Wirral MP speaks out as a quarter of UK adults struggle to use the internet

Margaret Greenwood MP has called for a commitment from the government to extend access to adult literacy and digital skills training in our communities, especially in areas of deprivation.

The Wirral West MP was taking part in a debate in parliament on the issue of digital skills and careers.

Last year’s Consumer Digital Index, which is commissioned by the Department for Education and run by Lloyds Bank, reported that there were about 13 million people in the UK with very low digital capability, which means that they are likely to struggle when interacting with online services.

That is about a quarter of the UK’s adult population. The index also found that 7.5 million people, or 18% of UK adults, lack the essential digital skills needed for the workplace.

Figures also suggest that the UK ranks poorly in comparison with other countries when it comes to digital skills. According to the International Institute for Management Development’s world digital competitiveness ranking, the UK was ranked 20th in 2023 out of the 64 economies ranked – down from 16th in 2022. 

Margaret Greenwood MP argued that government spending on adult skills has been cut under the Conservatives, highlighting research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which found that spending levels in 2024-25 will be 23% below 2009-10 levels.

The IFS research also revealed that spending on classroom-based adult education has fallen especially sharply and will be more than 40% below 2009-10 levels in 2024-25.

The Wirral West MP described this as “very damaging to our economy” and said that “the situation needs to be reversed”.

She also spoke of the need to ensure that everyone has reliable and affordable access to the internet and pointed to the work of the Good Things Foundation charity which works with local partners, such as churches and community groups, to distribute free mobile SIM cards through its national databank to help digitally excluded people get connected.

If you are a local community group and might be interested in this, you can find out more about the Good Things Foundation’s national databank here: https://tinyurl.com/cr979cbm

The charity can also be contacted on 0114 349 1666 or via hello@goodthingsfoundation.org

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is truly shocking that a quarter of the adult population struggle with using the internet.

“Currently, over seven million people lack the essential digital skills needed for the workplace and as a result many will be missing out on opportunities to progress in work. This is a form of deprivation that must be recognised and addressed. It is vital both for the individuals concerned and for the economy.

“So much of what we do today relies on us using the Internet, whether that is applying for jobs, accessing education and training, banking, paying bills and accessing other services and leisure opportunities.

“It really is important that as a country we ensure that people have the opportunity to acquire and improve their digital skills so that they can access jobs, services and activities online with ease.

“Older people are much more likely than younger people to struggle with digital skills, so it is particularly important that they are supported.

“Internet access can be crucial too, particularly for people who rely on working remotely, those with caring responsibilities, disabled people and those who live in rural areas where access to employment can be more difficult.

“According to the charity the Good Things Foundation, 2.5 million households in the UK struggle to afford the Internet, and one in 14 households have no home internet access at all. Clearly, poverty is a barrier to digital literacy.

“We need action on the provision of broadband across the country so that no one and no area is left behind.

“It is deeply disappointing that spending levels on adult skills in 2024-25 will be 23% below 2009-10 levels.

“We need to see a reversal of this and investment in the skills people need. Access to the Internet and the confidence to use it can be life-changing.

“Those who struggle with IT or with reading and writing must be given the chance to acquire the literacy and digital skills they need to make the most of the job opportunities, services and activities that are out there.”

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