Government plans for free digital training must prioritise society’s most excluded, says charity

The government’s new policy to provide free basic digital skills training to all adults in the UK must reach the most excluded and vulnerable people, according to the charity Tinder Foundation.

The organisation, which helps people to improve their lives through digital, stressed the importance of addressing the complex challenges facing those with the least access to technology.​

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Chief executive Helen Milner told TJ’s sister site Politics Home: “There are 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills. Many lack literacy skills, have been put off formal education in the past, or just don’t see how digital technology is relevant to them. But I’m a strong believer that everybody should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter what their background, and we can only achieve this by prioritising those who are most excluded.”

An ONS survey shows that an estimated 5.3 million people in the UK have never used the Internet.

The proposals, to be included in an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, are part of the Government’s ambition for the UK to be one of the most digitally-skilled nations in the world. Courses will be delivered by colleges and other adult education providers, and training will be funded from the existing Adult Education Budget.

Milner added: “Many people without basic digital skills face other inequalities and barriers: from poor literacy or English skills to disability, poverty or poor health. Many have been put off formal education in the past, or just don’t see how digital technology is relevant to them.

“For these reasons, I hope both the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Department of Education will seize the opportunity to put those who are most socially excluded at the very heart of this new policy. This means working with a wide range of community-based organisations – not just colleges – in order to reach, inspire and support the most excluded and vulnerable adults who have the most to gain.”

The Tinder Foundation has trained more than 200,000 people with 82 per cent of those experiencing at least one form of social exclusion including unemployment, disability and homelessness. 

A recent report by Ipsos Mori/Go ON UK found that poor digital skills can hold people back from thriving in a digitised workplace and job market. 

As many as 35 per cent of people in lower socio-economic groups lack basic digital skills, compared with 13 per cent of those in higher socio-economic groups.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said the new measure would put digital literacy on the same footing as English and maths.  

She said: “We will make sure all adults who need it can receive free training in digital skills to equip them for the modern world.”


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