Save, make, understand money

Household Bills

A foodbank for data: O2 offers free texts, calls and internet access to the homeless

A foodbank for data: O2 offers free texts, calls and internet access to the homeless
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

All O2-owned stores and two homelessness charities will offer free O2 data, texts and calls to people who need it this Christmas – and you don’t need to be an O2 customer to benefit.

National Databank was formed by Virgin Media O2 in partnership with digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation in July 2021.

This winter the National Databank will become available at more than 1,600 locations nationwide and will also partner with Crisis and Change Please to offer data and devices to people experiencing homelessness.

Virgin Media O2 has also increased the amount of free O2 data available to 25GB a month – enough for about 275 hours of internet browsing.

A foodbank for data

The National Databank is like a foodbank for data, providing free O2 mobile data, texts and calls. Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.

From 7 December, more than 240 O2 stores across the UK will start to become National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs, providing free O2 data to anyone experiencing data poverty – regardless of their mobile provider. This follows a successful pilot of the National Databank in 10 O2 stores last Christmas.

The move comes as new research found that almost two thirds (64%) of Brits think this winter and Christmas will be tougher financially than last year, and more than half (52%) say they are uncertain or worried about their finances over the next 12 months.

In addition, more than eight in 10 people on household incomes less than £17,000 are considering going without mobile data to help them afford other bills.

As well as offering free O2 data, texts and calls via the National Databank, Crisis and Change Please will provide free second-hand smartphones to their guests from the Community Calling programme – run by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Hubbub.

Crisis will offer the scheme via its nine Skylight Centres across Great Britain – with all centres also being offered free Wi-Fi from Virgin Media O2. Change Please will take the National Databank on the road via its Driving for Change buses which stop in deprived communities across London and provide hygiene and dental care.

Free smartphones and data mean that people experiencing homelessness can access essential services – such as finding a place to stay, locating food banks, accessing online medical help and contacting loved ones.

A lifeline for the homeless

Rob Orr, chief operations officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “To help people most affected by the cost-of-living crisis, we’re opening the doors to more National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs than ever before and making it easier for people to get connected.

“With O2 stores, Crisis’ Skylight Centres and Driving for Change’s buses becoming Databanks, and Virgin Media O2 boosting free O2 mobile data to 25GB per month, there are more places for people in need to get help so they can get online, access essential services, and keep in touch with loved ones this Christmas and beyond.”

Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis, said: “Being able to use the internet to access services, or call a friend or family member, is such a vital part of everyday life. Yet many people facing homelessness often don’t have the ability to do so and without that connection, it can add to feelings of isolation and anxiety.”