Home Access Programme Launch A Success
More than 180,000 telephone enquiries have been made and over 100,000 application packs sent out, just three weeks into the national roll-out of the Home Access programme. Around 3,500 partners, including a number of local authorities, schools and housing associations, have already registered to provide ongoing support and advice to those hoping to apply and the Home Access team is keen to increase this figure.
Partner organisations are being invited to support Home Access by sharing the benefits of getting online with families and making sure those who may be eligible for a grant know where to get further information. Many are integrating Home Access with their own digital programmes or planned events, leveraging links and relationships they have in local communities to spread the word. Third party organisations interested in becoming a partner should register on www.homeaccess.org.uk to receive materials and updates, or email email@example.com to request support for events and other initiatives.
The programme, which forms part of the Government’s drive to close the digital and educational divide between rich and poor, offers low income families without effective access to a computer or the internet at home the opportunity to apply for a grant to buy one year’s internet access and a computer with service and support.
The dedicated website (www.homeaccess.org.uk) has received 165,000 unique visits. The Home Access Grant helpline (0333 200 1004) was set up to deal with tens of thousands of enquiries on any given day and has been available since the programme was launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 11 January. The helpline is open between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 1pm on a Saturday and uses a combination of agents and self service. Ninety-five per cent of calls received are answered within 30 seconds, with each call lasting three and a half minutes on average.
Warwick Gooch, Business Services Director at Capita, the service delivery operator for Home Access, commented: “As Becta’s partner in the operational delivery of the programme, we are committed to providing a simple, efficient and secure service. We are very pleased with the operational handling of the launch and attribute this success to our committed and highly trained workforce.”
The application process is designed to be as simple as possible. Families wanting to request an application form can call the Home Access Grant helpline. The initial eligibility check, which is done over the telephone, does not involve the access of any personal information and all operators are CRB-checked.
After a basic eligibility check1) to ascertain whether callers could be considered to receive a grant to buy a Home Access package, an application form is sent out. Applicants will hear whether or not they are eligible for a grant within three weeks, and, if eligible, will receive a pre-loaded debit card to purchase their package from a list of approved suppliers2).
Niel McLean, Executive Director for Schools and Families at Becta, the government agency for learning and technology that is responsible for managing the programme, said: “We’re delighted by how well the national roll-out has got off the ground, and how smoothly the Grant helpline has run at a time of such high demand. The Home Access scheme operates on a first come first served basis, but there is still plenty of money left in the pot. This is an extensive programme that will benefit many people throughout the country and we hope that everyone who is eligible will apply.”
The Home Access programme is aimed at those who lack access and are most in need. Families that have a child in state-maintained education in school years three to nine (normally aged between seven and 14), who are entitled to Free School Meals, will be able to apply for a grant to buy a computer and internet connection from a range of approved suppliers. Looked After Children3) up to the age of 18 could also be entitled to receive grant funding, and a range of Assistive Technology is available for children with additional needs.
The programme will run until March 20114) and make England one of the first countries in the world to ensure young people can use a computer and the internet at home for their education, and help keep parents in touch with their child's progress at school.