A new business coalition that aims to provide emergency COVID-19 support for the digitally and financially excluded has launched.

Good Things Foundation, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The APLE Collective, Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC and Mastercard have formed a coalition of partners to offer immediate support to digitally and financially excluded people in the UK, with a focus on those in poverty hit hardest by the impact of COVID-19.

Digital inequality has for some time risked exacerbating poverty and reducing financial wellbeing. However, the need to bring together digital skills and inclusion – and practical help with money – has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis.

The coalition seeks to address this challenge by supporting those most in need. The ‘Leave Nobody in the Dark’ campaign highlights these issues and more importantly addresses them with practical help: personal 1-2-1 support, digital devices and bespoke online resources.

In the UK, 11.7 million people lack basic digital skills and there are an estimated 1.9 million households with no internet access. This digital divide is most pronounced for those living in poverty; almost half of those with an income below £11,500 lack essential digital skills compared to less than 11% of those with an income over £25,000.

An estimated 6 million people have fallen behind on a household bill due to Coronavirus, and the data shows that the least digitally engaged are more likely to be paying higher household bills irrespective of income, household or age; for utilities alone, they are spending an average of over £348 more per year.

The programme will deliver:

  • A new self-help portal, nobodyinthedark.co.uk, for those who have limited digital skills to boost their online confidence and engage with free, trusted online support around money, security, benefits and debt
  • Devices, data and digital skills support to people in poverty, through DevicesDotNow
  • Practical money help and improved digital confidence, delivered remotely by Clean Slate and other community partners

Helen Milner, CEO, Good Things Foundation said “COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the links between digital exclusion and poverty. Too many people are locked out of online savings, help with debt, and essential support because of digital exclusion and data poverty. As part of this cross-sector coalition, we’re committed to changing this, so nobody is left in the dark.”

Kelly Devine, Divisional President, Mastercard UK & Ireland said “When people thrive, economies thrive. To recover from COVID-19 in a long-term, sustainable way, we have to make sure that everyone is included. Helping people access the digital economy, and feel confident in doing so, is a critical part of that. There is no more crucial time to ensure that everyone is connected and has access to the digital services and resources that they need. Now is the time to act, to ensure nobody is left in the dark.”

Helen Barnard, Acting Director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation said “In the UK we recognise that being able to use digital devices and get online is essential to manage our finances and participate in modern society. People on low incomes were struggling against a tide of rising costs, low wages and inadequate social security before coronavirus and the lockdown has only made things worse. This scheme is crucial to ensure that people are not locked out of digital opportunities at a time when they are most needed – with huge disruption to the labour market, more people needing to apply for social security online and children having to access online learning whilst schools are closed.”

Jeff Mitchell, Founder of Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC said“People we work with from disadvantaged communities say vital information about ways to get ahead is hidden from them. Lockdown has reinforced this for households with no access to the internet. With millions more now on the breadline, digital tools and resources produced specifically for them should come into their own. Guided support through the process will also help end exclusion.”