Association backs computer scheme

ORWELL Housing Association has pledged its support for a Government initiative aimed at providing computers and broadband internet access to all families, after Suffolk was chosen to pilot the scheme.

ORWELL Housing Association has pledged its support for a Government initiative aimed at providing computers and broadband internet access to all families, after Suffolk was chosen to pilot the scheme.

The �300million Home Access programme, announced by the Prime Minister in September 2008, aims to deliver equal learning opportunities to the 35% of families that currently have no access to the internet at home and enable children to enhance their learning at home.

The pilot will refine and test the process for awarding grants for computing packages to low income families.

Suffolk and Oldham have been picked to pilot the scheme, which has just started ahead of a national rollout in late autumn 2009, with the aim of universal home access by 2011.

Richard Stewart, Financial Inclusion Officer for Orwell Housing, welcomed the news that low income families may be eligible for a Home Access Grant to buy approved computer packages.

The pilot scheme is being run in partnership with Becta, which provides advice and guidance to local authorities to support and encourage and improve learning with ICT.

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It is aimed at certain low-income families with children aged 7-18 in full-time state education. Families are able to apply for a Home Access Grant, worth around �600, to pay for a computer and internet package, which have been designed to support learning.

Having access at home can also benefit other family members and it is hoped that increased access to the internet across Suffolk households will enable local authorities, schools and other learning providers to strengthen their links with the community.

Over 800 Eligible families in Suffolk have already been awarded grants and it is expected that around 7,500 learners will receive funding during the pilot.

Mr Stewart said: “ I cannot overstate the importance of the need for IT in today's learning environment. At Orwell Housing we will assist our tenants with the process of applying for the grants. We do not want families being left out in the cold, unable to afford a computer or internet connection, we want to support these families and ensure that the education and social benefits available to them are accessible. The team at Orwell will be urging families to apply for grants over the coming months.”