Damian Radcliffe

Posts Tagged ‘BT’

June 11: stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on June 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

1.         Third Sector

  • A free BT web kit offers charities and community groups a free service to raise their profile. More than 3,500 websites in the UK have been built on the BT Community Web Kit service so far. The kit’s website service provides free website hosting as well as a free website address. Users can also choose layouts and design while uploading images and pictures to make each website unique with a professional look and feel.

 

Find out more:  www.btck.co.uk

2.         Smartphones / Apps

  • A smartphone application which transcribes audio museum tours into captions and sign language has been released.  Developed by the Australian Communication Exchange, the Smart Auslan service can be downloaded to a personal smartphone or accessed through museum-owned phones across Australia. The user scans a ‘Quick Response code’ on each exhibit which prompts the phone to display the relevant captions and sign language video:

Find out more: http://bit.ly/iiFNl4

3.         Services for Older People

  • Linda Natansohn, COO of eons.com, a US social networking site aimed at baby boomers, admitted the site is struggling to persuade the advertising industry that it offers access to an appealing demographic, but insisted: “This group has two trillion dollars in disposable income, and they are very web savvy.”

Read more: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/making-sense-of-news/112370/seniors-increasingly-read-news-online-use-social-media-to-stay-connected/

  • In May, a plan to establish a new public service video-on-demand digital web TV channel which will focus on, and broadcast topical news and information relevant and of particular interest to, everyone aged 50 and over was announced.  Entitled BeetrootTV – you might like to see the Beetroot TV Briefing Note and Beetroot TV Q&A.  And the ‘taster’ web-site can be found at http://www.BeetrootTV.org

Beetroot TV is being developed by Sheena McDonald and Simon Gallimore in collaboration with Independent Age, enabled by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

 
     

4.         Telecare and Telehealth

  • The Guardian suggests Scotland is ahead of England in its approach to implementing telecare and telehealth technologies. Dr James Ferguson, the lead clinician at the Scottish Centre for Telehealth, argues that because patients in Scotland are often a long way from clinicians, there has been a drive to include remote monitoring and support as an integral part of care packages.

Read the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2011/apr/13/scotland-teach-england-telehealth-james-ferguson

  • A survey of 200 patients using telehealth in North Yorkshire showed that patients with long term conditions prefer to be monitored from home. 96% of those currently using telehealth would recommend the technology to others.

http://www.nyytelehealth.co.uk/news/ninety_six_percent_of_north_yorkshire_patients_would_recommend_telehealth/

5.         Disability

  • A new government report argues that the 2012 Paralympic Games should transform perceptions of disabled people. The report also argues that London 2012 is already delivering improvements to the lives of people with disabilities, including offering jobs, training, sport opportunities and an uplift in awareness across the UK.

 Read the report here:  http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/8058.aspx

  • Disabled People’s User-led Organisations have been given access to a new £3million initiative announced by the Minister for Disabled People, which includes a Facilitation Fund allowing these bodies to bid for small amounts of money for specific projects to improve their overall sustainability.

Read more: http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/odi-projects/user-led-organisations.php

6.         Web

  • A report by Gartner claimed that “digital media will cannibalise print media” after a study of consumers across six countries, including the UK and US, found more than half of tablet users preferred reading text on screens to print, with older demographics expressing the most attachment to paper products.

See: http://www.techeye.net/business/paper-screwed-up-in-favour-of-digital-readers

  • DCMS has published a set of 10 principles for inclusive web design to highlight the importance of building websites that can be used by as wide a range of people as possible.

The principles were written by Sandi Wassmer, managing director of web design company Copious and can be viewed on the DCMS site: http://bit.ly/mfx9ax

The ten principles are broken down into keywords such as equitable; flexible; straightforward; and perceptible, each followed by a brief explanatory statement to give guidance on how the term relates to inclusive website design.

  • Google and FutureGov  are holding a hack event later this month focussed on making the web accessible to older generations: http://goo.gl/7Gf8e

7.         TV / Advertising

  • A Wall Street Journal report on the US TV industry said networks are adjusting their pitch to advertisers as average audiences age, arguing the current generation of baby-boomers is fundamentally different from earlier generations who wound down their spending after the age of 55.

CBS chief research officer David Poltrack said: “Rather than saying a 22-year-old is more valuable than a 58-year-old, we’re saying, ‘Look, the fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by.”

See: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703559604576174983272665032.html

8.         Consumer

  • The Guardian has an article on the costs of calling 118 directory enquiry services. [Our] “research shows that being connected to a number via a 118 service can cost in excess of £10 for five minutes from a mobile. Calling directory enquiries from a mobile can cost more than £2, while a typical 45-second 118 call costs an average of £1.75 from a landline, research shows.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/may/16/warning-118-directory-enquiries-charges

9.         Innovation, Ageing and Healthcare

  • Slides, and a short contextual blog post, from Simon Roberts based on his talk (in February) to Imperial Business School.

Visit: http://bit.ly/f8KvzN

 

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on May 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

 1.         100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020… in Canada

  • The Canadian broadcasting regulator, CRTC, has included establishment of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund among conditions attached to its approval of the takeover of Canada’s largest TV network, CTV, by BCE ( http://www.bce.ca/en/ ), owner of communications company Bell.

 

BCE will be required to put forward 5.7 million Canadian Dollars to establish the fund, which will work to ensure 100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020. Its work programme will focus on “innovation that provides platform-neutral solutions to ensure accessibility of all broadcasting content.”

 

The proposal had initially been put forward by the Access 2020 Coalition  an umbrella group led by the non-profit body Media Access Canada.

 

In its ruling (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2011/2011-163.htm ) the commission said that at least two-thirds of board members of the fund must be “persons with disabilities, representatives of disability organizations and/or other parties with relevant expertise in developing or implementing accessibility solutions.”

 

The fund will also be empowered to raise further funding from other sources, such as annual contributions by other broadcasters or broadcasting distributors.

 

Beverley Milligan, CEO of Media Access Canada, said: “This latest ruling by the CRTC makes them the first regulator in the world to take an alternative approach to ensuring 100% accessible content by 2020. They have empowered us to bring it about and now it is time for us to get down to work.”

 

2.         Assistive Technology

  • An ‘ideas marketplace’ for new open source assistive technology projects has been launched by a group of academics and developers with funding from JISC, the technology agency for UK colleges and universities.

 

The REALISE project ( http://www.realisepotential.org ) is an open, three-stage tool for creating new software technologies to make it easier for people with disabilities to use the internet, computers and mobile devices.

 

The first stage is an ‘ideas’ area, where anyone can ask for help with a problem or offer a theoretical solution. If there is enough interest in an idea and someone wants to take the lead, it can be moved to the second stage: the ‘incubator’, where a team of developers is assembled. Finally, the best ideas will move to full ‘project’ status, the third stage which will involve funding by non-profits or private companies.

 

According to the project’s brief, “At any stage commercial companies or researchers can become involved and may lead at the incubator or project stages. In the end companies may make money out of a project but will need to keep to any agreements during the development stages.”

 

  • The government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, which accompanied the Budget, includes a commitment to improve the take up of assisted living technology. The Plan commits the government to help establish a code of practice that sets a framework for services and technology, provides quality assurance to customers, and increases uptake, and to work with the Technology Strategy Board on developing assisted living solutions.  Read more: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ukecon_growth_index.htm

 

3.         Apps & Software

  • A website dedicated to exploring apps, programs and advice for blind and visually impaired users of Android– Google’s operating system for mobile devices – has been launched by the online assistive technology store AT Guys.

 

Android Access features a list of accessibility apps by topic; a ‘getting started’ section, with information on choosing an accessible Android phone; and links to accessible Android news, blogs and forums: http://androidaccess.net/

 

  • There is a free open source version of Linux designed for the blind and visually impaired. It is called Vinux, and it is available at: http://www.vinux.org.uk

 

  • Great 7 minute video from AbilityNet’s Robin Christopherson explaining how his smartphone has transformed his ability to communicate and carry out a host of everyday tasks. Robin is blind, but this video shows how technology need not be a barrier to an active working – and personal – life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stZfcy7FV-0&feature=youtube_gdata

 

4.         Use of social media by disabled people to get results

  • BT has joined Twitter as BTCare – see www.twitter.com/btcare – and is responding to tweets from other users that mention difficulty in accessing with BT services.

 

This isn’t specifically a disability service but we have noticed some discussions with disabled consumers via this medium. The nature of this type of social networking site means that the correspondence usually takes place in public and anyone can read it.

 

5.         Telephony

  • BT has just published a new brochure about nuisance calls.

You can download the brochure or visit web site at www. bt.com/unwantedcalls

6.         Accessible products

  • BT has launched ‘Including You’ (here), a new website offering a range of accessible products and services for those who need extra help with communications.

 

Designed and developed in conjunction with AbilityNet, the national charity that enables people with disabilities to access technology and the internet, the site is the first to achieve the new AbilityNet accreditation mark. For more details, follow this link.

 

  • FAST has launched a booklet to help friends and family understand how equipment and technology can support the independence and safety of people with the early symptoms of dementia.

 

‘Getting Equipped to Tackle Forgetfulness’ was developed in partnership with Innovations in Dementia and Trent Dementia Services Development Centre, with funding from the Department of Health’s Reaching Out to Carers programme.

 

The guide provides information and tips on the equipment available, how to make decisions as a family about equipment and technology options and how and where to get hold of gadgets and other devices. The guide can be downloaded here.

 

  • The Stroke Association has launched a retail outlet to ‘help people in need of disability aids and mobility products find the correct equipment at a competitive price’. Details via this link. To visit Strokeshop go to www.strokeshop.org.uk.

 

7.         Telecare / Telehealth

  • According to an update on the WSDAN (Whole System Demonstrator Action Network) website, it is estimated that there are around 1.7 million people using telecare in England.

 

Local authority expenditure in England in this area during 2009/10 was over £83 million.

 

The current estimate for telehealth remote monitoring installations is around 6,000, which should increase during 2011. The update is here.

 

  • The Scottish Government and the UK’s Technology Strategy Board have announced that a large-scale telehealthcare demonstration programme involving at least 10,000 older and disabled people will run over four years from April 2012. Details via this link.

 

8.         Transport

  • The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is calling for buses and coaches to be forced to offer passengers the same audio-visual information already required in trains.

 

The ‘Talking Buses’ campaign is urging the government to expand the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations to require buses and coaches to offer both audible and visual journey information, including next stop and final destination, making them more accessible to blind and visually impaired users: http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/helpus/campaigns/talking-buses/

 

9.         Older People

  • Life expectancy has been growing for over half a century and the UK has now reached a point where there are more people over state pension age than children.

 

In 1950, a man aged 65 could expect on average to live to the age of 76. Today, he can expect to live to 87, and by 2050 to 91.

 

Today there are 10,000 people aged 100 or over, by 2050 there will be 275,000, and by 2030 people over 50 will comprise almost a third of the workforce and c. half the adult population.

 

10.       Disability

  • The Disability Benefits Consortium, a coalition of 41 charities and organisations, is warning that disabled people will be hardest hit by the welfare reforms. The Hardest Hit campaign website is here.

 

  • The Disability Alliance has published the latest edition of the ‘Disability Rights Handbook’ which is available via this link.

 

  • The Department of Health has published tools to help local authorities support people with learning disabilities into work and invest in supported employment, which evidence suggests can save money for social care. More details here.

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on March 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

1.         Older People

  • I recently came across Eldy, (Seniors Computer Software for Elderly) a piece of free software that turns a standard PC into an easy-to-use computer for people that have never used a computer before (one user described it as the “Fisher Price Internet”). It provides a six buttons interface with email, internet, chat, videoconferencing, documents, pictures, skype and more.

 

 

  • Angela Rippon told the Daily Telegraph that former BBC director-general John Birt had suggested her career was over when she became 50. Rippon is adamant Birt would not have treated her male counterparts in a similar fashion.

 

  • A reportby David Sinclair of ILC-UK, for Age UK, considers the market potential of the older consumer and highlights how companies can make more of this population. It notes that Older people’s spending reached an estimated £97 billion in 2008 (65 plus)‚ around 15% of the overall household expenditure. Those aged 50 or over spent £276 billion in 2008‚ making up around 44% of the total family spending in the UK.Yet despite the size of the market, this report finds that for many, the private sector does not meet their needs. This is not just a story of poverty or a lack of income to buy products, but of a consumer marketplace which frequently fails to meet the needs of an ageing population. People of all income levels are consumers. For the poorest consumer, they often find that they pay more and get less back in return.Some older people are well served by the market. And in some cases older people get fantastic service from the private sector. Yet there are significant issues facing the older consumer. Many of the issues highlighted below have been documented in literature as far back as the 1960s. David argues that some of the failings outlined in this report are indicative of market failure.

 

2.         Equality

  • Disability Now reports on how two English councils were forced to abandon plans to charge for Blue Badge parking, following threats of action under equality legislation.

 

  • The European Union has formally concluded the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, becoming the first intergovernmental group to sign any human rights treaty. The UK has already ratified the Convention, find more information here.

 

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published guides for public authorities on the new public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010, which comes into force on 6 April 2011. They are available here.

 

3.         Telehealth

 

  • A new report from the NHS Confederation argues that an over-reliance on treatment delivered through face-to-face contact means the NHS ‘risks being stuck in the technological dark ages’. It notes that people increasingly expect to be able to manage parts of their healthcare remotely using modern communication technologies:

 

‘Progress has been made but health services have still struggled with new technologies as a combination of top down initiatives and a lack of engagement from clinicians and patients has meant new technologies such as telemedicine and telecare have failed to truly take off. In the future, government needs to support uptake of health technology in a sustained and systematic way without resorting to an overly prescriptive, centralised plan. Despite the huge funding pressures, NHS organisations should continue to make the case for new technologies as they will form the backbone for how we access many public services in the future. The key will be to address the cultural barriers that stop the uptake of new technologies’.

 The report called ‘Remote control: The patient-practitioner relationship in a digital age’, is available here.

 

4.         Digital Participation

  • Two new internet champions have been crowned in a BT-backed initiative to show millions of people over 65 the benefits of using the web.  Margaret Goodwin, 64, from Henley-on-Thames and David Howe, 70, from Devon, were announced Age UK internet champions for 2011 at London’s BT Tower.

More information: www.bt.com/getittogether  

  • A survey by the Pew Research Center found that 2% of US adults – six million people – have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible for them to use the internet. 54% of US adults with a disability (around 45 million people) reporting themselves as going online, compared with 81% of non-disabled adults.

 

The quality of internet speed and access were also shown to vary according to a person’s disability profile. “People living with disability, once they are online, are also less likely than other internet users to have high-speed access or wireless access. For example, 41% of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69% of those without a disability”.

  • The Fix the Web project, which launched in November, already helped to solve problems with 26 sites using volunteers to contact website owners on behalf of disabled internet users who encounter access problems.

 

Users contact Fix the Web with complaints through the Fix the Web site, email, Twitter or a new toolbar, developed by the University of Southampton ( http://bit.ly/exuzAc ), and the volunteers then take up the complaints on their behalf, allowing people to report any problems.

Companies that have resolved issues flagged up by Fix the Web include several BBC sites, with work on tagging of images and resizing of text, the Coventry Building Society’s online banking services and Doodle (an online scheduling service), which is currently making its site more accessible to screen-readers.

  • The disability charity Scope has launched Meeting Point, an online forum for young disabled people.

 

5.         Technology

 

This report looks at the ramifications of the digital future and the ways in which society must adjust to the technological changes to come; saying:

‘Computer technologies are not neutral – they are laden with human, cultural and social values.  We need to define a new agenda for human-computer interaction in the 21st century – one that anticipates and shapes the impact of technology rather than simply reacts to it.’

 

  • The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) Accessible Media Player promises to offer “an inclusive online experience for disabled and non-disabled users, whether watching video or listening to a podcast. The player, which has been tested with people with a range of impairments, works particularly well for people with learning disabilities. It is the first online media player to pass the RNIB Surf Right accessibility audit and is available free to any government department or voluntary sector organisation.” Full details here.

 

  • Significan’t has introduced a real time captioning service called WebCapTel in which operators transcribe speech into text using voice recognition software and display it on the screens of desktop and mobile devices. A report on the service in Ability Magazine is here and there is more about WebCapTel and other SignVideo services from Significan’t here.

 

6.         Disability – attitudes

The ODI has published a report: ‘Public perceptions of disabled people’ – which looks at attitudes towards disabled people, and how attitudes have changed between 2005 and 2009.

Key Points:

  • Attitudes towards disabled people have improved since 2005; for example a smaller proportion of people said that they thought of disabled people as getting in the way (7% compared with 9% in 2005) or with discomfort and awkwardness (17% compared with 22% in 2005). People were also more likely to think of disabled people as the same as everybody else (85% compared with 77% in 2005).

 

  • There is, however, belief that prejudice towards disabled people is widespread. Almost 8 out of 10 respondents felt that there is either a lot or a little prejudice towards disabled people.

 

  • Whilst few people reported openly negative views, many respondents expressed views that suggest they see disabled people as less capable than non-disabled people. Respondents were least comfortable with people with learning disabilities or mental health conditions in situations where disabled people were in positions of authority, such as being a Member of Parliament or a boss at work. These scenarios were also amongst those that respondents found least comfortable in respect of people with physical or sensory impairments.

 

  • Nearly four in ten people thought of disabled people as less productive than non-disabled people and three quarters of people thought of disabled people as needing to be cared for some or most of the time. This suggests that a degree of ‘benevolent prejudice’ exists towards disabled people.

 

  • Almost 8 out of 10 people thought that most people would feel very or fairly uncomfortable if someone said something negative about disabled people either in the local shops, with their close friends or at work in front of their boss or colleagues.

 

  • There is no clear relationship between age and prejudice. In general it was people in the youngest (18 to 24) and oldest (65+) age groups who were least likely to be comfortable in interacting with disabled people.

 

7.         Extended Feature – Excellent piece on web habits of 55-75 age group from Brand Republic

(Published at: http://bit.ly/hGvEXw – or below, but without the graphs)

Generation 62.0: Digital planning for an aging population

Richard Morris, brandrepublic.com, 31 January 2011

Older people aren’t just going online to check their bank accounts; they’re also getting social and playing games, writes Richard Morris, deputy managing director at Carat.

This article looks into an under researched demographic – 55-74 year olds – to uncover what they think of the internet, how they use it and what this means for advertising. The data is provided by Carat’s Consumer Connection System (CCS), giving in depth and media actionable lifestyle, attitudinal and demographic insight.

Who are we looking at and how often do they access the internet?

  • 55-75 year olds make up 28% of the total UK population, which translates to 12,868,000 people
  • Of those, three quarters of 55-64 year olds and 55% of 65-75 year olds use the internet at least occasionally (5,306 million and 3,158 million users respectively)
  • Interestingly, although over half of the 55-75 age group are light users (under 15 hours per week,) a quarter can be considered to be ‘heavy users’ (30+ hours a week) and 45% medium users (15-30 hours per week).
  • 83% of 55-64s and 61% of 65-75s access the internet at least once a week on their home PC or laptop.

What are they doing online?

Regular online activities, at first glance, appear relatively functional – fitting in with established research into this age group’s internet usage.  

They aim to make life easier for themselves, with personal banking and emails being one of the most frequent activities, undertaken at least once a week, while 38% look for the best products by using online reviews, and the same amount look to get them as cheaply as possible with price comparison sites.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that CCS suggests a third of this group access social networks.

Forty seven percent use either Skype or instant messenger services to communicate, and a quarter stream films/TV at least 2-3 times a month.

In addition, just over a fifth enter competitions at least once a week, and almost two fifths use the internet to access the news online rather than watching it on the television.

Furthermore, we can look at affinity (how more or less likely a group are to behave in a certain way compared to others – in this case 55-75’s compared to the overall UK population, expressed via indexes) when exploring consumer behaviours, enabling the planner to make crucial distinctions between age groups. 

The sites which have the greatest affinity vary slightly with age; respondents in the 55-64 group are more likely to look at holiday sites such as Expedia compared to the 65-75s. Within both groups informative sites such as Ask, directgov.co.uk and the Microsoft site have fairly strong indexes, as well as newspaper websites such as the Telegraph and the Readers Digest.

Social networking

Social networking has become an increasingly large part of people’s day-to-day lives and it’s no different for the older generation, although not quite as frequent as the younger groups.

The membership among Facebook is highest, although the greatest affinity lies with the more matured ‘FriendsReunited’, which has an index of 118 and 78 with the 55-64 and 65-75 age groups respectively.

However 30% of 55-75 year olds visit Facebook at least once a month (9% check it daily) while usership within FriendsReunited is considerably less, with only 15% checking it once a month and only 0.5% checking it daily.

We can also examine the most common activities on social networking sites. These include a third reading updates from friends, 30% posting/sending messages and a further 30% looking at content others have uploaded.

Nineteen percent comment on others statuses, 16% play games and 15% chat on instant messenger services on the sites.

Again, a pattern of expected behaviours as well as perhaps some slightly unexpected ones are emerging. 

These age groups are not merely part of the social media revolution – they are active participants within it. 

Attitudes to the internet

Looking deeper into what is important to these groups when it comes to the internet, it becomes apparent that attitudes in general do not shift much between the 55-65 and 65-75 age groups. 

There are, however, some differences to be found.

Sixty two percent of 55-64s and 57% of 65-75s agree that they look to the internet first for research on expensive items.  

Sixty percent and 52% respectively even say that the internet is the first place they look for information, while 42% of both groups are concerned about privacy on social networking sites.

A third say email is an important part of their social life. Forty percent and 31% respectively agree that they don’t know what they’d do without the internet, and 46% and 48% agree that they spend the majority of their time on just a small number of sites.

The 55-64 group are more likely to share sites they find interesting (35% agree compared to 25% in the 65-75’s), 38% say that gaming is for all people not just for children compared to 21% of 65-75s, and 42% say they generally tell the truth on their social networking site compared to only 29% of 65-75s.

The data indicates that, as people get older, the usefulness of the internet diminishes as their priorities shift. 

They do not avoid it necessarily because of a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to adopt new technology, more that the function it serves becomes less relevant to them.

While they continue to reap the benefits of being able to more easily manage their utilities/finances, gain access to the news and research/buy products, the aspects that have become increasingly relevant to the younger generation of internet users, of course, are simply no longer relevant.

Planning applications

Such insights can have profound implications for communicating with this audience, enabling us to truly optimise the online experience. 

For example, Facebook has clearly broken free from its stereotyped past and the information gleaned from CCS on membership, and even usage, now enables planners to fully utilise its possibilities. 

Furthermore, it is clear that traditional papers and TV are now not the only way to target older members of society, encouraging us to add a further layer to our communications as heavy usage of digital editions of papers and VoD becomes increasingly common among this group. 

Importantly, the insight that more than a quarter of this group share with friends the websites they find interesting indicates the exciting possibilities of what could be achieved with an effective digital campaign targeting this segment. 

In an age where media usage is increasingly fragmenting and becoming ever more digitalised, it is clear that the older generations are not being left behind.

Richard Morris, deputy managing director, Carat

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on December 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

1. Personal Finance

Several papers picked up Aviva’s quarterly Real Retirement Report which noted that the Over-55s increasingly concerned about the rising cost of living.

The Daily Telegraph reported “Pensioners are being forced to turn their hobbies into jobs as they prepare to work until they drop” whilst the Guardian focused on “Pensioners slashing spending on food in order to meet rising household bills”.

“Unlike their parents, the current generation of over 55s are facing the prospect of paying off a significant amount of mortgage debt as they move into retirement. Indeed, the practice of buying houses later in life and releasing the capital to pay for items such as cars, holidays, children’s university costs, etc, has taken its toll,” said Clive Bolton, of Aviva.

One-fifth of the over 55s still have substantial mortgages, unlike earlier generations, which tended to pay off their home loans by that age, the report found. The figures again underlined how the average 55-64 year old is worse off than the average 65-74 year old. Aviva found that pre-retirees’ mean monthly income is £1,313, compared to £1,374 among those who have taken retirement.

 

BT has launched a new booklet aimed at giving consumers practical advice on getting the best telephony package to suit individual budgets.

The latest in its series of Communications Choices booklets has been developed to help people manage their household communications budget and provides advice on what to do if they struggle to pay their bills.  The 20-page booklet, produced with support from the free-to-client money advice community, is available in printed format and as a download on www.bt.com/includingyou

 

2. Consumer

Commenting on the Consumer Experience the Telegraph noted that: “A generation of ‘silver surfers’ is driving a rise in broadband take-up”.  The report stated that “Nearly half of the over-75s, however, reported difficulties in using computers and mobile phones, while a third of 65-74-year-olds said they too struggled with mobile technology.

The number of broadband connections in Britain grew by three per cent in the last year, but by nine per cent among 65-74-year-olds and eight per cent for over-75s. Nearly one in six, however, still say they do not intend to get web access in the next year. A fifth said the same in 2009.”

David Sinclair, Head of Policy and Research at the ILC-UK, has written a report on the potential financial reward of engaging with the older consumer.  “The Golden Economy: The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society” is available at: http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/record.jsp?type=publication&ID=80.

The report notes that older consumer market is expected to grow by 81 per cent from 2005 to 2030 while the 18-59 year old market will only increase 7 per cent. It goes on to profile older consumers, talk about their consumer experience (covering issues such as design, jargon, mis-selling and upper age limits on products and services which may mean that these are inaccessible to older consumers).

 

3. Digital Participation

BT has relaunched its free broadband Community Connections award scheme, www.btcommunityconnections.com  to help get communities online. Community groups in the UK can apply to get online free for 12 months if they can demonstrate how they will help people discover the wonders of the internet for the first time.  There are around nine million people in the UK who have never used the internet. The closing date for applications is 13th January and winners will be announced by the end of February.

The Telegraph reported on Martha Lane Fox’s “Go On, Give Someone Their First Time Online” campaign for web-savvy introduce friends and relatives to the internet for the first time. The initiative also encourages the recycling and refurbishing of old computers.

 

A campaign allowing people with disabilities a quick, simple way of reporting inaccessible websites, including by email or Twitter, was launched last month. Complaints filed using ‘Fix the Web’ are taken forward by volunteers, who contact the website owners and ask them to fix the problem. The service was developed by the charity Citizens Online: http://www.fixtheweb.net/

 

Public services should be delivered online or by other digital means, the Government announced in November: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101122-defaultdigital.aspx

In a report to the Cabinet Office, Martha Lane Fox argued that “shifting 30% of government service delivery contracts to digital channels has the potential to deliver gross annual savings of more than £1.3 billion, rising to £2.2 billion if 50% of contacts shifted to digital.”

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, responded to the report by saying:“This does not mean we will abandon groups that are less likely to access the internet: we recognise that we cannot leave anyone behind. Every single Government service must be available to everyone – no matter if they are online or not.” 

However Age UK in an article entitled “Millions of elderly people could lose out on important health and education benefits as the Government plans to put major Post Office services online”  claimed “that six million people over the age of 65 have no access to the internet, many of whom are already isolated and need public services to survive.”

We work with a lot of older people to get them on online,” a spokesman said. “But we have to accept that there are a lot of people out there who do not use the internet and we need to make sure that we do not further isolate them in any way.”

The first services to go online will be student loans followed by applications to schools, such as school meals; personal applications like driving licences; and benefits such as job seekers’ allowance. Eventually other services will be rolled out like child benefit.

Part of solution, according to an article in the Guardian, could be for customers to access the web in places such as Post Offices. 

However, “George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said he was glad the government wanted post offices to be the place that people without internet connections would go to access government services. But he added it could also be a threat to Britain’s 12,000 post offices.

“I do have a problem with everything going online,” said Thomson. He argued that a lot much of the work of post offices was dealing face to face with people about their Post Office card accounts, green giros and taxing their cars, for example. “Those are important transactions, and the philosophy of everything going online means that despite the new products there could be a lower volume of work overall.

“Most post offices are also shops and they depend on the footfall that comes in. If 3,000 people come in during a week, they also buy their newspapers, bread and milk there. My fear is that, if you lose the volume, then the business model that sustains that disappears.” “

 

4. Telecare

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has launched the government’s vision for adult social care, ‘Capable Communities and Active Citizens’. Telecare, re-ablement and ‘home improvements and adaptations’ are highlighted as preventative services with the potential to save resources as well as promote independence.

The Government’s aim is to shift power from the state to the citizen through:

  • increasing the uptake of personal budgets (30 per cent of eligible users by April 2011 and everyone eligible by 2013)
  • information and advice as a universal service
  • £400 million for carers’ breaks
  • preventative action in local communities to keep people independent
  • breaking down barriers between health and social care funding
  • care and support to be delivered through a ‘plural market’ in partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and council services

The announcement is here and the vision is here.

 

Age UK provides easy-to-read information on equipment and adaptations in the home, available via this link.

 

‘Invest-to-save’ funding by the Welsh Assembly Government includes support for telecare and a single public sector broadband network. The £7.3 million investment is expected to save the public sector £14 million a year and some £64 million over the longer term. Details via this link.

 

5. Disability

A video demonstrating how to use the Refreshabraille 18, a Braille display and keyboard, built by the non-profit American Printing House for the Blind, with an Apple iPhone or iPod, has been posted on YouTube. A link to the video and a transcription can be found on the ‘StoneKnight’ blog run by transcription specialist Mirabai Knight: http://bit.ly/dIU26U

 

The UK’s first ever Disability History Month (UKDHM) runs from 22nd November to 22nd December. More information here.

 

The East Anglian Daily Times reports on a rise in hate crimes committed against the disabled – using figures obtained under FOI. In Suffolk over a 12 month period, these crimes were up 60%. See: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_hate_crimes_against_the_disabled_up_60_1_718573

 

The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest statistics on the Access to Work programme, see here. Delivered by Jobcentre Plus, this provides practical advice and support, including equipment and adaptations, to disabled people and their employers to help them overcome work-related obstacles.

24,340 individuals were helped in the period April 2010 – June 2010. However, Access to Work has cut the range of products it will fund. Desktop computers, voice activation software and ergonomic chairs and desks are among equipment that will no longer be paid for by the government, but will become the responsibility of employers to provide. A report in Ability magazine is here.

 

Perhaps the biggest story in this community over the past month derived from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s launch of a white paper setting out radical plans for welfare reform. A new universal credit will be introduced to simplify the benefits system, reduce welfare dependency, and make work pay. The new credit will provide a basic amount, with additions for those with children and other caring responsibilities, people with disabilities and those with housing needs. It will be available for working-age people both in and out of work and will replace many existing benefits.

Disability living allowance will continue, but will be reformed so that support is targeted on people who face significant barriers to participating in society, based on a new assessment. The government is considering whether changes to carer’s allowance will be necessary. The new universal credit will ensure that benefits are withdrawn ‘slowly and rationally’ as people return to work and increase their working hours. Under a new system of conditionality backed by tougher sanctions, claimants will be split into four groups depending on how close they are to getting back to work and support will be tailored accordingly:

  • No conditionality – disabled people or those with a health condition that prevents them from working, lone parents or lead carer with a child under age one;
  • Keeping in touch with the labour market – lone parent or lead carer with a young child aged over one but under five;
  • Work preparation – disabled people or those with a health condition which prevents them from working at the current time;
  • Full conditionality – jobseekers (there will be mandatory work activity for some jobseekers).

A Welfare Reform Bill in January 2011 will give effect to these changes, followed by a phased introduction of the new system from 2013. The announcement and white paper are here and here.

The Department for Work and Pensions has put together a summary of how disabled people may be affected by current changes which is available via this link

According to official statistics, three-quarters of people applying for the new employment and support allowance (ESA) which replaces incapacity benefit (IB) are being found fit for work after undergoing the controversial new work capability assessment (WCA), or they withdraw their claim before they complete the assessment. More information here.
 

6. Employment and Portrayal

In November The Times reported that “A former BBC journalist will become today the first presenter to take the corporation to an employment tribunal for age and sex discrimination. Miriam O’Reilly, 53, who was dropped from Countryfile, the BBC One programme in 2008, will bring her claim before a London Central employment tribunal.

Ms O’Reilly was told in November 2008 that she was to lose her post on Countryfile as part of a revamp of the BBC One show. Ms O’Reilly, an award-winning journalist who spent 25 years at the BBC, was removed alongside Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Michaela Strachan, reporters in their forties and fifties. They were replaced by the former host of Watchdog, Julia Bradbury, then 36, and Matt Baker, then 30, as the show moved into a prized early evening slot.

Ms O’Reilly is claiming for sex discrimination, age discrimination, and victimisation, as she says she has not been given further work by the BBC after claims that she leaked stories about internal discontent over the removal of the women.

The BBC has been forced to address accusations of ageism, after the exit of older women such as Moira Stuart, 61, and Anna Ford, 67. Stuart has recently returned as the newsreader on Chris Evans’s Radio 2 breakfast show.

Miriam O’Reilly was dropped by the BBC One show Countryfile in 2008 .”