Free council laptops keep Westminster families connected

Thu, 09/04/2020

Westminster City Council vows to keep the city online, with nearly two hundred refurbished council laptops being delivered to vulnerable families without computer access at no charge to them.

As families across the city face lockdown at home, many children without computer access could find themselves unable to engage with essential social care provision, online schoolwork, and the important ability to virtually connect with friends and family.

In an effort to keep the city connected, Westminster City Council’s children’s services team has worked swiftly to identify over 100 vulnerable families without access to a computer, and with the help of the council’s IT and economy teams, have been able to roll out a large number of laptops to those in most need. The computers, made up of the council’s own IT stock, have been fully refurbished and repurposed and are being safely delivered to homes across Westminster.

The laptops will keep families online and connected to allow access to the council’s family and children’s services, which has been fully remodeled to offer on-line services to respond to the current social distancing guidelines. The service is complete with virtual family hubs, online activity packs for children, parenting courses, and essential resources to help families.

Many children in Westminster who are in care or are care leavers regularly use social media platforms, and social workers are now using these channels to supplement and maintain regular contact with vulnerable young people around the city - ensuring that they can keep chatting, learning, and have ways of reaching out virtually.

A family who received a laptop told the council: “The IT support was really helpful in helping me sort out the laptop and was very quick. This laptop will help my daughter massively in completing her schoolwork. Without it she wouldn't have been able to do those things properly.”

Going a stage further, twenty-eight vulnerable families have been identified as having no current broadband connectivity. So, as well as a laptop from the council, they will be provided with modems and sim cards to ensure they have a good broadband connection. This is to make sure young people can still access education and ensure council staff can be in regular contact with families. The council's business team contacted 3 Mobile who agreed to provide the SIM cards at a discounted rate. The cards will be provided free to residents.

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council said:

“As many key services, schoolwork, and even our social lives adapt to the current ‘stay-home’ rules and move online, it’s essential that we keep as many families across Westminster connected, particularly the most vulnerable.

“Providing these laptops to those who don’t have a computer will allow families and children to not only access essential council services, but to also connect with friends and family at a time where we are not able to do so in person. This is a great example of how so many different departments of the council are working together and flat out to support our residents.”

To find out more about how the council is supporting local residents and businesses during the Coronavirus, click here.

Last updated: 9 April 2020