In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, Licketyspit worked quickly to respond to the needs of families in our Children & Families Network and provide creative, joyful activities that would help families feel less isolated, inspire children to play and imagine at home, and connect people up with financial and food support during this difficult time.
This included making videos for children explaining coronavirus and the lockdown, and demonstrating our Playcard games and songs, for families to play along to. We also adapted our intergenerational community project Big Porridge & Play Glasgow on Zoom, delivering closed sessions for Milton, Easterhouse and Govan families, as well as open sessions with families participating from across Scotland – and even as far as India!
We already had an idea of digital inequality among families in our network because of the number of families for whom we had only a phone number, rather than an email address. We contacted these families to gain greater insight into this issue – whether families had WiFi, a smartphone or other digital device, a monthly data package or top-up SIM. We knew that some of the families who would most benefit from joining our online sessions and accessing our videos, imaginary play activities and audio-shows, were those without any internet access, or with very limited access. We talked to our Storyplay Schools, which are all in areas of high multiple deprivation. Some reported as few as 30% of families engaging with online learning. We wanted to find ways to connect families in our network or who wanted to join our sessions online for the first time.
Licketyspit is a signatory of Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter and Ruby Zajac, our Children & Families Network Creative Producer, has been actively participating in the SCVO Digital Champions platform, and raising the issue of digital participation with in Ethnic Minority National Resilience Network, coordinated by BEMIS. However, we realised in mid April that the larger-scale initiatives to tackle digital inequality were going to take some time and lots of children in our network would be missing out on online learning, as well as our own digital activity provision, and families already experiencing disadvantage were going to struggle even more during lockdown.
We therefore applied to the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund, which enabled us to buy 20 tablets and 6 month SIM cards with 50 GB data/month. Nearly all of these have now been distributed, with the final tablets due to go out w/c 29th June. Some of the recipients have been referred by Home Start Glasgow North and the Scottish Refugee Council, others were members of our Children & Families Network already, others found out about our online sessions and digital support through friends or online.
All of the families who have requested this support are from ethnic minority communities and at least 90% are refugees or asylum seekers. This was not a condition of our funding, and we made sure this support was shared widely – with families in our network, online and through partners. These demographics are a reflection on the disproportionate rates of poverty and financial insecurity experienced by BAME communities in Scotland. The digital divide is more stark than ever and is having a huge knock on effect on mental health and educational attainment.
Our digital provision is making a real difference. We are grateful to BEMIS who have also allocated us funding to provide a further three tablets. However we already have a waiting list of four families, with new families contacting us nearly every day at this stage.