26/01/2016 07:48:00......Posted by Sara Bashford
Yesterday at Full Council Cllr Hopely (Sanderstead Ward) proposed and I seconded the following debate motion:-
“Whilst accepting that online access to services is significantly cheaper and suits many younger residents’ lifestyles, this chamber is concerned that the push to digital-only access is discriminatory against the 14% (or more) of residents who are not digitally enabled and that appropriate non-digital points of access to all services should continue for as long as there is a need.”
So you can see what I said I have printed it below.
Discrimination by digital only access is not just unfair it is a barrier to people being able to live an equal life. There are many who through fear of the unknown, lack of money, and basic equipment are excluded from this Council.
I am pleased that the digital enabling programme is being rolled out and was delighted to hear from the ladies who have benefitted from it but they are a small minority and whilst this is very positive is doesn’t reach all of the 14% of the council’s customers who are excluded. They are made to feel unwanted and part of another era.
I met with a lady who wanted to register for the green garden waste. She couldn’t over the phone so she did as asked and went to the library. Even though the staff tried to help they didn’t understand her complete lack of knowledge. She was 86 and had never used a computer let alone have an email address. She was so distressed because she had no idea what was going on and what she was being asked she left in tears. This should not only never have happened it is just plain wrong and unnecessary. This is the very person who needs green waste collection. I appreciate that after lobbying from many councillors a phone number was provided but too late for many who had given up. I very much hope that the question I have raised with officers, which I haven’t had a response to, can also be considered and that is how do those who don’t want to set up a direct debit or provide their bank details to the Council pay. Is there an opportunity to pay by cheque, which many older residents prefer as they feel this is more secure.
I also met a lady on Thursday who wanted advice about how to challenge a parking fine. She had phoned the Council and the automated message told her she could only make the appeal online and if she didn’t have a computer to go to the library. This is not even the correct information just a way to scare those who are seeking advice by “old fashioned means”. I was able to reassure this lady she could write, but why can’t the Council give that option. I accept dealing with a letter costs more than an online form but everyone should have equal access to challenge decision.
Cllr Woodley has previously said we have to make sure we are not excluding our most vulnerable residents, so I would ask her to challenge decisions made by her cabinet colleagues and ask the question how those not online can access the same service.
This administration has also cut the hours the contact centre are available to the residents of this borough and even though more can be done online 24 hours a day there is nothing like personal contact, to reassure and advise someone not sure what they need to do, where to go, or how to get something. We surely want to be a caring council not just an open and transparent one, so let’s ensure we give equal access to services to all residents who contact us. So when an elderly residents phones who wants bulky waste collection rather than just say to them go online ask if they can go online. Then if the answer is no offer the alternative of a person taking the booking for them. It makes life more pleasant less frustrating and gives everyone equal access to council services.
I support this motion.