Care leavers fundraiser to help extreme lockdown isolation smashes target

The ‘Give a Dongle’ campaign aims to help vulnerable young people stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic

A campaign to help vulnerable care leavers stay connected during lockdown has raised over £7,000 – smashing its fundraising target.

At the time of writing, the ‘Give a Dongle’ campaign has raised £7,221 – 161% more than the original target of £4,500.

The fundraising effort was launched by Live Unlimited, a small charity that supports care leavers in the London Borough of Barnet.

A care leaver is any young person aged 16 to 25 who has left care but still receives ongoing support from their local authority.

Organisers highlighted that there are over 300 care leavers in the North London borough. Most live on their own in bedsits with little or no family and limited social contact.

With lockdown measures in place across the UK, many are at risk of extreme isolation, compounded by a lack of access to wifi and laptops.

This can mean they struggle to contact their social workers and can’t access college work to complete it.

The campaign’s original aim was to buy wifi dongles pre-loaded with three months’ worth of data – at a cost of £49.99 each – for 90 care leavers. However, with that figure now well surpassed, organisers will also buy laptops and tablets to help care leavers continue in education and stay connected.

The charity has already started to deliver the equipment to those in need, and has been sharing uplifting updates on its Twitter feed.

One recipient, Adil Ahmed, said: “I am really grateful for the tablet and internet SIM. Now I can contact my friends, check Facebook and look for new courses during this COVID-19 lockdown. Thank you all.”

The campaign has also been praised by donors, with one commenting: “What a brilliant idea! I hope this gives a young person a bit of normality in these strange times.”

Sue Cocker, Project Manager at Live Unlimited, told The Big Issue: “We’re absolutely delighted to have surpassed our fundraising target in such a short space of time. The campaign has really struck a chord with a huge number of people who’ve said they can’t imagine what life would be like in lockdown without being able to get online.”

She added: “We’re really pleased we’ve been able to shine a spotlight onto such a vulnerable group of young people who are digitally excluded and desperate to connect with their friends and family as well as to continue their coursework.”

The UK government has now mirrored the aims of the campaign. Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced last weekend that vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across the country – including care leavers – would be given free laptops, tablets and 4G routers to help them continue their education during lockdown.

The move was applauded by Live Unlimited, who hailed it as “great news” on Twitter.

Sue Cocker added: “We’re really pleased the government is offering free laptops and tablets to vulnerable young people and hope this offer will be extended to all care leavers, whether they currently are in education or not.

“The need is very urgent for these young people right now and we await further details on the offer.”

To donate to the Give a Dongle campaign, visit Live Unlimited’s JustGiving page.