Hundreds of Highland families are going to be able to stay better connected as the Highland Council gives out more than 600 new devices.
Scotland’s largest local authority made a successful bid to Connect Scotland for 610 laptops and tablets in an effort to increase connectivity in the north.
A total of 308 Chromebooks and 302 iPads have been secured by the council for distribution to 111 young care leavers and 499 families living in the Highlands.
The Scottish Government programme, Connect Scotland, was established during the coronavirus pandemic to provide iPads, Chromebooks and support to develop digital skills for people who are digitally excluded and on low incomes.
Officials are hopeful the technology will help improve the lives of vulnerable people in the Highlands by helping them to stay better connected.
Councillor Linda Munro, Chairwoman of the Council’s Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee, spoke of the benefits these devices will provide to recipients.
She 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.
“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.”
Connect Scotland was created through a partnership between the Scottish Government, local councils and SCVO.
The £5millin scheme aims to connect 9,000 people, considered at clinically high risk, online to enable them to access service and support whilst staying in touch with loved ones amidst the pandemic.
MSP Edward Mountain welcomed the news.
He said: “I am delighted to hear this news. Anything to break the cycle of loneliness by connecting people is good news.”
Officials are currently working to reduce digital exclusion among pregnant women as well as children, young people and families working with local social care teams and aftercare providers who have been experiencing difficulty with connectivity during the pandemic.
It follows the success of phase one of the government programme which focused on aiding individuals at risk of isolation due to the virus.
Digital services available for young people in aftercare include home and belonging sessions, provision of advocacy and support, financial advice and skills development.
Mrs Munro issued her thanks to everyone who made the scheme possible.
She added: “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 – 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.”