With the country still in lockdown due to the pandemic, O2 and Hubbub are further committing themselves to supporting the digitally excluded by donating 1,000 devices and 12 months of free data (6GB per month) to vulnerable people across Bristol.
With support from The Aviva Foundation, Bristol beneficiaries will also benefit from money tips and guidance from financial wellbeing experts, Clean Slate, to help manage tight household budgets.
The Community Calling campaign is a lifeline for people who are digitally disconnected and struggling as a result of the pandemic. Following a successful launch which saw smartphones donated in a handful of London Boroughs, Manchester and Leeds, the campaign is now rolling out to Bristol, helping people to get connected in the wake of rising inequality, poverty and employment challenges.
The Bristol launch of Community Calling is directly addressing the financial exclusion that often goes hand in hand with a lack of connectivity. For those without access to the internet it’s difficult to access services and discounts that support financial wellbeing – and this has been made more challenging by the pandemic.
Digital connectivity has been vital over the past year: preserving economic output, helping businesses adapt and keeping us close to the ones we love. However, too many people are digitally excluded. It was recently revealed that 2.7 million UK adults (5%) were unable to access the internet in the three months before August 2020 – a problem which has been amplified in our socially distanced era, preventing people from accessing family, friends or other essential networks of support.
In Bristol, O2 and Hubbub are working closely with award-winning education consultants Sustainable Hive, who are delivering the project on the ground, including identifying beneficiaries.
One beneficiary of the Community Calling campaign is Pat, who’s in her late 70s and feels very isolated at home, due to not having a smartphone or internet connection. With her new device, Pat will be able to access online support services and information, as well as taking part in social events again – this time virtually.
The Aviva Foundation has provided funding for the roll out of Community Calling in Bristol to ensure that the campaign benefits mid-life to elderly low-income households across the city, who struggle to access financial wellbeing support.
Phones will be distributed through a range of local organisations, including Bristol Drugs Project, AgeUK and Ambition Lawrence Weston, all working in partnership with O2, Hubbub and Sustainable Hive.
All beneficiaries will also be able to access digital skills training at local support centers, with support from Bristol Council, as well as money guidance from Community Interest Company Clean Slate Training & Employment.
Mark Evans, Chief Executive of O2, said: “Connectivity has been vital to keeping the country running during the pandemic, but if you’re unable to get online you’re likely to miss out on a lot of support. We’ve already seen the positive impact Community Calling has had on vulnerable people in London and Manchester – providing a lifeline for those most affected by the pandemic, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion to Bristol. This campaign reflects our broader commitment to be there for our customers and the wider community, whenever they need us.”
Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub, said: “It’s been heart-warming to see the positive impact receiving a smartphone through the Community Calling project has already had on so many people’s lives. Being connected to loved ones and accessing essential services is easily taken for granted but is still not a reality for too many people. We’re excited to be working with O2 to expand Community Calling to Bristol to get more people connected and prevent unnecessary electrical waste. We’re calling on individuals and businesses with spare smartphones to donate them to somebody who needs a device to stay connected at this difficult time.”
Councillor Anna Keen, Cabinet Lead for Education and Skills, said: “We know that the ability to access digital devices is incredibly important – now more than ever. It is great that so many partners are committing to the Community Calling campaign, taking a One City approach to help promote digital inclusion across the city. By working together, we can reach people in our communities whose financial and personal lives have been hit hard by the pandemic and help them bridge the digital divide. Our Community Learning Team will be providing courses and support, so that recipients can build their confidence and skills to make the best use of their new device.”