People looking for work can now apply for six months of free broadband to help them search for jobs.
A national programme has been launched by the telecoms company TalkTalk and the Department for Work and Pensions that aims to tackling digital exclusion and remove barriers to employment.
With the pandemic having made it harder for some people to access training and support, the new voucher scheme will give jobseekers across the UK free access to “high-quality” broadband.
Jobseekers are being offered a no-contract voucher for six months of TalkTalk’s Fibre 35 broadband, which normally costs £23 a month. Usage is uncapped, meaning there are no data limits aside from the usual “fair usage” rules. Users will get wifi connectivity via a home router, though they are unable to add optional extras such as TV services, and voice calls are not part of the package.
At the end of the six months, customers can choose to roll on to a contract with TalkTalk or cancel with no additional costs, provided all equipment is sent back via the prepaid returns service.
While DWP jobcentres have remained open during the pandemic, some assistance was moved online, making an internet connection even more important.
TalkTalk and the DWP trialled the voucher in Greater Manchester and Cheshire at the start of the second UK lockdown last year, to support jobseekers stuck at home. This proved successful, they said, so TalkTalk – which this year came under fire from some customers over broadband price rises – is now rolling out the scheme nationally to all Jobcentre Plus work coaches so they can offer it to jobseekers.
The employment minister, Mims Davies, said: “We want to support jobseekers in any way we can on their journey to securing employment, which includes levelling up opportunities by making sure they are digitally connected and can access the full range of support offered by our Plan for Jobs and our JobHelp website.”
There are a number of phone and broadband deals for low-income families and others. For example, Vodafone’s Voxi brand offers UK jobseekers unlimited 5G data, calls and texts for £10 a month for up to six months.