Scams & right to choose alternatives to internet comms to be raised with new Culture Secretary
The Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said she is ‘not surprised’ that older people are afraid to use the internet over scamming fears.
Jo Stevens MP told today’s (1 Oct) National Pensioners’ Convention webinar on digital exclusion that urgent action is needed to tackle online fraud, starting with ‘meaningful’ measures to be added to the government’s new Online Safety Bill.
And she told NPC members that she would raise their request that organisations offer people who are not online, a choice of means to communicate other than digital, when she has her first meeting with her opposite number, the new DCMS Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries MP.
The Shadow Secretary said: “We’ve waited for nearly five years for the Online Safety Bill… the Government promised world leading legislation on online safety. Unfortunately, all we have currently, is a weak and watered-down Bill that doesn’t even satisfy the basic duty of government – to keep its citizens safe. Fraud is now the most commonly experienced crime.*
We urgently need the Online Safety Bill and we need it to be fit for purpose now and for the future.
So, this is a test for the new Secretary of State for Digital – is she going to accept that doing nothing is no longer an option. That her government leaving millions of citizens at risk of financial crime online is unacceptable? And that the long list of victims cannot and must not grow longer and longer?”
The Shadow Secretary added that she understood the NPC call for choice when it came to digital communication when many people were not online.
She said: “The absolutely important word in all of this is choice – we shouldn’t be saying to people you have to have use online services, there should always be a choice as to whether you do or you don’t. I am aware that access to the internet has become as essential as gas, electricity and water. So, we need to look at broadband and internet access in the same framework as the other utilities. But there should also be other options for people who do not use, or do not want to use online services.”
“The level of fraud that is going on, it’s not surprising that so many people do not want to go online, so choice has to be part of policy making.”
The NPC webinar, “Connections for All: Digital & the Right to Choose” marking UN International Day of Older Persons, also heard from Age UK Charity Director Caroline Abrahams CBE; retired GP Dr Jennifer Bute; and Jenny Sims, Chair of the NPC Digital Working Party. The consensus was that policymakers need to take account of the fact that not everyone is online, for whatever reason, despite the rapid race towards digitalisation by businesses, government and even the NHS.
Webinar Chair, Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary said: “I would like to thank all our guests today who spoke frankly about the real issues facing society in the race to digital. We must remember the basic human right to choice, and not simply discount older, and vulnerable people if they are not online.”
* The Shadow Secretary said in the last financial year there were 4.6m fraud offences, a 24% increase from two years ago. Online shopping and auction fraud went up 57%, which meant more than £2.3bn was lost by victims in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
**Nearly two million over 75s (Age UK) still don’t use the internet, and many cite fears of scams as much as lack of knowledge, confidence and money as reasons for not going online. But some older people simply don’t want to use the internet, even if they could and had training.
Watch the webinar
Download the press release
Download the slides