[Hpn] UK - Blair wants homeless to go online - 700 Tech Centres planned - FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Fri, 15 Sep 2000 18:55:09 -0700 (PDT)

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Are Computer Centers for homeless people a wise investment of government
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FWD  BBC News Online - Monday, 11 September, 2000 - UK


     Technology is being used to help rough sleepers catch up

     By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Prime Minister Tony Blair is to unveil an initiative to use community-based
computer centres to help the homeless and disadvantaged rejoin society.

The announcement is part of a broader plan to help regenerate and reskill
the 2000 most deprived wards in the UK.

The scheme builds on pilot projects that have been running up and down the
country since January of this year.

But critics say care will have to be taken to ensure that the help the
centres give is properly targeted and delivers the benefits to the right

In March 1999 the government announced in the Budget that it was making
available 252m to set up a network of Information Communication Technology
(ICT) Centres around the UK.

The idea was to create community based centres that would offer
accommodation, training and health and welfare advice to socially
disadvantaged groups such as homeless people and the young unemployed.

*Technology divisions*

The centres will aim to give the homeless and unemployed the computer and
technology skills they need to be considered for a job.

"We see this as a very positive step in helping people who have been
homeless re-enter mainstream society," said Chris Holmes, director of

The centres will also try to engage interest groups, such as football
supporters, to bring them up to date with technology and conquer their fear
of computers and the internet.

The government believes that, unless the majority of people are comfortable
with technology and more care is taken to bridge the Digital Divide,
Britain will suffer as a nation.

On Monday Mr Blair is expected to unveil the first names of those that have
been successful in their application for funds to run an ICT Centre.

As yet unclear if any new money is being made available to fund the centres
or if the centres will be funded from the pot already announced.

By the time the scheme has run its course around 700 of the ICT centres
will have been created up and down the country.

*Community computing*

On 31 January this year, 13 pathfinder projects were launched to pilot the
approach and technologies that will be used in hundreds of other schemes.

The pilot projects have been run in a pub called The Grove in Stafford to
tempt technophobic parents and regulars to tackle technology. Other
projects have involved Burnley Football Club and Walthamstow Age Concern.

The impetus for the ICT centres has grown out of two much older projects
run by organisations outside the government.

The first, called Cyber Skills, aims to give basic literacy in computer
technology to those participating.

"We're giving them facilities that they would otherwise find very difficult
to access," said Roger Lloyd, chair of the Cyber Skills network, "They can
also share it with other people to give them confidence in using it."

The other, called the Foyer Scheme, originated in France and was an attempt
to provide places where the homeless could stay and which offered health
and welfare advice as well as training on technology.

A DETR report called Stepping Stones published in June this year evaluated
the success that Foyer schemes have had to date.

The report said Foyer schemes were broadly successful but warned that care
had to be taken to ensure they were tuned to meet local needs. It also said
that care had to be taken to ensure the centres did not come to resemble
government institutions and they did not duplicate work that was being done

Deborah Quilgars, a social policy researcher from the University of York
who has studied Foyer schemes, says: "We did find that people were making
progress, but it is always difficult to know how much progress they would
have made otherwise."


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