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Funding Granted to Address Digital Poverty

The Court of the Brewers’ Company, acting as Trustee to the Dame Alice Owen Foundation, has approved grants totalling £176,000 to the London Borough of Islington and Dame Alice Owen’s School in order to address the “Digital Divide”.  This emergency funding, made available in response to urgent bids from the beneficiaries, will help purchase appropriate devices and software to enable students to engage with remote learning necessitated by lockdown and the continued closure of schools.

As more and more services, from entertainment to shopping and even paying your taxes, have moved online over the years, a ‘digital divide’ has begun to form between those who have the technology and skills to access digital services and those who do not.  The sudden emergence of COVID-19 and the rapid move to a more home-based existence has exacerbated this trend and amplified inequalities.  Now, many children who would have received an education at school are struggling to access online resources for one of their most basic needs.

In Islington, where the Dame Alice Owen Foundation supports educational programmes, many families do not have access to an appropriate digital device, or are struggling to enable their children to access online learning while sharing a single smart phone between all members of the family.  Since the pandemic began, Islington Council have been working closely with schools to support them in their efforts to ensure that all pupils have access to digital education.  While many key target groups have been catered for using available government and other funding, there is still more that needs to be done.  This funding from the Dame Alice Owen Foundation will be used to purchase laptops to ensure that all Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils in Islington have access to at least one appropriate device in their homes.

The Master Brewer, Richard fuller, said: “The Brewers’ Company recognises the terrible impact that this prolonged period of isolation is having on young people and in particular those who are unable to access the resources necessary for their education.  The Court feels strongly that it is our duty to do everything that we can to assist our beneficiaries during this very difficult time and is pleased that we have been able to provide this support through the Dame Alice Owen Foundation.”

Despite huge challenges to the brewing industry in the last year, many of our member breweries have also taken the opportunity to address the digital divide head on with donations of devices or other support to local schools and charities.