Superhighways has been a member of the GTF network for over 10 years. So as a community partner we applied to deliver the project here in Kingston. During this time, we have been able to offer Free data sim cards from Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and the Three Network.
We publicised the scheme widely via our usual communications channels and promoted in person at Health and Wellbeing events run by RBKares in tandem with the local foodbank managed by CREst – a community group Superhighways has worked with for over 15 years.
RBKares founder Kate Kenyon sums up the impact she saw through this project.
Having access to sim cards, both data and calls, is transformational to the clients that attend the wellbeing days and the refugees that come to our sewing group.
Some clients are in debt and have their phone contracts cancelled and others have no funds to get a sim card so have no means to keep in contact with family.
It is essential for their mental health as well as for keeping track of appointments or benefit claims etc. these clients are so grateful for what is a lifeline to them and it makes our work with them all so much easier.
We are very grateful for her support and that of CREst to enable us to deliver so many sim cards to residents.
Delivery 2022 - 2023
To streamline processing requests for sim cards, Superhighways created an online data collection form. The form made it easier for community groups to apply for sim cards on behalf of their members and residents. The form also made it easier to administer and report back on this much needed digital inclusion project in light of the current cost of living crisis.
The scheme is still open to your community group to apply to on behalf of Kingston residents - complete the form here.
As the project progressed, we were able to pick out recurring themes in the reasons given for residents needing to access a sim card. We started to build a library of written voices to reflect the need for connection and data.
In the following section you can hear from residents, volunteers, and professionals in their own words how the Sim Card project supported them or their clients to keep connected and access online services.
Keeping in touch: with family and friends
This is the most often given reason why residents need a data sim card.
- I want to call my family to let them know I have arrived safely.
- I need a sim card for my son so I can call him or text him and leave a message. He is often out of data.
- She has two teenage nieces who have just joined her. She needs to find things to do between now and when they start school next term. I gave her a tour of Connected Kingston highlighting the events and activities she could do with them, and a sim card. She was delighted! She and her husband are both struggling to stay connected from home.
Issues with accessing online in emergency housing
Wi-Fi is often over stretched in temporary emergency accommodation hostels provided by the local Council or other accommodation provided through specialist housing providers or Private landlords.
This makes it difficult to get online to use Wi-Fi to make calls – having a sim card that offers either almost unlimited data or talk minutes or both was a great advantage.
- He is in a hostel, just arrived, and has nothing on him at all.
- She can now use WhatsApp calls to the Home Office from her room. She does not want to walk around the streets to have a private conversation.
Supporting older residents and those with long-term health conditions
- Her sister recently went into hospital, and it was difficult to keep in touch with her. Now that her sister has a SIM and phone, they will be able to video call and message each other more frequently. Her mother is elderly with heart problems and when her sister was in hospital, she had to take on some of the caring duties so that SIM would also help her to access more services for that.
- She has cancer and needs to have a phone so consultants can get in touch with her about appointments.
- This older lady is nervous around technology, but a free sim card might just make the difference to her taking up and using technology to keep in touch.
Helping families /individuals on low income
- She wants to get the best from her iPhone and use apps for better mental health. (A referral by a Community Connector at Staywell.)
- They live in sheltered accommodation with no access to Wi-Fi. They were given a tablet during lockdown and purchased a prepaid MiFi with £10 monthly bill. Giving her a sim card enabled her to save £120 for the year.
- He is getting a phone upfront from the R.N.I.B but cannot afford a sim card contract.
- The family is on a low income. They have children under the age of 10 years and the school sends messages via WhatsApp or email. Most times they miss out and rely on other parents to pass on the message.
- She has an old Nokia phone which has broken, and she can't afford to top it up - she would like to be able to use a smart phone with the SIM to contact family; and aid her with her literacy sessions that she is doing as she is has low literacy. She has a part-time job cleaning, having a sim card with data will also help her to look up spellings and write emails to communicate more effectively with her employers.
- Resources are limited. She lives in sheltered housing; receives benefits; and in terms of data usage, she is not able to use the phone whilst she is out and about.
- He is really struggling, having just used the last of his money to get a SIM card. But he has no funds to top it up. He needs his phone to keep in touch and keep appointments.
- His wife is near her due date, and he wants to phone the family in Afghanistan with updates.
- I need this for keeping in contact, so I do not get sanctioned by the Universal Credit Team.
Employment and Skills
- He Needs to be able to keep in contact with friends, but he also needs data for his course and looking things up. It would make his life much easier.
- He is very keen to learn how to use it and start with office skills in particular. Superhighways gave him a donated laptop we had recently received and gave him a tour of the Learnmyway platform, The essential digital skills toolkit and the Lloyds Bank Academy training sites.
Thanks to Kingston charities and community groups; RBK outreach teams; and individual charity workers who referred residents to the Superhighways Free Sim Card project. We would have struggled to reach as many people as we did without your support.
The Data Sim Card Project continues into next year as we have just taken receipt of more sim cards. So, if you know any residents in our Kingston borough, who find themselves in the same need, please do refer them to us.