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O2 partners with Hubbub charity to fight digital exclusion this Christmas

The mobile phone network is partnering with Hubbub to distribute 2,000 phones and free data to people in poverty in the Manchester area

Colette holds her new phone and smiles in front of a block of flats

Colette from Rochdale benefited from the scheme and is now in touch with her family again. Image credit: Supplied

Environmental charity Hubbub and mobile phone network O2 will donate 2,000 smartphones and a year’s free data to people in poverty this Christmas.

After the Covid-19 crisis exposed the barriers to work and support faced by people without digital access, the organisations are working with Manchester City Council to identify the people most in need of support. 

Office for National Statistics figures released earlier this year showed 2.7 million UK adults were unable to access the internet, further isolating vulnerable people during lockdown. 

After a successful trial in London, the Community Calling campaign is now being expanded to Greater Manchester  in a bid to tackle poverty and widespread unemployment as the city enters tier 3 lockdown .

Each person will receive unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB of data per month for a full year. The donated devices will be paired with digital skills training to ensure people can stay connected long term.

“It’s been heart-warming to see the positive impact receiving a smartphone through the Community Calling project has already had on so many people’s lives,” said Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder at Hubbub. 

“Being connected to loved ones and accessing essential services is easily taken for granted, but is still not a reality for too many people.”

The campaign will help people like Colette in Rochdale who experienced periods of poverty over the last 25 years. Now living in temporary housing, she told the campaign her new device will help her stay connected to her family and support workers as well as making it easier for her to get back into work.

Young people in need will be one of the focuses of the campaign. A third of Manchester children live in poverty while more than 40 per cent of the city’s population is aged under 35, said charity Young Manchester – which will work closely with the Community Calling campaign to get devices directly to people who need them.

Other charities Stepping Stone, Community on Solid Ground and Manchester Youth Zone will also be involved to help get people connected this winter.

Locals who want to contribute can drop off unwanted working phones to their nearest Manchester library, while anyone in the UK can get involved by donating unused smartphones using a free-post kit or by donating the cost of a month’s top-up online. Devices will be data-wiped, sanitised and refurbished before being distributed.

O2 and Hubbub also want businesses to organise bulk device donations, collecting unwanted phones from employees or by contributing money that can be used to buy second-hand devices.

“The pandemic has brought into sharp focus just how beneficial the internet can be for everyday tasks and for keeping in touch with family and friends,” said Councillor Luthfur Rahman, executive member for skills, culture and leisure in Manchester. 

“We’ve been working extremely hard to ensure that as many of our residents as possible have the opportunity to use digital technology, providing laptops to vulnerable residents and friendly one-to-one support to learn to use them where required, while also keeping our libraries open in a Covid-safe way to provide essential internet access. 

“We welcome this additional support, which will make a real difference to the lives of thousands more Mancunians.”

Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.

The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.

Please buy this week’s magazine from the online shop or take out a subscriptionThis will make sure we can continue to support our vendors over this difficult period. You can even link your subscription to your local vendor with our new online map.

Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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