The Department for Opportunities is launching a new campaign to encourage laptop donations as research reveals that if just one in every fourteen unused laptops were donated, every child in the UK would have the tools they need to learn during Covid-19.

  • Britons say learning equipment is the most important thing for children to have access to after food – but nearly one million children have no access to a laptop or tablet to learn from home.
  • Over one in five Brits own a working laptop or tablet they no longer use, but only 8% of us have ever donated any IT equipment to those in need, according to a poll commissioned by the The Department for Opportunities.
  • If just one in every fourteen of Britain’s spare laptops were donated, every child in the UK would have the tools they need to learn during Covid-19.

Since the start of the year, schools around the UK have been closed indefinitely, other than for vulnerable children and those of key workers. Teachers everywhere have had to go back to teaching online.

For many young people and adults, this has been a huge challenge – but for 904,000 children, learning has been near impossible without access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home [1]. The consequences for social mobility could be catastrophic.

Even before the pandemic, this digital divide had a major impact on children’s academic ability. Nearly seven in ten children (68%) who own a laptop succeed in their GCSEs, compared to just three in ten (29%) of those who don’t (National Children’s Bureau).

Children’s right to learn

According to new polling from the Department for Opportunities, the campaigning arm of the Social Mobility Foundation, Brits believe young people have a right to learning equipment – 62% consider it one of the most important things children need, second only to food (74%). This puts learning equipment well ahead of other priorities, like peer interaction (47%), public spaces (36%) and exercise equipment (10%).

Overall, over nine in ten (93%) believe it is important for schoolchildren to have access to a laptop and internet during the pandemic.

But sadly, laptops are not the first thing that come to mind when we think of donating to those less fortunate than us. The poll suggests that only 8% of us have ever donated a piece of IT equipment to charity, compared to seven in ten (71%) who have donated clothes, six in ten (56%) who have donated books, and over four in ten (43%) who have donated toys and games.

An easy fix

There is an easy solution. Over one in five of us (21%) own a working laptop or tablet that we no longer use. That means there are at least 14 million working devices sitting in Britain’s cupboards and drawers, going unused.

If just one in every fourteen of Britain’s unused laptops were donated, laptop poverty among schoolchildren would be eliminated.

The Department for Opportunities is encouraging anyone with a spare laptop or tablet to donate it this half term as part of its End Laptop Poverty movement.

The End Laptop Poverty campaign will work by encouraging the public to donate an old device through one of its charity partners across the UK, either by post, collection or at a Covid-secure drop-off point. The options can be found on the campaign micrositee

Our charity partners will receive the donated device, securely wipe it, repair any damage and allocate it to a school or young person in need.

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of The Department for Opportunities, said:

“Every single child in this country has a right to learn. But right now, millions of children from low-income families in the UK are facing a further barrier to their education due to a lack of technology.

“If anyone if your household has a spare working laptop or tablet hidden away somewhere, please take some time over half term to dig it out and follow the donation instructions on our website.

“Donating is lockdown-permitted, Covid-safe, and extraordinarily important. Providing a device may only tackle one element of digital poverty, though this research highlights the huge impact that donations from the public could have in bridging the divide.

“If you have no equipment to spare, please share this message with anyone that might do. Thank you for your support.”

Rt Hon. Alan Milburn, chair of The Department for Opportunities, said:

“Covid-19 has taken a wrecking ball to social mobility.  It has exposed and exacerbated the unfairness that already existed in our society.

“Without a laptop, too many disadvantaged school children are missing out on education that is vital to their life chances.  By donating a spare device, the public can remove barriers to online learning and in so doing help level the playing field.”

[1] Ofcom 2020, adjusted to reflect latest UK Government donation figures for January 2021

About the research

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The research was conducted in two segments with two different polls. The first had a sample size of 1,703 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 22nd January 2021. The second had a total sample size of 1,769 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 25th – 26th January 2021. Both surveys were carried out online and all figures have been weighted to be representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).