After trialling the Home Access idea in two local areas, the government is now ready to roll it out across 270,000 more families in England.
What is Home Access?
The scheme allows the poorest families to apply for a grant that will fund a laptop and broadband connection. This grant must be used within three months.
There are three possible packages different homes may qualify for:
- The full package of a laptop, one year’s internet access, service and support
- A computer with service and support
- One year’s internet access
The grant only covers a laptop and web connection, so families wanting to buy additional kit such as a printer will need to pay for that themselves.
Gordon Brown has promised to invest £300million into the project, which should have completed the roll out by March next year.
The free laptops all come with a dedicated Home Access website set as the home page to help families make the most of the machine. They also come with pre-set parental controls, so you don’t have to worry about what the kids might do online.
Why is it needed?
If you think this will just encourage more children to play computer games, you’re very wrong.
There’s evidence that having internet access enables youngsters to improve their exam grades and perform better in school – particularly in maths and reading.
It’s also important if the government is to meet a key pledge for parents to be able to get involved with their children’s schools online and access progress reports, behaviour reviews and other vital information.
Do I qualify?
Only families receiving certain benefits will be able to use the Home Access scheme. Parents and guardians wishing to apply must be fully responsible for a child in Years 3 – 9, attending a state school in England.
You won’t qualify if you have already received support from a similar programme, like Computers for Pupils.
In addition, you’ll need to receive at least one of the following benefits:
- Free school meals
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit (and an income of no more than £16,040)
- Guaranteed Pension Credit
- Income-based Employment Support Allowance
- Support under Paty V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
How do I apply?
If you think you qualify for this scheme then you can call the grant helpline on 0333 200 1004 and ask for an application form.
There’s more information on the scheme available on the dedicated Home Access website.
Be warned, there is a set amount of money dedicated to this scheme and it’s being allocated on a first come, first served basis. If you want to grab this grant for your children, you should apply as soon as possible to ensure your youngster benefits.
What if I don’t qualify?
With just a quarter of a million families benefitting from the Home Access scheme, many households won’t be receiving laptops, no matter how stretched their income.
If you’re in that boat, you can still find low-cost broadband access by comparing broadband providers with moneysupermarket.com.
You can get online for as little as £5 a month. Some providers even offer a free laptop when you sign up, although you’ll usually pay more each month and have to commit to a longer contract.