Liberty Global’s UK operator Virgin Media has today launched a new initiative to help home learners and families facing financial difficulty during lockdown. Through a package of devices and data, building on existing measures already in place, Virgin Media is stepping up efforts to support families in the UK to ensure they have the tools and connectivity needed to take part in remote learning while schools remain closed.

As part of its comprehensive support package, Virgin Media is partnering with the charity Business in the Community to fund and distribute 1,500 laptops and mobile dongles to schoolchildren and young adults who are struggling to learn virtually. Each laptop will come with a 4G dongle containing 25GB of data per month, which is simply plugged into the device to get home learners instantly connected to teachers, educational tools and online classes.

It comes as England rugby star, Maro Itoje, has been calling on businesses to do what they can to support families in need in order to close the ‘digital divide’. Virgin Media has been inspired by Maro’s campaign and is proud to stand with him on supporting schoolchildren across the nation during this challenging time.

Maro Itoje, England International rugby player, said: “My ask was simple – step up and be counted. Virgin Media has done just that, acting swiftly to address all points of concern to guarantee children across the UK have access to vital learning during school closures and the company should be congratulated for that. Without the closing of this deficit, the social divide only broadens, making reintegration into the classroom environment near-impossible for the most deprived.”

Paul Buchanan, Director of Delivery and Impact at Business in the Community, said: “With families facing the challenges of remote online learning during this worldwide crisis, Virgin Media’s significant donation will really make an impact. Our National Business Network will work with schools to ensure these computers go to the pupils who need them. Relying on technology has become essential to education, and we’re proud that Virgin Media has led the way. However, we know that there are still thousands of school children in the UK who are struggling to learn online. We need more businesses to follow Virgin Media’s example and act now to support our nation’s future.”

Jeff Dodds, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have been supporting our customers and helping to close the digital gap for those most in need.

“Remote learning can be tough enough without the added pressures and worry of affording devices and connectivity, so we wanted to step up and lend a hand. Our Help for Home Learners initiative will put devices and data into the hands of schoolchildren which, alongside free data boosts and our dedicated Essential broadband package, will mean more pupils can continue their education while schools are closed.”

Trade-in for teaching

As a way to further boost the number of devices available, Virgin Media will soon be providing a simple route for the public to donate any spare second-hand laptops and devices through its existing mobile ‘trade-in’ partner. Further details will be shared with customers in due course. Separately, Virgin Media has asked some of its suppliers and partners to join the company in providing donations, along with its employees.

Extra data and zero rating

The ‘Help for Home Learners’ initiative also incorporates existing measures Virgin Media has put in place, with the provider working with the Department for Education since last year to offer an additional 20GB of mobile data per month to families who may be struggling. This is alongside zero-rating the Oak National Academy portal, which allows children to access online classes and resources without using any of their mobile data. Virgin Media’s broadband packages already come with no data limits or caps.

Kids TV

To help keep children entertained outside school time, Virgin Media is, again, making a number of kids pay TV channels and on-demand programming available to all TV customers during the month of February, at no extra cost.

Virgin Media is also helping families facing financial difficulties and vulnerable customers stay connected through the following measures:

• Offering vulnerable customers who are on Pay As You Go mobile contracts, 500 minutes, 500 text messages and 1GB of extra data at no extra cost every month, while vulnerable customers on Pay Monthly contracts can receive unlimited minutes and 10GB of additional data every month. Both offers are available until the end of March

• Virgin Media’s Essential broadband service offers an affordable, reliable and hassle-free connection for new and existing customers who receive Universal Credit. The plan costs £15 per month for 15Mbps with no fixed-term contract length and no price changes while Universal Credit payments are being received.