Internet access is particularly vital for those experiencing homelessness and can directly affect their physical and mental health, finances, employment and social isolation. Being digitally excluded can delay your route to secure housing, affect your access to benefits or reduce your access to healthcare. Below are some specific areas in how those experiencing homelessness are directly affected by digital exclusion.
Since the transition to an online based benefit system in 2013, claimants are able to access information on their claim, update their work coach via the ‘journal’ and receive updates and jobs. However, claimants can be sanctioned for not updating their online journal irrespective of their internet access at home. A reliance on the online system means increased phone waiting times and closures of job centres.
Housing register bidding
Many local authority’s housing registers are only available online and applicants may be excluded from having the same choice and autonomy in long term move-on options unless they have internet access. The websites are also often difficult to navigate on the smaller mobile devices that people in TA tend to have.
The NHS’ shift to digitising appointment making and prescription services means that those without internet access are restricted to using limited telephone or face to face services, often missing out on appointments, reminders or medication.
School and Education
Since the pandemic, school curriculums have adopted online learning and children without WIFI or devices at home are at risk of falling behind with their education, reducing future opportunities for families who have spent time in TA. Parents also miss out on news and updates from the school if they are not able to get online.
Social connection and entertainment
Some TA properties don’t allow visitors and residents rely on internet access to connect with friends or family. Added to that, the number of out of area placements has increased, intensifying the need for digital inclusion at home.