The Community Calling campaign will see smartphones first distributed in the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark – locations with high levels of inequality, poverty, exclusion and employment challenges.
A national rollout will then follow in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Swansea and Glasgow.
As part of the campaign, O2 will be donating 12 months of free connectivity to the beneficiaries, which will include unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB of data per month for a full year.
Katie and Jay attend Bede House in SE16 (a centre for adults with learning difficulties) for social reasons. However, due to the pandemic, their main social outlet in life is closed at the moment – which means that many of the people who visit Bede House are feeling lonely and disconnected.
The smartphones they received via Community Calling have enabled both Katie and Jay to stay in touch with the centre and their friends – they can access the centre’s app, join daily virtual meetings and activities, and share photos with each other.
Mary is a single parent who, pre COVID-19, supported herself and her son by working as a cleaner. When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, she was unable to work and ineligible to claim benefits. Unemployed and at risk of homelessness, she was disconnected from the outside world and struggling to cope. Community Calling was the lifeline she needed – it provided her with a smartphone, which allowed her to apply for jobs. The next week she received a job offer and she now proudly works as a cashier at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.
Mark Evans, Chief Executive of O2, said: “Connectivity has been vital to keeping the country running during the pandemic, but if you’re unable to get online you’re likely to miss out on a lot of support. We’ve already seen the positive impact Community Calling has had on vulnerable people in Southwark, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion and tackle digital exclusion elsewhere across the country. We’re determined to support the people who need it most.”
Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder at Hubbub, said: “It’s been heart-warming to see the positive impact receiving a smartphone through the Community Calling project has already had on so many people’s lives. Being connected to loved ones and accessing essential services is easily taken for granted, but is still not a reality for too many people.
“We’re looking forward to working with O2 to expand Community Calling to get more people connected and prevent unnecessary electrical waste. We’re calling on individuals and businesses with spare smartphones to donate them to somebody who needs a device to stay connected at this difficult time.”
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark cabinet member for jobs, culture and skills, said: “Digital isolation has never been more noticeable than during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is so important we support our most vulnerable residents to stay connected to loved ones and vital services during this time, and support them with the digital skills they need to access these services and support.
“We are pleased to be hosting a second round of the Community Calling project in Southwark. This project has already supported hundreds of people in Southwark to stay connected. It is important we build on this innovative programme and deliver even more vital support to those most in need in our communities.
“So, if you are a Southwark resident or business with some old tech gathering dust in a draw, please consider how this unused device could benefit someone who needs it in your community. Help us achieve our aim of enduring all residents have the digital tools they need to live and work in a digitally inclusive borough.
Anyone in the UK can get involved by donating unused smartphones. It’s easy to sign up online – you’ll receive a free-post donation box to post your old and workable smartphone, to be refurbished by trusted partner Reconome. It will be data-wiped, sanitised and redistributed with user guides and PAYG SIM cards.
A company based at South Dock Marina boatyard – which normally provides canopies and coverings for use on boats – has turned its hand to producing washable face coverings for people to wear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marine Canvas Hut is selling a range of designs of face covering for £5 each. Orders can be sent by post for an extra charge, or collected from South Dock Marina.
Canada Water developer British Land has contributed £20,000 to the Southwark Community Response Fund set up to help local organisations deal with the implications of the COVID-19 crisis.
British Land says that the extra cash will “provide additionality for charities, social enterprises, TRAs and community groups in Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks wards”.
More information and guidance on how to apply can be found on United St Saviour’s website.
In a post on the Canada Water Masterplan website, British Land also said: “To support Canada Water’s various local businesses, we have also released our smaller retail, food & beverage, charity and leisure customers from their rental obligations for three months (April to June).
“We hope this will go some way to supporting local businesses through this difficult time.”
Thames tour boat firm City Cruises, which operates from Bermondsey’s Cherry Garden Pier, has been sold to Chicago-based Hornblower Cruises & Events.
City Cruises was founded in 1985 and now has operations in York and at Poole Harbour in addition to its core Thames business.
“We are incredibly excited to acquire City Cruises, which we believe to be the best leisure cruise operator in Europe today,” said Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower.
@We have long had the ambition to enter the European market, and it makes perfect sense to start our journey in one of the most iconic cities in the world.
“Under the expert stewardship of Gary and Rita Beckwith, City Cruises has earned an enviable reputation, and we are honoured to build on their legacy in 2020 and beyond.”
Gary Beckwith OBE, City Cruises founder and CEO, said: “We believe the sale of City Cruises to Hornblower will take the brand to the next level of success.
“We have always been at the forefront of change and believe our growth and success over the years is testament to our commitment to embracing innovation, constantly investing in our vessels and our customer experiences, and our dedication to providing outstanding customer service every day of the year.
“We have been honoured to be at the helm of City Cruises and believe the business we started will further flourish and grow under Hornblower’s ownership.”
Hornblower Cruises & Events President, Kenneth Svendsen, leads the combined company. All staff will be retained, with founders Gary and Rita Beckwith assisting in the transition.
Businesses at the Blue will benefit from a share of a £170,000 funding pot – backed by Transport for London – for projects to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
The funding from TfL’s Healthy Streets Fund for Business will be matched by business improvement districts like the Blue Bermondsey.
In Bermondsey, the scheme will enable more cycling at the Blue marketplace by providing cargo bikes, storage spaces and other facilities to allow people to cycle to work. This will also allow traders to move more goods by bike.Z
Jack Shah, Chair of Blue Bermondsey Business Improvement District, said: “This is fantastic news for businesses at the Blue. This funding from TfL will be used to improve business cycling, including a shared cargo bike trial at the Blue, as well as better storage for market traders. Longer term, there is a huge opportunity for new cycle routes at the Blue which could link up along the Low Line with other areas such as London Bridge and Bankside.
“Business cargo bikes could use these routes for last mile zero emissions deliveries during weekday daytimes, to help reduce air pollution for our local communities. Residents and visitors could also enjoy cycling along the Low Line in the evenings and at weekends, bringing new customers to businesses at the Blue.”