The Highland Council has successfully bid for 610 IT devices (308 Chromebooks and 302 iPads) for 111 young care leavers and 499 families from the government-backed ‘Connecting Scotland’ programme. 

Cllr Linda Munro, Chair of the Council’s Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee said: “Against a backdrop of a world-wide pandemic this is fantastic good news for the young care leavers and households – including pregnant women – in Highland who are to receive these devices.

“Delivery of the devices has been achieved by Council staff above, beyond and on top the day job in health and social care services. To the officers who managed to bring this together, mainly led by Ian Kyle, Head of Integrated Children’s Services and I thank them all. The success in bringing 610 devices to those that need it most in Highlands was a serious piece of work and is really heartening good news.”

The Council’s successful bid was made to Connecting Scotland – a Scottish Government programme which was set up in response to coronavirus.  It provides iPads, Chromebooks and support to develop digital skills for people who digitally excluded and on low incomes.

Connecting Scotland is a partnership between the Scottish Government, local councils and SCVO. It’s supported by a range of organisations from across Scotland and the UK.

The first phase of the programme from April to July 2020 focused on those who were at risk of isolation due to coronavirus because they were in the extremely high vulnerability (shielding) group or because they were at higher risk of severe illness.

The second phase launched in August focussed around digitally excluded pregnant women and also children, young people and families working with local Social Work Teams and Aftercare providers who had experienced difficulties with connectivity, particularly during COVID-19 where many have been unable to participate fully in meetings, social events, advocacy and support services.

Digital services available for young people in aftercare include home and belonging sessions, provision of advocacy and support, financial advice and skills development.

Cllr Munro added: “This was a complex bid involving a huge amount of detailed assessment to identify those who will benefit and I am delighted that the Council has been successful in securing all 610 devices applied for.

“Digital inclusion will support our young people in writing applications, applying for grants or benefits and keeping in touch with local support networks. This will help improve their life chances and inclusion in the care experienced community.”