For many people at food banks, being unable to afford phone and internet access stops them being able to access vital support services and stay in touch with loved ones. Recent research has shown that the ‘digital divide’ has the greatest impact on those who are already at a disadvantage, either financially or socially.

Almost a quarter of people from households with the lowest incomes said they are not confident using a search engine to access government services and support. When it comes to job-hunting, 63% of people seeking employment said they would benefit from digital skills training (compared to 36% of the general population). These figures suggest that the ability to access employment and/or welfare benefits may be directly linked to digital skills.

In June 2021, Vodafone Limited, the British telecoms services provider, announced details of its everyone connected campaign, which aimed to provide phone and internet access to 1 million people experiencing financial hardship in the UK, by the end of 2022.

In partnership with the Trussell Trust, Vodafone made available 200,000 free SIM cards – loaded with 40GB of data plus free calls and texts each month for up to a year. To ensure the scheme reaches people struggling to afford the essentials, SIMs are distributed through the Trussell Trust’s UK network of food banks.

We’re pleased to have worked with Vodafone to help reach people who’ve needed a food bank. One hundred thousand free SIM cards had been provided to people on the lowest incomes by food banks in our network at the end of 2022.

We know the difference this support is making to people as they feel the full force of the escalating cost of living, so we’re delighted that Vodafone will be extending its commitment to help a total of four million people by 2025.

We are pleased to continue working with Vodafone to ensure that people facing financial hardship can ‘stay connected’ and access all the essential digital services they need.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said

“It’s simply not right that more and more people in the UK are being left with no option than to use a food bank. We’re hearing from food banks across our network that the cost of living crisis is forcing increasing numbers of people into impossible decisions where they have to cut back on the essentials we all need to get by. 

Being online and connected is one of these essentials. Without internet access, people can’t manage their finances, apply for opportunities, or stay connected with doctors, schools and loved ones.    

Our partnership with Vodafone is making a real difference to the support food banks are able to give people facing hardship – being connected is an essential for all of us to survive as well as thrive.”