A new £400,000 Tech Lending Community Fund launched by Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 will deliver social and environmental benefits by helping people facing digital exclusion to access the internet, whilst reducing e-waste by maximizing the use of refurbished digital devices.

The pioneering fund will support people in temporary accommodation through a new lending service providing surplus tablets alongside free data supplied by Virgin Media O2’s National Databank created in partnership with the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation.

The Tech Lending Community Fund will offer grants of between £50,000 and £120,000 to organisations such as local authorities, charities, and social enterprises, who will become Tech Lending Hubs. The hubs will be responsible for ensuring that the refurbished tablets and free data are made available to people in temporary accommodation, adding value to existing support services. It builds upon Hubbub and O2’s Community Calling initiative which has redistributed more than 9,000 refurbished smartphones to digitally isolated people and reduced potential e-waste.

The Tech Lending Community Fund aims to make available 1,000 surplus devices which will support 4,000 people in the first year including refugees, young people facing hardship, those recently released from prison and domestic abuse survivors. The tablets will help people connect with loved ones, access healthcare, complete training or job applications and take part in virtual interviews.

Hubbub is indebted to Leeds City Council’s 100% Digital Leeds who provided guidance on the development of the grant fund. Building on their extensive experience it was understood that lending devices can be hugely beneficial when offered to people under-going a significant period of transition in their lives and that these people can best be reached through organisations offering temporary accommodation alongside wider support. This insight informed the grant criteria. 100% Digital Leeds will remain on hand to share learnings, support groups and help with funding bids.

The TLC fund has been made possible thanks to support from Virgin Media O2. Explaining why the company is backing the campaign Tracey Herald, Head of Sustainability at Virgin Media O2, said:

“In an increasingly digital world, we know how important it is to help people get connected. For those in temporary accommodation, connectivity is a lifeline - helping them stay connected to loved ones and accessing essential online services, from healthcare to applying for a job.

“That’s why we’re building on our partnership with Hubbub by launching the Tech Lending Community Fund to create community lending schemes across the UK that offer devices and data to those who need it most. The scheme supports people and planet – connecting the disconnected and giving old devices a new lease of life, helping to prevent e-waste.”

The launch of the TLC Fund and the continuation of Community Calling reflects Hubbub’s ambition to increasingly address the pressing issue of e-waste - one of the world’s fastest growing and most toxic waste streams.

Our hope is that the fund will act as a catalyst creating a strong and vibrant network of Tech Lending Hubs supported by high quality resources and guidance. This is a similar model to the Community Fridge Network which is now helping address waste and inequality in every corner of the country.

Organisations interested in applying for the fund can visit https://www.techlendingcommunityfund.co.uk/. If you are aware of any organisations or charities working with temporary accommodation services, please share the details of the fund with them. Applications close on 1st March 2022 with funding released from May 2022.

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