Live More new Guides on the way! Get notified by signing up to CAST's newsletter..

Contributed by

Simpal offers free, 6 month pre-paid SIM cards including 20G data per month. It provides them to people disadvantaged by poor health, digital poverty or living with cancer in the UK.

This guide shows one way to support people who are financially struggling. It explains how to give out devices and data. It’s written from the perspective of setting up a new project, when you don’t work directly with any people in need already. But it could also help teams within existing projects.

Steps to supporting people by providing phones, tablets and SIM cards

Decide who you want to help and why.

You'll need:

  • the ability to raise money
  • technical know-how about phones, tablets and connectivity? 
  • an existing project with people who will benefit or partners who work closely with people, to help you understand their needs.

SimPal support people disadvantaged by poor health, digital poverty or living with cancer in the UK. Originally their focus was on people living with cancer. Now their approach is broader.

Find out what the people you support need. You could do this through user research.

If you're working with a partner who works with the people you want to support learn from them about what people need. 

Use that to inform what you will do.


  • Who is included?

  • What support will you provide?

  • How will you provide it?

  • How long for?

  • How confident are you in your funding and how long it will last? Don’t promise to deliver a service you cannot fund.

SimPal provide support to people living with cancer. They also support many vulnerable people who struggle to access hardware such as phones and tablets. This includes people who are homeless, people where English is not their first language and some people in care.

Their original focus was on the fact that managing cancer relies heavily on a phone. For example to stay in touch with hospitals about treatments. Now they consider all aspects of digital poverty.

They provide a SIM card with 20GB of data a month for 6 months. Where possible they also provide phones.

Everyone has different needs. But if you are running a service like this you will only be able to tailor it so much. You’ll need to think about:

  • What budget you have

  • Whether it comes with any restrictions from funders

  • How people who want your support get in touch with you

  • How much you need to ask them to decide what to offer

SimPal ask people to fill in a short online form. It has two open text boxes for people to explain how the support would help them. It can be filled in by someone else on behalf of the person who needs a SIM card. They want to understand how people’s situation affects the type of technology they need. They have found that online applications help them process support quickly.

They sometimes provide phones as well as SIM cards. Even more rarely they provide smartphones. 

They make decisions as quickly as possible, particularly when they learn that someone is terminally ill. The maximum wait for support is 7 days.

It is usually cheaper to supply phones than tablets. Choosing the tech you supply will depend on your budget. 

It’s also ideal if you can connect with an organisation who are able to clean and refurbish donated technology.

SimPal focus on providing SIM cards. When they can, they also offer phones. When the project started they found phones that were around the £40 - £50 price point. They occasionally provide cheaper models of smartphone. They aim to consider individual needs as much as they can.

When you send out your tech and/or SIM cards make sure you also send out simple clear instructions.

Let people know if there are any limits to how they use the technology. Keep the number of forms that need to be signed to a minimum so that people can get on with using the tech you have supplied.

Consider creating some kind of check-in to see how they are getting on.

SimPal send a guidance letter on how to use the SIM. They do this in large print when people have told them they have visual impairments. They put SIM cards into the phones in advance if they know that people’s circumstances might make it difficult for them to do that themselves. They also remind people about the data limit and the need to keep calls mostly within the UK.

They make sure that people know how to contact them throughout the 6 months if they have any questions.

They can tell from their records if the SIM cards are being used. If they aren’t they can check in with people to see if they need additional support.

They can also speak to people if they are breaking the rules of use, and cut off contracts if needed.

Further information

For further information about this Guide contact Chris Lewis: [email protected]