‘Youth centres have gone from warm banks to revision banks for children in need’

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Young people are using youth centres as “revision banks” for summer exams due to a lack of access to internet and space at home, a charity has said.

Having been warm banks for children in need over a winter that saw high energy bills, OnSide said its centres in England’s most disadvantaged areas are now in demand as places to study.

The charity 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.

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.

Last month, 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% 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.”

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 wifi for young people.”

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.”

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