The demise of the street telephone box is nothing new, but BT hopes its replacement will continue to help those in distress find the help and support they need.
The communications company’s InLinkUK service has joined up with four national charities – Childline, End Youth Homelessness, Runaway Helpline and Samaritans – to provide information or support through its digital street units installed around London and Leeds.
InLink offers a number of free services, including free Wi-Fi, mobile charging and digital information such as maps, directions, council services and the BT phone book. Users will now be able to contact the four charities by phone by touching the appropriate icon on the screen.
BT said that since the first InLink was installed in June last year, more than 66,000 people had subscribed to Wi-Fi, using enough data to download the equivalent of almost nine million songs, more than 419,000 free calls had been made and there had been more than 356,000 sessions on tablets.
Matt Bird, general manager at InLinkUK, said: "When we first started this project, we said that we wanted to make a difference in the communities we operate in. Connectivity is a big part of that and one of the reasons we offer ultrafast Wi-Fi and phone calls for free. By working with these key charities to develop the new charity tile on tablets, accessible to anyone in need, we are continuing to use our InLink product to connect communities."
Paul Joseph, head of helplines at Missing People, said the new digital units would provide some continuity for those seeking help.
"For many years children who have run away have used BT phone boxes to contact us for help, support and advice, at any time of the day, for free.
"It’s great that the InLinks keep this service open to people who need our help, not just by allowing them to make free calls, but also to access information and, with the Wi-Fi access, to be able to email or chat with us on their own phones or devices."
There are currently 145 street units in eight London boroughs as well as in Leeds city centre, and there are plans to install hundreds more throughout the UK.