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back to article UK.gov drops Home Access scheme

The government will ditch the £300m Home Access scheme overseen by soon-to-be-dead IT education quango Becta once the money for the plan runs out. In the meantime it has shifted funding for the scheme away from providing laptops and broadband to poor households over to applications from families with children with disabilities …

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Bronze badge

One less complete waste of money

Good thing too! The only thing kids do with a PC and the internet is sit up half the night not doing their school work. There is almost no educational benefit from internet access.

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Dead Vulture

Not sure if thats a joke

Not sure if Titus Technophobe's comment is supposed to be a joke or not, but I'll make the point that to save money most of the publications previosuly enjoying huge print runs to sit on shelves in schools, PRUs, YOS centres and other local authority venues are now all only available online either as web services or as a PDF tacked onto a static page. Without internet access kids now don't have access to this material. Sixth form college applications are supposed to all be done online now to save admin and paperwork. Colleges are not printing prospecti as these are all now online.

"Doing homework" now consists of completing electronic portfolios, the last government made quite a big thing about this. All of which requires access to the sites they are hosted on.

Now so long as sufficient ICT resource is available within the school, or failing that within local libraries, then young students have plenty of oportunity to reach the information, applications and course work that they need. However much axe-weilding has taken place in library budgets already and there are closure programmes and problems with access in these venues. Add to that cuts in Education and the BSF programme ending which was providing upgraded ICT access for these schools and you have to wonder if th need will be met in all cases.

Remember also that for the disabled it is often not possible to use public access PCs in these locations anyway due to the lack of specific adaptive technology for those users. Funding for special access for the disabled has been under fire for some time also.

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Stop

I wonder why?

"The programme has been very popular, and is expected to close when the funding runs out,” said UK.gov.

Here have a free laptop paid for by people who work for a living.

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N2
Bronze badge

Then

sell it on Flea bay when you fuck it up

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worked for years paid taxes cannot get help

i am 40 still working since 12 even with aving 6 children my husband who is 50 worked since he was 10 got made redundant a year ago can not get another job so u class everyone with the same brush how dare you with we ave struggled and paid for a child from his first relationship told we were entitled to claim for certain things like free school dinners milk vouchers but because i work get some working families tax we cannot get help and ave to pay back school dinners that were told we were entitled to that they ave reassessed us everyone falls on hard times but even then u r not always entitled to it and yea my daughter got a laptop from government waiting for the bill to pay it back again but you can't go on certain sites they are not allowed to play certain games and if you want educational software you ave to pay for it so what do u get for free nothing i and my husband ave always paid taxes and we still r as he is looking after my disabled son but we can't get any extra help

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Bronze badge

good

Took me ages to save up before I could buy my laptop. I was none too pleased when the kids' school sent letters home offering the local unemployed parents what amounts to free porn courtesy of those of us that actually work for a living.

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WTF?

Let's all play spot the grinch!!!

So you are effectively saying that because the parents happen to be unemployed, their morals are so lacking that they will simply be happy to allow their children to use the laptop for pornographic use. What a moron you are!!!

I am now unemployed (as is my wife who looks after the children). I was paid off due to funding cuts (ironically enough). So I am to assume by your logic that my laptop (bought and paid for from my OWN wages by the way) is now to be a haven for pornographic material, simply due to the fact that I am now unemployed.

Or perhaps it's only the free laptops that will be used in that way, because of course anyone who may choose to partake in the scheme is nothing but a chavvy scrounging scumbag who only knows how to raise a child hooligan...... or am I reading you all wrong?

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FAIL

Re : Let's all play spot the grinch!!!

You don't live round my way or you're never have posted this crap.

Where I live is blighted by dole scum who _do not want to work_.

The couple next door, six kids, seventh on the way. He says he cannot work as he has to help look after the kids. So what happened to only having kids you could afford, and look after?

Their TV is a nice 40in flatscreen. VM package and mobile phones for the pair of them. Nice little Dell laptop too. Tax payers pay for everything that these scum have. EVERYTHING!

Am I pissed off, You'd better believe it.

This is only my next door neighbour, don't get me started on the coucil estate along the road. More (and better) cars parked up there than in the road full of privately owned houses I live in.

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Bronze badge

re: grinch

Sorry to hear of your situation. This was more a comment on stupidity of Government than the morals of the unemployed.

I wouldn't know whether unemployed people watch more porn than anyone else. If we take the population as a whole as a baseline I think my assumption holds up on the grounds of statistics alone (filtering software notwithstanding).

Appreciate it's a judgement call, and very aware that any of us could find ourselves out of work, but I think this scheme is so far over the line of "providing a safety net" - which is what Social Security should be about.

There... a less knee jerk reaction... I knew it was possible :)

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Coat

It's a shame...

I think this scheme was a good idea, not everyone can afford what some might consider a 'luxury item', I personally think that a PC and internet access in our society is very important and practically essential. Considering all the government departments who seem only accessible by their websites. Children whatever their parents situation should not be left behind the majority of society, computers are used everywhere and our workforce needs these skills. The cost of a computer and some broadband, is probably cheaper than allowing someone to have a skills gap that they take with them through life.

The rightwing cry of "I work for a living" therefore my taxes shouldn't go to help people, is just mean, silly and misses the point. I am proud that we as a society look out for the less well off. Being part of a our society means accepting that. The alternative is everyone out for themselves and I'm sure we don't want that.

phew, I'll get my coat....

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Silver badge
Go

Re-purpose old PCs instead?

Why not take every PC that UK government no longer has a use for, wipe the hard disk, install Linux with a prominent Firefox icon, and give those to the hard-up? At the moment, UK government is paying with our taxes for people to take them away to be scrapped.

Of course, if UK government used Linux rather than Microsoft, it would not be trapped in Microsoft's upgrade treadmill, and it would not have to scrap perfectly good computers just because the latest Microsoft bloatware won't fit in them. But for the time being, there are probably quite enough unwanted computers coming out of UK government to give one to every child living in IT-deprived poverty.

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Anonymous Coward

Usual Criteria

As usual the problem with this scheme was the cutoff point. Income falls below the cutoff point? You get a nice new laptop and broadband all paid for. Come in £1pa above the cutoff? You get nothing. Plenty of households couldn't afford a computer or broadband for their kids but got nothing from this scheme. In terms of the hardware at least the scheme would have had a much wider and fairer reach had reconditioned kit been used rather than shiny new kit. In terms of funding in general the whole scheme would have been fairer had it made a contribution to the cost of a laptop and broadband. These things should not be entirely free, if the parents are willing to contribute something then they should get something back if they're willing to contribute nothing they should get nothing. And obviously any such scheme should operate on a sliding scale there should not be a cutoff point.

I'd be interested to know how many kids never get to use the laptop because their parents hog it. I'd be also interested to know how many of these laptops were sold on. I'm not going to make the Daily Fail assumption that the parents would sell the laptop to pay for fags, drugs, booze, Sky, etc. but I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of them didn't get sold on to make some extra cash.

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Unhappy

Sold on

> I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of them didn't get sold on to make some extra cash.

Neither would I. Neither would my sister, who is a primary teacher, and knows.

The parents (mostly) aren't child abusers. They aren't even particularly neglectful or unloving. They just think that education is a waste of time. By the time the children are of school age, they think like their parents. So either the free PC gets used exclusively as the family's games console, or it gets flogged to help pay for a holiday or a new TV.

You can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. (Or, you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can't take Essex out of the girl). I don't know why we have an anti-education "working class" culture here. It's quite different in the far East.

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Coat

good point

The problem is always how do you measure need and ability?

Many governments have assumed that things should be free when just subsidising them would be better and those who still have problems should then be assesed and if needed given further subsidies.

The concept is really good , an earlier commenter said why cant the government use its old PCs well the reason why is they have to destroy them becuase the of some rule about not gaining further benefits from government money other that its origninal intended use this is to stop corruption amongst other things (you know a civil servant buys a great laptop for project and then taking it home when the project fails or other wise).

The result of this is mountains of waste electronics in developing countries

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Silver badge

Why not iPads?

Since each iPad saves 90K in printing costs - if we gave every kid one shouldn't we be able to cancel the national debt overnight?

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Anonymous Coward

@ some of the posters

I work for a company that supplied the Home Access machines.

You lot need to get your facts right.

The systems come pre-installed with software called NetIntelligence. It blocks access to dodgy sites and is so strict it s a bloody pain.

Yes some people who have the grants are ripping the piss. Getting the full grant including internet access even though they ahve internet at home. But alot can't aford it and their kids are suffering because of it.

I will be the 1st to admit that some of the customers are less than impressive in their IT knowledge their kids are better and will have better access to information than their parents.

And no this is not aimed at families with one or more parents who are native. I find that the natives are just as bad if not worse. And they do not have the excuse of english being their 2nd language. What is so hard about clicking on the correct account FFS.

The machines themselves are exceptional value for money.

1GHz dual core CPU with at least 1GB ram and 160GB hdd. 15.6" laptop or 19" TFT for towers. Win 7 pro, Office 2007 STD, 3 years AV, 3 years parental controls and filtering and educational software worth over £500 all for less than £400.

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Anonymous Coward

NetIntelligence

I have a friend who works for one of the companies that provide HA equipment. He works in the tech support department. I have often listened in when he has been working at home.

As NI is 'so strict it s a bloody pain', he often receives calls complaining of certain restrictions. The general reply is that it can be removed by him sending an email with a code to the email used to register NI (this is usually the child as the parent has nothing to do with it). This means the child then has unfiltered web access to download all the porn they can manage on a 3G USB modem.

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Coat

'email a code'? Seriously?

They have full physical access to the machines - all is needed is one clever teenager finding a way to get rid of this software and publish it on some forum. Then the rest googles for it and follows the instructions. BIOS passwords? I doubt it, but even so, probably they are running as local admins. And if not, local elevation of privileges bugs come up fairly often on Windows.

Mine's the one with a cheapo netbook with 3G dongle and cloud-based services, or reconditioned PC used as semi-dumb terminals with data stored on some central server (they should offer some basic functionality without internet connection); you take out the original hard-drive (no data protection hassle) and boot them from your prepared USB drive. If they fail, you scrap them and give the family another one (no 'warranty'/servicing hassle). All you need to worry about is your server farm (which they're not gonna sell to pay for holiday - so the kids benefit), developing your customized Linux (or *BSD, or Chrome OS, or whatever) distro andelectrical safety of your reconditioned PCs, which should be easy enough. You keep the kids happy (have access to internet and their data is backed-up on central server) and taxpayers happy (we see that the old PCs are re-used) - only the nice guy trying to flog you a load of new laptops isn't happy.

Obviously, if there are some special disability requirements which require tablets or whatever that you can't recondition, buy them a new one, or even offer them a new PC.

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Anonymous Coward

physical access

Yes they have physical access, but most (if not all) of them have absolutely no idea how to do anything but double click (even thats a stretch sometimes) the big blue 'e' they call 'the internet'. So swapping a harddrive / exploiting bugs is going to be far beyond their capability.

Cleaver teenagers don't tend to get free stuff from the Gov.

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Anonymous Coward

Whoops

Sorry thats a dual core CPu and 1GB of ram.

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Anonymous Coward

NI Uninstall code

Each uninstall code is unique to that install.

Now I am unsure which company your friend works for but mine is a little more strict.

We configure 3 account.

Support - For myself and teh otehr support agents only - full admin

Parent - full admin - password protected.

Learner - restricted account.

To gain access to the NI uninstall code they have 2 options. then can log into an admin account then into the NI console then request the uninstall coed that way.

Or email us with their order number and their request to uninstall the web filtering software, they must also acknowledge in this email that by uninstalling the supplied web filtering software they are taking sole responsibility for the content that their children and any other users of the computer access on the web.

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Re: repurpose old PCs

This is an interesting one and one which often requires a revisit.

The problem being that second user equipment carries a burden of responsibility on the supplier for electrical safety, warranty, etc. You also have to consider the time and labour taken up in doing all the data protection deletion, reformat, reload, etc. Also any upgrades to the old PCs required to bring them up to spec. to run even Ubuntu and Open Office.

A couple of times I have been through the numbers when we were encouraged to donate old PCs to local good causes, but to donate them in any kind of decent working condition and to meet our DPA and now WEEE requirements required such a lot of costable labour it would have been cheaper for us just to buy new PCs and give them away. We'd have got a better tax break doing that too!

When you are talking about the level of support I understand is being provided through the scheme then having a common platform, good working HW etc. is the cheapest part of the programme and is essential to any of the rest of it working without tying up the support staff in counter productive hardware issues.

If running old hardware with open source OS and apps was really the big money saver then all businesses would be doing it, and if it doesn't work in business then why would it work in the public sector?

I don't know who qualifies for these PCs so I'm not going to make judgements on it. I'll bet you can find good and bad which ever point it is you want to make.

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Megaphone

Have you Googled "blog of Helios"

As long as the public sector bigs up Microsoft, and the industry is encouraged to thrive on equipment redundancy rather than refurbishment then we have a problem.

I am using KDE SC 4.5 full fat on an openSUSE 11.3 platform with 32 bit hardware ranging through eight years old for the motherboard, six years for the CPU and five years for the graphics card. I cannot spot any performance lags between that and a dual core 64bit laptop running the same software. Admittedly I'm not reformatting video very often.

No doubt one day the hard drive will fail but luckily what with compatibility of file systems and separation of /home from /sys 'n' all, when I replace the hard drive I'll just use luckybackup (the clue is in the name) to carry on from where I left off.

We need more of this.

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Silver badge
Go

Manifesto for a small revolution

Some of this I agree with. Certainly the chilling effect of the WEEE mafia on charity and giving things away.

I completely disagree about support. If the primary requirement is to give families access to the internet, you don't even need a hard disk in the PC. A usable Linux system can boot and run off a DVD, and apart from videos and and high-def photographs, you can save everything you need to store on a USB stick. Including extra apps, for those who get computer-savvy enough to download them.

A linux DVD will boot on virtually anything with an X86 CPU. Especially anything that's been around for a few years - it's mostly the bleeding-edge hardware that lacks Linux drivers. If you don't believe this, download a Knoppix or similar DVD and try it for yourself. It won't touch your hard disk if you don't tell it to.

So customise such a DVD to contain all the software that a kid in a particular school year will need. Give one to every kid. Kids not below the poverty line can run it on their home PC. Families below the poverty line will qualify for a repurposed UK.government PC. The letter with the DVD will tell them about that. At the other end, all unwanted government PCs go off to the repurposing agency, which handles data destruction and disposal of the few machines that can't boot the schoolware DVD, or which are too slow or too damaged to inflict on anyone else.

Where's the problem? Support: eject your USB stick if you still can, then hit the reset button or turn off. The PC contains no state. This will always reset it back to the known-good state contained entirely on the DVD. A reset-user-defaults script on the DVD would deal with times that the user's own context on his USB is knackered. Hit F-something during boot to access it.

Remember the BBC micro? Same concept, brought up to date.

In fact, if UK government was doing this, perhaps they shouldn't repurpose old PCs after all. Perhaps they should commission a tiny box with a 3-watt ARM CPU, a DVD and plenty of USB ports. Should cost under £100 in large-scale one-per-kid production. Why? ~100 less Watts per child, that's why. Less strain on poverty-line electricity bills. And less strain on the UK's creaking electricity supplies.

An even better idea if they start using the same box for all civil servant desktops ... a box that can't run MS stuff, except as a thin client stop-gap until the country goes open-source. I'm digressing.

Ku ... you ask why small businesses aren't using Linux. Well, I know a few that are. But mostly, before they talk to anyone who knows anything about IT, they have trapped themselves into PCs using MS-proprietary file formats talking to MS servers via MS-secret protocols. They've trained their staff to use proprietary software that isn't available to run on Linux. Try finding an HMRC-approved small-business accounts package that runs on Linux. Good luck. "There's no demand" and there never will be as long as Microsoft is allowed to keep pulling the strings.

UK Government is in the same trap, but it is big enough to call the shots. Unfortunately it is also dumb enough to make the same mistakes over and over again. They're smarter in Brazil.

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Bronze badge

everybody must get stoned

Usual story. Get rid of the human element from the process by treating parents (online reporting) and kids (online homework) as bits of data in the system. Efficiency gains for the school. Load of hassle for families who are basically informed that they must use their PC and internet connection as dictated by Big Brother.

Those that don't have a computer are provided with one so there's no excuse for non-compliance.

Those that choose not to play the game risk leaving their kids subject to tantrums by teachers who like the idea of not carrying all those books home to mark.

And for the record, I'm all for paying taxes. But not to keep people in subservience to a system that tells them they never have to take responsibility for themselves.

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Pint

I wonder how many ...

.. beneficiaries of the scheme already had 60 inch flat screens, surround sound, Sky Plus Plus Plus etc?

Beer because our taxes fund that too.

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Bronze badge

I wonder too

how many times you've fiddle your expenses/cheated on your partner/knocked down little old ladies in the street for their pension money. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying you did any of those things - I don't have any evidence. I'm just wondering, you know . . .

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Unhappy

No evidence, just personal experience

Not every recipient of benefits is a sponger and I think its a grossly unfair generalization but I have to say that, based purely on my personal experience, I have encountered a number of folks who are smugly proud that they live off the benefit system and actually look down on "suckers" like me who work. Hell, I met one bugger who was sending his kid to a private £500-per-month day nursery who was funding this via the benefits system - and he just couldn't help bragging about his work-shy state-funded lifestyle.

Now I don't for a moment assert that these scumbags are anything but a minority (although they do seem to keep popping up) but every time I see the big tax wedge taking out of my paycheck, it really sticks in my craw.

Sorry but that sort of thing pisses me off. Benefit cheats are thieves, pure and simple - robbing from each and every hard working taxpayer.

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FAIL

Hard earned tax payer V sponger

If instead of paying Crapita to give the kit away , the Gov. should instead have given the laptops to the schools to lend out to impoverished pupils. This would have met their requirements and have been much cheaper in the long run the kit could have been reused

1. They wouldn't have had to shell out for all the private companies to get their cut including (Crapita, ISP, seller/ support company, rubbish "education" software developers, insurance company etc )

2. The kit would have been owned, supported and insured by the schools own infrastructure and loaded with software consistent with the school's approach to education.

3. I would have set up a wireless zone around the school to provide web based educational content or if pupil lives to far then I would make BT provide a free connection. This gives the required email and provides additional infrastructure for the school to create content to enhance classroom learning..

I could go on and on about how badly they planned and implemented this scheme and how offensive the posts of " I am so angry that I have to work for a living, I believe that under privileged kids should be punished for the sins/ bad luck of their parents". These kids you are attempting to limit are going to be paying your pensions when you retire. If they do not have a good education how much money do you think you will get competing with the other techo-illiterate countries?

All the people who posted all unemployed are criminals are ignoring that everyone during their life between jobs was unemployed somebody was always paying for you.

All the "I know a bloke who isn't working who owns something I don't " are forgetting that different people have different priorities, they may have the item you lust after because they went without something you take for granted or it may be a gift, you just don't know.

All in all the scheme failed as it attempted to take educational resources away from the schools and as it is now unpopular enough the Tory Government is shutting it down to save money just like free school milk. . So again we will all be paying for the loss in the future and that is someone else's problem isn't it? This country is in a financial shambles not because of the unemployed but rather the avarice of the housing market and banks. A few laptop are nothing compared with the billions lost through the greed and jealousy of the affluent

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