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UK Government Scraps FREE Broadband ISP and Computers Scheme

Posted: 11th Aug, 2010 By: MarkJ
uk government home access schemeThe previous governments £300m UK Home Access scheme has now officially been canned. The Assistive Technology service sought to issue grants worth approximately £500 to state educated children from 270,000 low income families (earning less than £16,040 per year), which could then be used to select an "approved" computer that included a FREE 12 month broadband Internet access (ISP) subscription.

Home Access, a government programme managed by the now defunct Becta, had originally been called 'Broadband for All' when it was first announced way back in 2008 (here). However the scheme itself did not get underway until January of this year and was due to complete in March 2011.

The programme proved to be so popular that after just one month in operation some 132,000 application forms had been received. To date it has helped more than 200,000 low-income families with children in Years 3 to 9 get access to a computer and the internet. But in many ways the closure of Home Access is nothing new.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in January 2010:

"The Prime Minister's [Gordon Brown] announcement that 270,000 low income families will receive a free computer and free broadband access betrays some deeply muddled thinking. No-one would dispute that getting low income families online is a good thing. But the Government’s other initiatives are working to discourage uptake and make internet access unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of other families.

As a result of two government proposals – the phone tax and copyright protection – families face an extra cost of £30 a year to stay online. Demand modelling shows that this additional burden could lead to 600,000 financially stretched families being forced to give up their broadband connections."

The writing for this programme has also been on the wall since 24th May 2010, when the new coalition government announced a package of measures to reduce expenditure in the public sector. This included the planned closure of Becta itself and many of its existing projects.

Graham Badman, Chairman and Stephen Crowne, Chief Executive of Becta said in May 2010:

"Naturally we are very disappointed at the Government’s decision. Becta is a very effective organisation with an international reputation, delivering valuable services to schools, colleges and children. Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than Becta costs to run. Our Home Access programme will give laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of the poorest children.

Our top priorities now are to make sure we have an orderly and fair process for staff, and that as far as possible schools, colleges and children continue to benefit from the savings and support that Becta has provided. We will be talking to Government Departments and our other stakeholders including the industry about this."

The good news is that Home Access has not been stopped cold and will instead by wound-up slowly. The scheme is now focusing on applications from families with children whom have disabilities or Special Educational Needs. If you intend to apply, get your application in soon, as only around 12,000 grants remain to be awarded before funding completely dries up.

Those whom believe they fit the bill can either obtain more information from http://www.homeaccess.org.uk or can also request an application form via the Home Access Grant Helpline by calling 0333 200 1004.
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