Free laptop scheme open to fraud, says MP

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard believes recipients of the free PCs are selling them on.

shadowy hands over a keyboard

The Government scheme offering free laptops to children from poor families is being abused, according to a Conservative MP.

Mark Pritchard, a Shropshire MP, said his constituents had uncovered evidence which appears to show the free laptops being sold for cash shortly after receipt.

The vouchers the families are entitled to are worth up to 528. The whole scheme is costing taxpayers 300 million.

"There is very little policing of the scheme and nothing to stop a minority of recipients from selling their laptops in exchange for cash," Pritchard told the BBC. "I have been informed by my constituents that there are people that have sold them."

Many options appear to be open to families trying to sell on their Government paid-for laptop - eBay would be one obvious channel, as would cash conversion shops.

Becta, the government agency responsible for administering the scheme, argued that it has created anti-fraud measures so that selling-on would be kept to a minimum.

The scheme, known as the Home Access Programme, entered a phase of national roll-out in January, having formerly been constrained to trials in Suffolk and the Lancashire town of Oldham. Becta claimed that no frauds occurred during the trials.

Parents accepting a laptop sign a document saying they agree to use the laptop for appropriate means. They are also eligible to claim a year's free internet access. The scheme is intended to reduce the skills gap between children from rich and poor families.

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