Sector Challenge 5: Reaching digitally excluded families



Why the work is being done

Early childhood development, which begins before birth and extends to the preschool years is a critical life stage. The experiences and environments a child encounters will have significant impact on their social, emotional and physical development. Unequal access to support for families of different ethnicities, geographies and income brackets has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Read more here.
As COVID-19 hit and lockdown began, the organisations that support families reacted swiftly in adapting their services for remote delivery. Their quick action brought resources and help to many families, but now, months into the crisis and in the face of even more uncertainty, it is clear that some families are still not receiving the support they need.
Families that lack access to data and digital devices are finding it difficult to engage with the services they need. A lot of work has been done to bring devices into homes but when there’s one device or limited data in a household, a child trying to do schoolwork will take priority. In moving to remote delivery many of the families who need help have lost out and the services that can support them remain hard to reach.

Problem to solve

How might we find ways to ensure families without easy access to data or devices receive the support they need?
This work aims to help families hardest hit by COVID-19 to have more reliable access to vital support services. It should also help organisations to better respond to the challenges faced by families.

Who are the users and what do they need to do

Organisations that are finding it difficult to reach the families they support. Particularly those who focus on families hardest hit by COVID-19 (e.g. those facing issues around mental health, digital poverty, isolation, or bereavement)


Families with early years children (age 0-5) who are digitally excluded (for example without easy access to data or devices) receive the support they need.

Key project resources

9 steps for reaching digitally excluded families
Our approach to Sector Challenge 5 was grounded in an ambitious discovery phase. We pulled together insights from a rapid evidence review, expert interviews and workshops with other charities in the early years sector, as well as 20 interviews with families and 10 interviews with practitioners carried out by the charity partners. What emerged was a rich, evidence-informed and practical set of principles for reaching digitally excluded families. While the charities each developed a prototype based on this research, we developed one of our own with their support: a consolidation of these principles into ‘9 steps for reaching digitally excluded families’. Short, accessible, and packed full of illustrations from the charities themselves, these 9 steps offer support to any family service trying to develop new or improved ways of reaching people remotely.