The Combined Authority has pledged £680k to help residents in the North of Tyne stay connected with key services during Covid-19.

North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) has worked closely with Northumberland County Council, North Tyneside Council, and Newcastle City Council to rapidly establish a digital equipment loan scheme to support residents to access digital services and opportunities. Building upon the Department for Education offer for Year 10 school pupils, the North of Tyne Digital Inclusion scheme will deliver equipment to more school children, adults in learning and employability services, and residents shielding in care homes.

Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “It makes perfect sense to move services online.  But we’ve got to make sure no one is left out. That’s why we’re giving people the tools they need to stay connected. That includes kids doing schoolwork from home, people who’ve lost their jobs and need the internet to find work, and people in care homes staying in touch with their loved ones.”

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Employability and Inclusion Cllr Joyce McCarty said: “It is essential that everyone in the region has access to good quality digital equipment, fast broadband and have the skills to use them. Encouraging digital inclusion for everyone will help our residents access new opportunities and in turn support our inclusive economy. Over the last few weeks technology has been an even more important part of our lives. For many of us it has become a tool to chat with our families, work from home and continue school studies. The virus is impacting everyone, of all ages and backgrounds, digital inclusion has never been as important.”

Poster of Councillor Wayne Daley and text about the North of Tyne Digital Inclusion Scheme

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Education Improvement Cllr Wayne Daley said: “All young people should have the right to a good quality education that prepares them for a healthy and prosperous future. Learning loss for our most disadvantaged children as a result of digital exclusion risks exacerbating the already significant achievement gap that has driven us to establish our Education Challenge. During lockdown, children without access to technology are missing valuable education and falling behind their peers. The North of Tyne Digital Inclusion Scheme will help to keep these children engaged in learning and minimise the impact on their attainment as they progress through school.”