Coronavirus: Digital poverty 'a threat to children in care'

A lack of access to basic technology during lockdown poses an "unprecedented threat" to the wellbeing of children in care and care leavers, a charity warns.

Voices from Care Cymru (VFCC) said some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society cannot stay in touch with important support networks. The charity warned isolation and poor mental health is on the rise and called on councils to utilise technology. Local authorities have accepted there are "technological challenges".

But the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), which represents councils in Wales, said social workers are embracing new ways of working. A lack of access to laptop computers, mobile phones and the internet leaves some people unable to contact friends, family, advisers and social workers, VFCC said.

It added that many of those affected had experienced childhood trauma and instability, and may have an existing mental illness at a time of major disruption to mental health services. "By listening to care-experienced young people from across Wales, we know Covid-19 poses an unprecedented threat to the wellbeing of many vulnerable children and young adults," said VFCC programmes manager Christopher Dunn.

Mr Dunn explained they faced "a wide range of social and financial inequalities" and that "social distancing exacerbates the loneliness and isolation already felt" by those without "the usual family support networks".