OnSide charity says cost of living is forcing disadvantaged pupils to study in youth centres

Young people in a group discussion at one of OnSide’s Youth Zone centres. Credit: OnSide

The cost of living is forcing disadvantaged children to study for their summer exams in youth centres, a charity has said.

OnSide said its buildings in some of England’s most deprived spots are being used as "revision banks" because of soaring broadband bills and crowded homes.

The charity's Warrington centre has had its boardroom turned into a revision room, while youth workers at a centre in Oldham have set up a dedicated room for revision to make sure young people have access to computers.

The organisation said the situation "could see young people from low-income families become the hidden casualty of the cost-of-living crisis".

The charity says its youth centres have gone from warm banks to revision banks for children in need. Credit: OnSide

Having acted as warm banks for children in need over a winter that saw high energy bills, OnSide said its centres are now in demand as places to study.

The organisation blamed "soaring broadband bills, rising tech costs and crowded homes".

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."

Young people in the recreation area at a Youth Zone. Credit: OnSide

Last week, the Local Government Association found that deprived areas of England have less access to the fastest broadband despite relying more heavily on internet usage.

The report 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."

Mr Masraff said the charity’s 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."