Local Government Associationwritten evidence (DCL0062)

 

House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee inquiry ‘Digital exclusion and the cost of living’

 

 

  1. About the Local Government Association (LGA)

 

1.1.         The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically led, cross-party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

 

1.2.         Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

 

  1. Summary

 

2.1            The shift to digital services is comprehensive, with banking, democratic functions, job applications, benefits and other public services increasingly being moved online. Good digital skills, accessible equipment and reliable digital connectivity are crucial to enable people to fully participate in society and engage in education and employment systems. Tackling the digital divide is vital to levelling up every community and keeping pace with other countries around the globe.

 

2.2            A lack of digital skills and digital access can severely impact on people’s lives, leading to lower health outcomes, increased loneliness and social isolation, and worsened access to jobs and education. Digital exclusion exacerbates wider inequalities in society, and is more likely to be faced by those on low incomes, people over 65 and disabled people. In rural areas, the challenges faced by communities, such as social isolation, are compounded by digital exclusion. Tackling the digital divide is vital to levelling up every community and keeping pace with other countries around the globe.

 

2.3            Councils are committed to tackling digital exclusion and the wider inequalities that contribute to digital exclusion. They have a democratic mandate and duty to promote the socio-economic wellbeing of their areas, and that includes digital wellbeing. Councils and their local partners, including those in the voluntary and community sector (VCS), are well placed to help play an important role in helping people to get online and learn digital skills, drawing on their close relationships with residents.

 

2.4            Officers within local government continue to deliver inclusion initiatives, both within councils and the wider community. However, significant funding pressures make it difficult to protect non-statutory activities and these projects often run on little to no budget. Government must ensure councils are adequately resourced to continue and enhance digital inclusion initiatives over the long-term through providing funding for councils to put in a place a local digital champion in every area. Digital Champions would act as a central point of contact to ensure digital inclusion efforts are woven through the core services of councils and their partner organisations.

 

2.5            The Government’s current Digital Inclusion Strategy is now outdated. Government should urgently update the strategy to provide a multi-year national framework to support and optimise local digital initiatives.

 

2.6            Insufficient household income is a key driver of digital exclusion. For a significant proportion of households the national benefits system is failing to help them meet essential living costs which is hampering efforts to improve digital inclusion. While initiatives like social tariffs have a role to play in supporting low-income families to get online, they do not solve the fundamental issue that people are struggling to afford even more essential costs like food, energy or housing. It is the LGA’s view that Government should adequately resource the national benefits system so that it provides the principal safety net for all low-income households and covers household’s basic needs, which should include digital access.

 

2.7            11.8 million (36 per cent) of working adults lack the digital skills needed for work. Councils recognise the importance of building a strong pipeline of digital skills. Councils have led from the front on the digital skills agenda, both by working with Government to tailor national schemes such as the DfE’s Digital Bootcamps to local need to achieve better results, and by delivering their own discretionary schemes to boost digital skills.

 

2.8            However, they could do much more to close the digital skills divide with the funding and powers to deliver programmes that can respond to local needs. To boost digital skills, we are calling on Government to back the LGA’s Work Local model for an integrated and devolved employment and skills service that would accelerate skills devolution and give democratically elected local leaders the power and funding to work with partners to join up careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeships, business support services and outreach in the community.

 

2.9            Council-run libraries play a key role in enabling people without an internet connection at home, or without digital skills, to get online. To expand public access to computers and help to close the digital skills divide in deprived areas, we are calling on Government to make £30 million in capital funding available to enable councils to develop a network of ‘maker-spaces.’ Maker-spaces are a proven, cheap and effective way of improving digital access in under-served communities.

 

  1. What are the main causes of digital exclusion in the UK? What is the economic and social impact?

 

3.1.                 The issue of digital exclusion is complex. Research suggests there are four main barriers to digital inclusion: access, skills, confidence and motivation. The extent and impact of digital exclusion can vary for an individual depending on life events (such as losing a job, relationship breakdown, or deterioration in health).

3.2.                 The barriers to digital inclusion differ between groups and communities. While affordability of devices and connectivity may be the barrier for some, for others it might be that a fear of being made vulnerable to online scams or frustration at poor broadband speeds.

 

3.3.                 A lack of digital skills and digital access can severely impact on people’s lives, leading to lower health outcomes, increased loneliness and social isolation, and decreased access to jobs and education. Research shows that digital exclusion exacerbates wider inequalities in society, and is more likely to be faced by those on low incomes, people over 65 and disabled people. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, only 51 per cent of households earning between £6,000 to £10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99 per cent of households with an income over £40,000.

 

3.4.                 Even when poorer households had access to equipment and internet, they were less likely to have the skills to utilise it. One fifth of UK adults lack basic digital skills. This is despite digital skills having become a near-universal requirements for employment, with digital skills an essential entry requirement for two-thirds of occupations and these accounting for 82 per cent of online job vacancies. Addressing the digital skills gap will be essential to equip people with the skills they need to live and work in a digital world. Councils play a key role in supporting local skills progression. The economic impact of investing in basic digital skills is considerable, with Good Things Foundation finding it could bring £13.7 billion over a ten-year period to the UK economy.

 

3.5.                 Digital exclusion impacts on health and wellbeing. We are particularly concerned about the implications of the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) switchover on the most vulnerable groups who rely on landline connections. Recent research by Which? found 74 per cent of people with a copper landline connection are unaware of the migration. The move to digital will mostly affect 46 per cent of consumers who still have a copper landline at home; three per cent of whom only make calls through their landlines.

 

3.6.                 As a result of the switchover, 1.7 million vulnerable people who rely on technology enabled careincluding personal alarms which alert services if elderly and disabled people need assistance will be at risk of being left without a connection or a digital compatible device. It is vital that vulnerable groups are supported to move to digital systems before the 2025 switchover. Similarly, mobile operators are switching off their 2G and 3G networks over the next ten years, with some 3G networks already being switched off. This will disproportionately impact on older people as well as low-income households who are unable to afford smartphone technology and may need additional support to stay connected.

 

3.7.                 While the upgrading of the privately-owned PSTN is being undertaken by the telecoms industry, councils need greater support with data sharing, testing, awareness and funding to prepare their residents for the switchover, alongside better coordination from government. The LGA is calling on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to coordinate the multiple bodies involved with the switchover. Coordination and accountability will be vital to align communications messaging and ensure sectors and consumers, including the most vulnerable, are protected and supported through the upgrade process.

 

3.8.                 Rural areas face specific challenges with digital exclusion. Analysis from the County Councils Network shows just 21 per cent of premises in county areas have access to gigabit broadband. In 2022 Ofcom figures showed only 73 per cent of people aged 65 and above use the internet at home compared with 99 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds. Rural areas have an older-than-average population, who are more likely to be digitally excluded and face additional barriers to accessing services in person due to poor transport links and longer travel distances. Similarly, the challenges faced by other groups that are more likely to be digitally excluded, such as disabled people and those on low-incomes, are compounded in rural areas. Tinder Foundation’s Rural Action Research found underrepresented groups living in rural areas are more likely to suffer from increased social isolation.

 

3.9.                 Councils have a democratic mandate and duty to promote the socio-economic wellbeing of their areas, and that includes digital wellbeing. Councils play a key role in helping people to get online and learn digital skills. As soon as the country went into lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, councils mobilised to provide pupils with devices and internet connections to allow them to continue their education. Ofcom Connected Nations Data shows educational attainment at Key Stage 4 tends to be higher in areas with higher fixed broadband access, which corroborates observations that schoolchildren with fixed broadband at home found it easier to participate in online learning during lockdowns.

 

3.10.                 Many services delivered by councils increasingly rely on digital interactions with residents and businesses, which underlines the importance of reducing digital exclusion. It also remains vital that residents can access local and national services through a range of different routes, including online, over the telephone and where appropriate face-to-face. LGA good practice guidance for councils on delivering financial hardship support emphasises that schemes must meet the range of needs and circumstances of residents seeking support. We outline that councils must ensure practical support is available to back up an online application process, for example via the use of staff to help complete applications over the phone.

 

  1. How has the rising cost of living affected digital exclusion? To what extent does digital exclusion exacerbate cost of living pressures? What are the long-term implications of this relationship?

 

4.1            Rising living costs risk increasing digital exclusion and, in turn, deepening the inequalities faced by the most disadvantaged in society. The rising cost of living is being felt far and wide across communities. However, those on the lowest-incomes are disproportionately impacted by price increases as they are spending a higher proportion of their income on essentials, such as food and energy.

 

4.2            Insufficient income is a key driver of digital exclusion, preventing people from affording both digital devices and/or a digital connection. An estimated 9.1 million households struggled to afford a communications service in 2022. As the cost of living continues to outstrip wages and benefits, this number will likely increase, threatening to deepen the digital divide.

 

4.3            As household budgets are squeezed, people are spending a higher proportionate of their disposable income on an internet connection. Affordability research published by Ofcom showed that households in the bottom 10 per cent of the income distribution spend around 19 per cent of their income (after deduction of essential costs) on a fixed broadband tariff.

 

4.4            There has been a shift from people having a fixed broadband connection to a reliance on mobile data. LGA unpublished research found that more people are substituting mobile for fixed broadband, particularly in areas with poorer living environments. There remains a persistent disadvantage for many areas in the mobile coverage from multiple operators. While the top 10 per cent district/unitary local authorities have more than 98 percent indoor 4G coverage of premises from all four operators, the bottom 10 percent have less than 62 percent coverage.

 

4.5            The principal form of welfare support for low-income households both in and out of work is Universal Credit. Monthly benefit payments are intended to cover essential spending such as housing costs, utility bills, food provision, and all necessary child-related costs.

 

4.6            However, for a significant proportion of households Universal Credit is failing to meet essential living costs, which is hampering efforts to improve digital inclusion. In February this year, research released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust found that Universal Credit allowance falls £140 short a month of the cost of food, energy and other essentials. It is the LGA’s view that Government should adequately resource the national benefits system so that it provides the principal safety net for all low-income households and covers household’s basic needs, which should include digital access.

 

4.7            Unlike prior legacy-benefits, Universal Credit is digital-by-default and must be applied for and managed online, therefore ongoing access to technology is necessary to access this form of support.

 

4.8            Although the Department of Work and Pensions do offer a telephone service in exceptional cases, this is not well advertised and waiting times are high. Due to lack of funding, councils and their VCS partners repeatedly tell us that they have limited capacity to assist with claims and are unable to assist people in managing their claim on a permanent basis, although they would like to. This can leave claimants unable to manage their benefit claim and report changes, such as moving house, a new health condition, or someone moving in or out of the property, stay in touch with their work coach, or upload required documentation, all of which are all part of the conditionality to receive the benefit. This can lead to people receiving the incorrect benefit entitlement and in some cases sanctions that temporarily cut the amount of money that people receive.

 

4.9            The ability to access Universal Credit entitlements has never been more important. The Government’s cost of living payments are paid automatically through the mainstream benefits system and while people do not have to claim these payments directly, an active claim to Universal Credit is required for payment. Households that are eligible to Universal Credit but not claiming due to lack of internet access or digital skills, will miss out on £900 cost of living support in the financial year 2023/2024.

 

4.10       It is therefore necessary that all lower-income households have access to the internet and the digital skills required to apply for and manage all forms of welfare support, many of which are primarily online. Ofcom estimates that 6 percent of households in the UK do not have internet access at home. While, Lloyds Bank found that 10 percent of adults in the UK lack the basic digital skills needed for everyday life. Without adequate support, these groups are at risk of missing out on the benefits they are entitled to.

 

4.11       Government should invest in measures aimed to increase digital literacy, ensure people have the income needed to afford basic communication services, and increase awareness of alternative ways to claim online support aimed to support people with the cost of living.

 

5                   What are the obstacles to greater digital inclusion? Where is policy intervention likely to have the greatest impact over the next 12 months and 5 years? To what extent would these changes help unlock economic growth?

 

5.1            The case for tackling digital exclusion to grow the economy is evident – every £1 spent on digital inclusion brings a £15 return, with a £22 billion return by 2028 if everyone in the UK was to be given basic digital skills.

 

5.2            Many councils have developed their own approaches to digital inclusion. Leeds City Council's 100 per cent Digital Leeds team created a community-based model to increase digital inclusion, while Norwich City Council’s Pathfinders project provides devices to people who need them. These examples demonstrate how councils can play leading role councils in tackling digital exclusion. However there is a clear need for more strategic guidance from national government on how to deliver local initiatives.

 

5.3            The UK Government’s current Digital Inclusion Strategy was written in 2014 and had a short-term focus. It stated that ‘if we succeed, by 2020 everyone who can be digitally capable will be’. The strategy is now outdated strategy and, as such, it is not a document that councils refer to in shaping local approaches to digital inclusion.

 

5.4            A new national multi-year framework to support areas in setting digital inclusion strategies could optimise the effectiveness of local digital inclusion initiatives over the next five years. A new framework could assess and provide guidance on best practice in this area, for example in partnering approaches and how best to integrate digital inclusion with other local growth strategies and this should be a priority for the newly-formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in the short-term.

 

5.5            Councils are well placed to help tackle digital exclusion and are keen to continue playing a major role in doing so. With little to no budget, committed officers within local government continue to deliver inclusion initiatives within council processes, such as pushing for digital inclusion to be recognised through social value in procurement. However, significant funding pressures make it difficult to protect non-statutory activities.

 

5.6            Given current pressures on local government budgets, councils will need dedicated support from national government to put in place a local authority digital champion in every local area, who could act as a central point of contact and ensure digital inclusion efforts are woven through the core services of councils and their partners.

 

Tackling digital exclusion through public libraries

5.7            Council-run libraries play a key role in enabling people without an internet connection at home to get online. They also help people who are digitally excluded due to a lack of basic digital skills to upskill, which was rightly recognised in the Government’s Online Media Literacy Strategy 2021. As trusted spaces, libraries tend to be used by people from all backgrounds and reach into all parts of the community. Business support and skills programmes routed through libraries appear to be particularly effective at reaching groups who do not normally access other support, as we have seen with the British Library Business and IP Centres.

 

5.8            Information and Digital’ comprises one of the six universal offers that all library services provide. While access to terminals in the building, alongside free wifi in virtually all buildings are among the better-known services libraries provide, most library services will also have a specific training offer and run events aimed at improving digital skills. Some services also run loan schemes for ipads or other technology, which is particularly beneficial for families with limited access to devices who need to undertake online learning for school or work.

 

5.9            A 2020 poll by library software company Lorensbergs, found that over 70 percent of UK library authorities were providing public PC access by early September (during the pandemic). These PCs are relied on by jobseekers, benefit claimants, schoolchildren and many others, and looking for work is one of the main reasons why people are now using PCs in libraries.

 

5.10       The digital work of libraries was particularly valuable during the pandemic. Cambridgeshire libraries created a new Digital Library Service, offering a weekly online timetable of events, featuring Rhymetimes, Storytimes and craft at home sessions, all of which had received more than 300,000 views in total by June 2021. E-book loans also soared with libraries making an estimated 5 million additional digital loans, equating to an additional 3.5 million loans of e-books than normal in this period. However, the high price of e-books in comparison to physical books has limited libraries’ ability to deliver as much as they would like in this virtual space.

 

5.11       It was not just in the pandemic that libraries provide a digital offer to those in need. Norfolk library service has set up NHS Connect in partnership with the health service, aimed at people with cancer and low-medium mental health issues. The service gifts them a digital device with some data and helps them link in with some of the opportunities that are available to help them stay connected and manage their condition.

 

5.12       Pressure on council budgets, combined with rising demand for statutory services like social care, has meant that councils’ net spend on libraries decreased by 43.5 percent between 2009/10 and 2019/20. The pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis has only served to exacerbate these pressures.

 

5.13       To expand public access to computers and help to close the digital skills divide in deprived areas, Government should make £30 million in capital funding available to enable councils to develop a network of ‘maker-spaces.’ The Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, convened by DCMS and the LGA, demonstrated that maker-spaces are a swift, cheap, and popular way of improving digital access and bringing innovation and creative outputs into under-served communities.

 

Boosting digital skills

5.14       Councils recognise the importance of building a strong pipeline of digital skills. 11.8 million (36 per cent) of working adults lack the digital skills needed for work. This locks people out of the chance to secure quality work and build a career. Those qualified below Level 2 (equivalent to five good GCSEs or equivalent) are nearly three times more likely to be out of work than those qualified at Level 4 or above (degree level). Being digitally proficient is now a near-universal requirement for employment, with digital skills now an essential entry requirement for two-thirds of occupations which account for 82 percent of online job vacancies.

 

5.15       Councils have led from the front on the digital skills agenda, both by working with Government to tailor national schemes such as the DfE’s Digital Bootcamps to local need to achieve better results, and by delivering their own discretionary schemes to boost digital skills. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic Devon County Council rapidly pivoted its employment and skills service to support learners, young people and those who had been made redundant when the pandemic began. Learn Devon, the council’s adult education organisation, shifted its delivery online and adapted to changing demands for skills as the pandemic advanced, with a heightened focus on digital skills to support residents adapt to digital working and help people who were working in the shutdown hospitality and leisure sectors to reorientate their skills. Working with delivery partners (colleges, schools and job center plus) the employment and skills service integrated their new digital offer with other services. This left them well prepared to secure DfE funding for a Digital training bootcamp and develop digital sector-based training courses to help people get back into work.

 

5.16       Funding for all employment and skills programmes is too short-term, fragmented and held centrally. The landscape for digital skills is equally disjointed, with responsibility sitting across various government departments. As a result, there is often little join-up, resulting in sub-optimal support.

 

5.17       Councils currently have limited powers, levers and funding to respond to skills challenges within their communities and provide residents with integrated support to meet their needs, unless they are part of an area with a devolution deal. It will often be the case that a working-age person with no digital skills will require wider training or employment support, which is not provided through a standalone nationally delivered scheme.

 

5.18       To boost digital skills in every community, we are calling on Government to support the LGA’s Work Local model for an integrated and devolved employment and skills service that would accelerate skills devolution and give democratically elected local leaders the power and funding to work with partners to join up careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeships, business support services and outreach in the community. This would empower councils to work with all local partners to deliver skills programmes that deliver for the needs of their communities and support those with the least digital skills to upskill.

 

5.19       An independent cost-benefit analysis shows that for a larger rural local authority with a working-age population of 750,000, moving to a Work Local approach could better utilise current funding to improve employment and skills outcomes by about 15 per cent, meaning an extra 1,150 people improving their skills each year and an extra 640 people moving into work. This could boost the local economy by £14 million per year and save the taxpayer an extra £9 million per year. Taking account of wider benefits such as health and wellbeing could more than triple the economic benefits, up to £54 million per year.

 

 

6                   How effective are Government initiatives at addressing digital exclusion? What further action is needed, and what should be done to provide offline access to services?

 

6.1            It is widely recognised that policies to tackle digital exclusion can make an important contribution to various national objectives, including improving economic activity rates, improving the efficiency of public service delivery, reducing pressures on the health and social care system and improving health outcomes, and widening the pool of talent available to employers.

 

6.2            Individual national government departments have worked with councils on specific digital inclusion initiatives, such as DfE’s Get Help with Technology scheme, the DCMS/DfE Digital Skills Partnerships, and the pilot of DWP’s partnership with Talk Talk offering jobseekers free access to high-quality broadband.

 

6.3            However, there is a perception amongst councils that such national government initiatives operate in silos and are not necessarily making most effective use of the synergies between them – for example, offering skills support alongside the provision of subsidised devices or connectivity.

 

6.4            A more joined-up approach across national government initiatives in these areas would not only allow for more impactful delivery but would also help the councils themselves promote more effective coordination across their own functional areas in their digital inclusion activities.

 

6.5            Recent LGA commissioned research by DMS Consulting found that it is currently unclear who, if anyone, at ministerial and senior officer level has responsibility for coordinating the UK Government’s approach. Clarifying leadership would be helpful in ensuring that the resources applied to digital inclusion efforts are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

 

7                   How well are existing industry initiatives (for example cheaper internet tariffs) addressing digital exclusion? How could they be enhanced?

 

7.1            A report by Nesta (2020) defined data poverty as ‘those individuals, households or communities who cannot afford sufficient, private and secure mobile or broadband data to meet their essential needs.’ To date there have been several industry initiatives designed to support those at risk of data poverty. For example, the pandemic saw UK providers agree to remove data caps on fixed-line broadband, DWP worked with TalkTalk to roll out a voucher scheme giving jobseekers free access to high-quality broadband, and DHSC worked with mobile networks to remove data charges for online NHS services during the pandemic. Expanding such initiatives such as removing data charges for public websites such as ‘.gov.ukwould further help to tackle the digital divide.

 

7.2            An area where data poverty persists is among the 25 million customers on pay-as-you-go mobile tariffs who are at an increased risk due to high data charges. Those who are under the age of eighteen, don’t have a bank account, live in transient or insecure housing, and have unstable employment are more likely to not be able to access contracts. This includes the most vulnerable groups including care leavers, prison leavers, refugees and asylum seekers are at high risk of data poverty. As a result, these people are unable to access vital services and support.

 

7.3            Tackling data poverty will provide vulnerable groups across society with better access to key services including housing provision, employment services and healthcare information. Being cut off from the digital landscape is also linked to poorer health and lower life expectancy.

 

7.4            While measures such as social broadband tariffs have been helpful, they are not consistent across providers, can be difficult to access, and are usually only available to those in receipt of a means-tested benefit. It is estimated that only 2.1 percent of the 4.2 million eligible households have taken up the offer. Telecoms providers could do more to ensure those struggling to afford bills are aware of the support available through providing greater clarity on how social tariffs differ from commercial tariffs and providing a range of tariff options to ensure eligible consumers can access the most appropriate connection for their needs.

 

7.5            To prevent the rising cost of living deepening the digital divide, a comprehensive and joined-up solution will be needed to tackle the various social and economic inequalities that are driving digital exclusion. This must include ensuring the national benefits system is sufficient to meet people’s essential costs, which should include an internet connection. The LGA continues to work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, councils, voluntary and community sector partners and others to press for a more sustainable local welfare safety net.

 

 

8                   How effective is civil society at supporting digital inclusion? How could this work be enhanced, and what is the appropriate balance between civil society and Government intervention?

 

8.1            Councils have established relationships with a wide range of local VCS organisations who deal with some of the most digitally excluded communities. Local authorities and VCS stakeholders are often the most effective channels at reaching socially excluded groups, given their existing relationships with residents through wider services and other touch points.

 

8.2            The pandemic saw many councils and other digital exclusion organisations work closely with local VCS organisations to reach digitally excluded residents as they already had pre-existing relationships with many of them. For example, Croydon Council produced A4 printed ‘how to get online’ guides that covered a range of step-by-step internet basics such as connecting to the internet, searching the web and using Zoom. They then partnered with local VCS organisations in the borough such as AgeUK Croydon and Croydon Voluntary Action to distribute copies to digitally excluded residents.

 

8.3            There are a number of notable initiatives led by VCS partners, which local government plays a key role in promoting locally. The Digital Poverty Alliance is currently coordinating a multi-sectoral National Action Plan to address digital exclusion, which is being informed by local authority digital inclusion leads. The Good Things Foundation has also created a range of high-quality resources (such as their Learn My Way courses and the national databank), which can be drawn on by thousands of local organisations.

 

8.4            Conversely, in recognition of the contribution of the VCS sector in tackling digital exclusion many councils provide support and have created resources to support this work. For example, Leeds City Council has developed a Digital Inclusion Toolkit, founded on a community-based model to advance digital inclusion. This work was funded by the LGA’s Digital Pathfinders Programme. Salford City Council is developing a ‘triage tool’ to signpost residents to the local digital inclusion offer, across council services and VCS programmes, dependent on resident need. Hull City Council is incorporating digital inclusion consideration to customer services/online journey. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is building a new model for community champions to deliver voluntary digital support. These services are being developed out of a need for more infrastructure to be formalised to make support services more accessible and rely less on individuals self-assigning as ‘digitally excluded’ which is unlikely.

 

8.5            The establishment of networks of Welcoming Spaces across local areas in response to the cost of living has demonstrated the value of community spaces providing informal digital skills opportunities. In Bristol, feedback from these spaces has highlighted the need within communities to access digital technology, advice and skills. Government should commit to a longer-term plan to fund the capital and revenue costs of community spaces and social infrastructure to enable it to be an effective space for accessing digital technology, advice and signposting to more formal skills offers.

 

 

7 March 2023

 

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