02 Sep Digital Inequality Impacts Social Care
“Lockdown has certainly served to highlight our reliance on virtual means of staying in touch. Critically, it has also thrown into sharp definition the issue of digital exclusion, which has been a reality for the 22% of the UK’s population who lack basic digital skills since long before the Covid-19 outbreak.” Hannah Holmes, Dr Gemma Burgess
Over the summer we’ve heard a good deal about the ways in which children living in poverty have been further disadvantaged by having no access to digital technology. A home with an income of between £6,000 – 10,000 income per annum, has a 50% chance of being without internet access. This impacts on children’s education, their contact with teachers, and their connections with peers.
Children are not the only victims of digital inequality, though.
Digital Inequality in the Social Care Sector
Imagine being an 80 year old, dependent on a private carer and occasional visits from your family. Over lockdown your family were unable to visit, and your regular carer didn’t come in because she didn’t want to pass coronavirus on to you. Your GP closed their surgery and switched to online consultations. You don’t own a mobile, or laptop and have never seen the need to ‘go digital’ – but now you feel isolated, helpless and forgotten.
Digital Inclusion is Critical for Meeting Social Care Priorities
Social care providers such as Bedfordshire Supported Housing now depends on the use of technology to deliver a range of benefits to our clients. Whether it’s keeping in touch with far-flung family, knowing that carers will check in, or joining a local forum. Technology maintains the network of connections that are so important to us all.
For the sizeable minority of our clients who are digitally excluded, the world is fast becoming increasingly difficult to negotiate:
- Mobile phone numbers are expensive to use from a landline
- Many utility companies now operate online
- Doctors are now using phone consultations in place of face-to-face appointments
- The Blue Badge scheme is now entirely online, as are many benefits and council services
- Families can be heard, but not seen
- Carers can’t assess how a client ‘looks’ today
“As more providers encourage online access, older people who do not use the internet have told us they find it harder to get through on the telephone or get hold of paper application forms. In some situations people find themselves in the ‘catch 22’ position of being told to go online to print off forms” AgeUK
Don’t Consign Older People to Second-Class Services
Older people who are either digitally illiterate or unable to access the internet, are socially disadvantaged at a time of life when they’re increasingly reliant on care agencies. When it comes to discussions of digital inequality, it’s imperative that we take into account the very real problems they face.
Bedfordshire Supported Housing are an independent provider of social care services who have been operational across Bedfordshire for eight years. For more information about our residential, supported or home care, call 01234 954415