NPC urges Digital & Culture Secretary to intervene
Digital-only agenda excludes many older people and violates their human rights
The digital-only drive by many UK organisations breaches the human rights of our oldest citizens who feel increasingly excluded from essential services.
The National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) believes the issue requires urgent government action and has written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP.
Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the NPC, the UK’s largest campaign group for older people, said: “Access to information is a human right and those without technology are being excluded by the drive to digitalise everything from essential health services to ticket purchases and everyday milk and goods deliveries. Our research shows that our members are suffering exclusion in many areas through the drive to digital-only services. While this may be worthwhile for businesses, and indeed the government, customer choice does not seem to feature in their decisions.
“We realise that digitalisation is inevitable, but the process by which it takes place can and should be approached differently.”
In a letter to the Secretary of State – copied to the Shadow Secretary, Jo Stevens, and the Minister for Culture and Digital, Caroline Dinenage – the NPC outlines a raft of issues facing older people due to rampant digitalisation that makes few concessions to those who do not have (or do not want) access to the internet, and that may even breach the Equality Act of 2010. This includes the example of the UK’s biggest milk delivery provider moving to digital-only* and forcing thousands of elderly customers to open online accounts or lose the service. (*The NPC can supply details of an 84-year-old member in Kent who fears going online because of scams, and who will lose her milk delivery after 60 years because the provider is going online only).
‘Being asked to take a photograph of an injury to email to your GP
is no earthly good if you don’t have the equipment to do so.’
The NPC makes a number of recommendations to the Secretary of State that would help older people access the internet - including investment in making broadband more accessible and safer for older and vulnerable people* - along with some viable offline alternatives for those who cannot or choose not to go online. (*Fear of internet scams is not only a reason quoted in recent surveys for people not going online, it is also a major factor in the high numbers of older people choosing to go offline in later life).
Jan Shortt said: “For many older people there is a real decline in accessible information and opportunities to have their voices heard. Whether it is the drive towards a cashless society, or simply being able to make an appointment with your GP or hospital, the digital world is becoming a minefield of baffling technology for many older people. Discriminating against those who are unable, or do not want to connect with technology is unacceptable and we look to the government to use its powers to ensure that this does not happen.”
*The NPC letter to the Secretary of State for DCMS is attached to the email with this press release. The letter covers issues such as:
· The 2021 Census being online and the alternatives not working.
· Only-online cheap fuel deals.
· Fear of scams and cybercrime putting people off the internet.
· High cost of laptops, broadband and security too expensive for pensioners.
· NHS computer systems not ‘talking’ to each other, or GPs.
· Local & central government services and consultations going on-line.
· Digital banks and a cashless society.
the press release can be downloaded below
the letter to Oliver Dowden can be downloaded below
You can read and download the letters to to Oliver Dowden Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Jo Stevens Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture on -