323 848588.