Digital Lifeline for people with learning disabilities

Image shows a young girl on a laptopWe’re proud to announce our involvement with the government’s Digital Lifeline Fund, which aims to improve the lives of thousands with learning disabilities on low incomes.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has created a £2.5 million fund to provide devices, data and digital support to people with learning disabilities who can’t afford to get online.

The scheme will fund 5,000 internet tablets preloaded with data and free tech support for those facing digital exclusion because they can’t afford the cost of getting online and face increased social isolation due to Covid-19. 

Three in four people (74.6% of people) with a learning disability believe their wellbeing has been affected by the impact of coronavirus, compared with 37 per cent of non-disabled people.

Working in partnership to help people with learning disabilities

Studies have shown the technology can help people with learning disabilities reduce feelings of loneliness and support their mental health and wellbeing. 

AbilityNet is a supportive partner of the fund alongside Good Things Foundation, Digital United,  Learning Disability England and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

Gary Moore, our CEO, said, “Covid has shown how access to technology is a vital part of an independent and fulfilling life for everyone in the community.”

He added, “AbilityNet has been helping disabled people harness the power of tech for over 20 years, and the Digital Lifeline project offers a wonderful opportunity to help people with learning disabilities get their hands on tech which will transform their lives.”

Helping people with disabilities during Covid-19

AbilityNet has been helping disabled people, including those with learning disabilities, access and make the best use of technology throughout Covid-19.

Recently, we helped Isobel, who has a learning disability get to grips with a tablet to keep in touch with family and friends while they can’t meet in person. We’ve also formed part of another partnership helping people with PTSD access essential services remotely. 

“I’m gaining more confidence and will be supported by Chris from AbilityNet to learn more so I can do more with my tablet. Having my tablet and phone makes such a huge difference and can keep in touch with friends”

Read more about Isobel’s story and how AbilityNet helped her.

As a charity, we can support people to adapt their technology to ensure that it works for them. We do this through our team of 300+ volunteers who have adapted to providing remote support during the pandemic.

We have helped thousands of people in a record year for our FREE services. In 2020, we supported 6,878 individuals, answered 1,580 Helpdesk queries, and provided 11,726 hours of FREE tech support. 

AbilityNet will provide support and advice to recipients of devices but won’t be involved in device delivery.

For FREE support with technology 0800 048 7642 

How to apply for support from the Digital Lifeline Fund (Q&A)

Q. Who is eligible for support from the digital lifeline fund?

To be eligible for a device and data from Digital Lifeline, applicants must:

  • Live in England; be 18 years old or over
  • Have a learning disability or learning disabilities - mild, moderate or severe (also includes disabled people who have additional learning disabilities)
  • Be digitally excluded – this means they can’t afford internet access and their appropriate device.
  • An appropriate device is suited to their needs. It enables them to easily and confidently perform key online tasks, such as joining a group video call or booking a GP appointment.

Q: Can I apply to the Digital Lifeline Fund for myself or on behalf of a loved one?

No. Individuals can’t apply directly to the Digital Lifeline Fund or on behalf of someone with learning disabilities.

The Digital Lifeline fund will be delivered through participating organisations. Members of the public who want to find out more should contact their nearest self-advocacy group, online centre, or support provider to see if they are participating in the fund.

How AbilityNet can Help

How AbilityNet has already supported individuals during the pandemic