The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has used her legal powers to issue formal guidance to local authorities and health boards in Wales, setting out the action they should be taking so that older people can access information and services in an increasingly digital world – crucial to ensure older people’s rights are protected and upheld.
The guidance sets out how local authorities and health boards should ensure that people who can’t (or don’t wish to) get online have ways to access the information and services they need via non-digital means, and that support should be provided to help older people to get online and use the internet safely and with confidence.
The Commissioner has issued the guidance in response to the rapid shift we have seen in the way that many services are being delivered due to the pandemic, which has also laid bare the impact of the stark digital divide in Wales.
The guidance was developed in partnership with older people and key stakeholders, and has been issued under Section 12 of the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006, which means that local authorities and health boards must have regard for the guidance in discharging their functions.
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“In recent years, the increasing use of digital technology means the ways we access information and services has changed significantly, something that has accelerated a great deal during the pandemic, with a range of new digital services now being delivered by public bodies throughout Wales.
“During this time, we’ve also seen the impact that being digitally excluded can have on older people, and the difficulties and barriers digital exclusion can create when trying to access advice and support.
“So in addition to calling for action to ensure that older people who are not online can access the information and services they need in a way that suits them, my guidance also sets out the need for further action to support older people who want to get online to gain the skills they need to do so.
“Whilst I know that there is good practice underway in different areas of Wales, issuing formal guidance will ensure that local authorities and health boards fully understand the action they should be taking, as well as their duties under key pieces of legislation such as the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.”
The Commissioner has asked local authorities and health boards to provide details of the action they are taking to ensure older people can access information and services via non-digital means, and that older people who want to get online are supported to do so, which she will review and monitor in order to identify good practice that could be rolled out more widely, as well as potential gaps where further action is needed.
Alongside issuing her guidance, the Commissioner has also published a new booklet for older people, providing information about what they should expect in terms of accessing information and services, and where they can go for help and support if they are facing difficulties. The leaflet is available online, and is being distributed in hard copy via older people’s groups throughout Wales and through local authorities.
Click here to read the Commissioner’s Guidance
Click here to download the information booklet for older people