A Bolton community group which helps the homeless and the vulnerable has been able to expand their services thanks to free internet. 

Urban Outreach is being supplied high speed broadband thanks to a campaign by Opus Broadband.

The team said the internet helps a range of groups including women involved within the criminal justice system or those who have been trafficked or exploited.

As part of their services, they also assist the homeless and rough sleepers who can now access the wi-fi to find accommodation, gain benefits and apply for jobs.

The group said they had been able to assist families who may not be able to access the internet for all sorts of reasons.

The charity was founded by Dave and Chris Bagley in 1990 and has gone on to provide a range of vital services for hundreds of families across the borough.

CEO of Urban Outreach Dave Bagley MBE said: “When we talk of poverty, we often sort of think about it as money, but on the whole poverty is that lack of something, It’s somebody's ability to access something that helps them to survive.

“Take for instance elderly people during lockdown. Many are not Internet savvy, they were told that they had to their order their food online and so in one moment in time, we had sent thousands of people into abject poverty just by telling them they had to use the Internet and they didn't have the Internet.

"We saw masses and masses of issues of people who were starving because they couldn’t access services.

“It will change. We know that, but we still have a significant number of people, often the elderly and vulnerable for whom the Internet will never be there.

"But we leave people without the skills, ability and access without it they've have no digital coat and are left out in the cold.”

Opus Broadband said it is rolling out its ‘Internet For Everyone’ campaign as part of which they donate free broadband connections to families and to organisations that provide vital services to their community.

The internet is accessible to anyone at the Urban Outreach Centre, Dave said; “It reaches across the whole building and without Opus it would be a case of raising significant funds to have it from another provider. 

"In a week, there's about two to three hundred people coming in here, they now have access to this digital world.

"The people that we are working with are already marginalised and excluded, to include them we need to be able to give them the gateways to benefit from other services and provision in essence we need give them the ‘digital coat’ to bring them out of the cold of isolation that digital poverty creates.

“The company has put a ‘digital coat’ on us and it means we can give people the opportunities that they were not going get otherwise. 

Even if they move into their own homes until they are able to get the Internet in there they can come here to access it.”

The centre said the wider benefits for the local community were being felt by their team and users.

Dave said: “The benefit is a hundred percent and will always be a hundred percent, because it is free.

"It works and that sounds a bit stupid, but more often than not half the time these things don't work when they're getting installed in buildings that we use. This worked from the beginning. 

At the end of the day, you are giving access for hundreds and hundreds of people to this, the digital universe.