Tesco Mobile has announced the start of an ambitious two-year partnership with Crisis with the aim of helping thousands of people experiencing homelessness across Britain to reconnect with society.

The partnership aims to combat growing issues around digital exclusion, as new data highlights the increasing barriers to accessing information, support and opportunity felt by people who are homeless. It includes an initial donation of £700,000 worth of phones, devices and connectivity in the first year of the partnership.

There are currently over 170,000 families and individuals experiencing the worst forms of homelessness in Great Britain. With the true impact of the coronavirus outbreak on society still unfolding, a recent study of homeless charities and organisations revealed that over three-quarters (76%) had seen an increase in the number of people experiencing digital exclusion and requiring additional support.

Three-quarters (75%) also said lack of digital technology or internet was a challenge affecting their ability to support people experiencing homelessness. This latest figure means digital exclusion is now one of the biggest challenges facing frontline services today.

Tesco Mobile is launching a number of ways in which its more than 5 million customers and members of the public can get involved in fundraising efforts over the coming months. From today, in support of Crisis’ Home for All campaign, people can donate their old smartphone, with money raised funding more phones, devices and connectivity for Crisis. People are also being invited to text to donate, with donations helping more Crisis members keep connected.

A recent poll by Tesco Mobile revealed that three-quarters of Brits (76%) don’t feel informed about the role mobile phones and connectivity can play in helping to end homelessness. Yet despite this, almost the same number of people admitted they hadn’t been without a phone themselves for more than 24 hours in the last year (78%), claiming it was their main way to stay connected with others during lockdown (75%). 

Tom Denyard, CEO of Tesco Mobile, said: “At Tesco Mobile we care for human connection. We believe passionately that everyone has the right to be connected and that mobile connection brings us all closer to other people, to society, and provides access to essential services. For many people living without a permanent home, digital connection is a necessary lifeline. An important part of our partnership with Crisis will be in helping to deliver connectivity to those who need it most.”

Tesco Mobile will also use its expertise and reach in digital connection to help Crisis develop their services, to support people on their journey out of homelessness.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Tesco Mobile at such a crucial point in time as we move out of lockdown. Access to a phone or to the internet has been vital for so many people throughout the pandemic to stay connected, yet it’s something we know people experiencing homelessness often don’t have, and this adds to feelings of isolation and anxiety. 

“As thousands of people have been moved in from sleeping on our streets to hotels, we have been ensuring that we can continue to be there by adapting our services. A lack of digital connection has become a huge challenge for our frontline services today. During lockdown, we provided 1000 mobile phones to clients to ensure they can continue to access support digitally, reconnect with family and friends and find somewhere safe and settled to live online. By working with Tesco Mobile, we will build on this work and ensure a far greater number of people experiencing homelessness across Great Britain can connect with Crisis and other vital services to help them end their homelessness for good.”

The partnership with Crisis forms part of Tesco Mobile’s long-term purpose strategy: Tesco Mobile Reconnects, which, between now and 2023, will see over £2.4 million worth of phones, devices and connectivity donated to help 13,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged people reconnect with society. A figure it hopes to double through public fundraising.

Tesco Mobile Reconnects builds upon the company’s response throughout COVID-19 which saw over 5000 phones and SIMs donated to vulnerable communities across the U.K. including health trusts, schools and homeless support services.

We’ll harness our partnership with Crisis to educate, engage and build awareness of the issues around digital connection and homelessness.” Tom Denyard, CEO of Tesco Mobile continued, “We’ll engage our more than 5 million customers to participate in fundraising initiatives and use our knowledge, expertise and reach to support further insight into this area.”

To get involved by donating an old smartphone, visit tescomobile.com/reconnects. Alternatively, the public can donate £2 by texting ‘Reconnects’ to 70004.