New iPad lending scheme to help residents get online

Suffolk Libraries and Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are joining forces to help residents get online with a new iPad lending scheme – supporting those who need a little extra help to access services in an increasingly digital world.

26 new iPads, all with 4G internet connectivity and a range of pre-installed applications and web links, will be available for free to anyone in the two districts to borrow. They will be based at Stowmarket, Hadleigh, Sudbury and Needham Market libraries. 

The pilot, which will last for a year, has been made possible thanks to funding from the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, with additional support from the councils. It aims to help reduce the level of digital isolation in the districts and enable residents to access and navigate the internet when they need. 

Devices will be available from participating libraries from 19 October. 

Anyone wishing to borrow one simply needs to have a Suffolk Libraries account and sign up to the user agreement. The iPads can be borrowed for up to three weeks, and as they already have inbuilt mobile internet, residents can get online even if they don’t have an internet connection at home. 

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Babergh and Mid Suffolk to help more people in the area get online. 

“It can be tough to get by if you’ve not got some way of connecting to the internet to perform tasks like job-seeking, applying for benefits or staying in touch with friends and family, particularly in rural areas. 

“We know people will need even more help after the pandemic and this is one example of how Suffolk Libraries can help by working with other organisations to develop innovative new services.”

Cllr Alastair McCraw, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for customers, digital transformation & improvement, said:

“This project is another practical example of how we’re working in partnership with Suffolk Libraries to provide joined-up, innovative, value for money services for our residents. It also complements our existing joint services at Sudbury and Hadleigh Libraries, and at Shotley Village Hall, which will play an important role in our upcoming roll out of our digital support programme.

“We recognise there can be varying barriers for people getting online, and I hope this project is one of many ways we can support people to get online in a way that suits them, ensuring no one gets left behind.”

Cllr Suzie Morley, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for customers, digital transformation & improvement, added:

“Working collaboratively with Suffolk Libraries, who already support many people across our county to get online, is a great way to ensure both our and our partners’ digital support is joined up.

“I would encourage anyone who is interested – including if you’re new to digital – to give it a try with comfort in the knowledge that support is available to help you on your digital journey.”

The scheme will form part of the councils’ digital support programme over the coming year – helping to improve skills and reduce digital isolation across the two districts. It also further builds on the iPad and laptop loaning services already available in several other Suffolk libraries.

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