Digital access is a lifeline
Topic: Voices of young people
Author: Chris Marshall
Care experienced student of social care Chris Marshall explains why digital is an essential connection in life
I want to write about challenging digital inequalities that still happen in 2020. COVID-19 for me has been difficult - from financial loss to having a feeling of no self-worth, but I’ve worked through all the difficulties I’ve faced and the only way I’ve been able to do that is by having Wi-Fi. a good connection and also having a good bit of technology.
People don’t realise how hard it can be for a young person to be able to get a good bit of technology but for a care experienced person this can be even harder. To put it into context, my laptop is on finance and also my phone is on finance too, as well as my TV and a few other things, and I’ve had to do this because I can’t afford to buy stuff straight off. I can’t afford to go spend £200 on a good phone so I have to get stuff on finance and this comes at a big cost due to the high interest I have to pay back each month, and if I miss even one payment my credit score is hit hard and it’s difficult to get my credit score into a good place again.
Another issue is that when I went to the big shops like Apple or Samsung I was unable to get credit directly from them due to my credit score being affected because I had so many addresses on my credit file. So that’s one of the reasons I’ve had to go to private companies for help and it’s a reason I am struggling to get out of the debt.
When COVID-19 came along I had to make big changes. I knew I needed to get a good Wi-Fi signal but it was so hard to find a company to accept me due to having so many addresses, that is until I spoke with a company who took the time to find out why I had so many addresses. They then said we can help you with a decent Wi-Fi box, and even apologised for it all taking so long. Without that company taking a chance I would have been unable to be in contact with people I can’t see in person due to COVID-19, to write this blog post!
Some questions I’ve been asked are what would happen if I wasn’t able to get my laptop on phone on finance? And that’s a good question. It mostly likely would have meant that I was unable to stay connected to anyone in my support network - from family to friends - and also professionals I work with. That would have caused a negative impact on my mental health as I would have been more isolated from people and would have had no way of contacting people during lockdown. That would have been a scary situation for me as I don’t know how I would have handled the situation and I wouldn’t have been able to access any support due to this being all online.
Another question that has come up is what changes I would I like to see? Well, for one I would like to see a standardised approach for young people to get help with the cost of buying a smartphone or laptop or even schemes where young people are able to be donated a smartphone or laptop for free.
It goes a lot further than just staying connected: if I was unable to get any type of laptop or technology, I would be unable to go to college due to COVID-19 lockdown. Colleges have a blended learning module. For me this means 2 weeks at college and 2 weeks home learning and if I didn’t have Wi-Fi and a laptop I wouldn’t be able to take part in the home learning. This means I would potentially fail my course due to falling behind.
Another change I would like to see is cheaper Wi-Fi or broadband, as not all young people can afford to[ spend £30 on a good signal. Yes, there’s cheaper companies but often their signal is poor which means being unable to stay connected and not being able to do my college work. Again, this would have also affected my mental health as I wouldn’t have been able to focus – we all know what it’s like to get frustrated with Wi-Fi!
Read our briefing on the digital divide: Bridging the digital divide for care experienced young people in Scotland: If not now, when?
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.
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