Applications have opened to help thousands of disadvantaged young people to develop valuable digital skills through the Scottish Government’s Connecting Scotland Programme.

The programme, launched by the Scottish Government in response to the coronavirus pandemic aims at helping to support people who are digitally excluded by providing equipment and training. More than 23,000 iPads and Chromebooks are being distributed among digitally excluded low-income families and care leavers, as part of the latest phase of the £43 million programme.

As well as a new device, recipients also receive mobile data and help to use the internet confidently and safely for up to two years.

Connecting Scotland works with local authorities, public bodies and third sector organisations to reach people across the country.

Applications are open from 24 November until 18 January which can be made by organisations who support eligible people. This will complete the second round of Phase 2 of the programme.

Phase 2 of the Connecting Scotland programme which was launched in August focuses on households with children, or where a child is normally resident (this includes pregnant women with no child in the household) and care leavers up to the age of 26 (in line with eligibility for aftercare support). 

SNP MSP for Cunninghame South Ruth Maguire said: “The Connecting Scotland programme has been invaluable for many households throughout the pandemic. For many of us, the only place where we have been able to safely work, study and socialise throughout the pandemic has been online.

“In these circumstances, it is entirely fair that steps have been taken to ensure that families, who otherwise would not have the money to access digital technology, will not be excluded.”

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Access to the internet brings huge benefits, especially during these challenging times. It provides a way to keep in touch and keep us informed, and is also an important way for people of all ages to further their education, find work and training opportunities.

“That’s why in this year’s Programme for Government we further committed to our world-leading Connecting Scotland programme by pledging to reach a total of 50,000 digitally excluded or marginalized people by the end of 2021. The combination of a device plus ongoing support means that everyone can get the most out of their laptop or tablet, and develop their skills.

“So far more than 8,700 people have  received this package, and the stories fed back to us from local organisations show the real difference it’s making to households across the country.”

Connecting Scotland is a Scottish Government programme set up in response to COVID-19. It provides iPads, Chromebooks and support to develop skills for people who are digitally excluded and on low incomes and is delivered in partnership with SCVO, all 32 local authorities and hundreds of third sector organisations across Scotland.

Phase 1 (April – July 2020) focused on those who were at high risk of contracting coronavirus because they were in the extremely high vulnerability group (‘shielding’) or the higher risk of severe illness group.