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Libraries offer a helping hand to stay connected this winter

15 December 2023

A successful pilot scheme offering free mobile SIM cards to those unable to afford internet access is now available in 11 of Cambridgeshire’s libraries.

Whether it’s for staying in touch with family and friends, searching for a new job, checking what benefits you are eligible for, or to sign up for services, access to the internet is an essential part of everyday life.

In the current cost of living crisis, many people cannot afford internet access at home, leaving them digitally and socially isolated. To help tackle this, Cambridgeshire Libraries have signed up to the National Databank, an initiative run by Good Things Foundation which provides free mobile SIM cards to anyone on a low income over the age of 18.

Since Cambridgeshire Libraries signed up to the scheme in August, over 500 residents have received a free SIM card at Cambridge Central, Bar Hill, Wisbech and St Ives libraries. This achievement has led the team to roll out the scheme to Arbury Court, Barnwell Road, Cambourne, Ely, Huntingdon, March and St Neots libraries.

The SIM cards are donated to the National Databank by Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and Three. They are then supplied to members of the National Digital Inclusion Network – including the 11 Cambridgeshire libraries – to be passed on to those in need of data.

Councillor Tom Sanderson, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Communities, Social Inclusion and Mobility committee, explains more: “Being able to access the internet is so important to stay connected to family and friends, especially at this time of year, as well as opportunities and services.

“That’s why this scheme is so important, and is just one of the ways the council is working towards helping our residents out of poverty and income inequality.

“It works like a food bank, but for mobile data. It’s so easy to access the SIM cards, you just need to pop into one of the libraries taking part and ask for one. It’s wonderful news that we have already been able to help over 500 residents connect with local services, loved ones both in this country and across the world, and with potential jobs and benefits. I look forward to hearing how many more people have benefitted as the scheme rolls out.”

Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO, Good Things Foundation, said: “We’re delighted that Cambridgeshire Libraries have signed up to the National Databank. As the cost-of-living crisis rages on this winter, support with accessing digital services is needed now more than ever. The ability to connect with family and friends this festive season, alongside access to basic services and employment opportunities, should not be a luxury. Together we can fix the digital divide.”

To check the location and opening times of our libraries, go to Your library - Cambridgeshire County Council.

Helping people to stay connected is just one of the ways the council is keeping communities across Cambridgeshire informed and prepared to stay safe and healthy during the winter months of 2023/24. You can find out more by searching on social media for #BeWinterWise.