Young people from poorer families could ‘become the hidden casualty of the cost-of-living crisis amid high internet bills’, a charity has said.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues across the country, youth centres are now going from warm banks during winter to revision banks for children in need sitting exams in the summer.

And the charity, OnSide, which has a youth centre in Bolton, said it is seeing young people asking for study spaces and access to computers and internet in its national network of youth centres in some of the country’s most deprived spots.

Tom Hughes, a youth worker at a centre in Bolton as part of the OnSide network, said: “I see young people coming to the club every evening to use the WiFi and computers here as they don’t have access to the internet or a computer at home.

“Many of our young people come from households where money is very tight, it might be noisy or there are younger siblings that need attention.”

Robert Poole, who teaches at Sharples School and is part of the Bolton National Education Union, said the school he teaches at is also seeing a rise.

The Bolton News: Robert PooleRobert Poole (Image: UGC)

Sharples School is an Ofsted rated good with outstanding features school - and one of the borough's highest performing secondary schools.

He said: “We do see pupils a lot using the school for homework, so we have had to set up a number of homework clubs at lunch times and after school and we do see a lot of people using them.

“I definitely think part of that is increasingly about the cost-of-living crisis and the rising costs of utilities means that parents are having to cut back on things and having access to the broadband and to the devices needed to access these things is becoming increasingly more difficult.

“It is also going to increase the class divide between working class families and middle-class families and children in private schools who will have access to these.

“I’d like to see the government doing more to tackle digital poverty and help working families out.”

Last week, a report from the Local Government Association (LGA) found that deprived areas of England have less access to the fastest broadband despite relying more heavily on internet usage and said fixed broadband access is linked to economic activity and educational attainment.

The UK’s telecoms watchdog Ofcom warned of a rise in the number of households struggling to afford communications services as the cost of living soared, with nearly 30 per cent having an issue affording their services in January.

Jamie Masraff, OnSide’s chief executive, said: “Teenagers risk becoming the hidden casualties of the cost-of-living crisis.

“With costs rising, we are incredibly concerned that not having a reliable internet connection, access to a laptop or a quiet place to study will have a significant impact on young people’s ability to revise and achieve their best in their exams, which could be decisive for their future.

“Youth Zones across our network are telling us that young people are facing additional challenges this year as they prepare to sit their exams.

"We’ve seen young people asking for access to computers, the internet and for a quiet, calm place to study.”

Mr Masraff said the charity’s Warrington centre has had its boardroom turned into a revision room, while youth workers at a centre in Oldham have set up a dedicated room for revision to make sure young people have access to computers.

But he said its efforts “are just scratching the surface of the need”.

“All parts of society need to give support to our young people through this cost-of-living crisis or we risk leaving a whole generation forever marked by its impact,” he added.

“OnSide Youth Zones have become warm banks for children over winter, now we are effectively revision banks, providing safe, calm spaces, equipment and Wi-Fi for young people.”

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