Now more than ever it is obvious that the value of closing the digital divide is great. That is why we have worked with industry to provide the connectivity for vulnerable users that they need, why we will continue to encourage providers to offer social tariffs, and why, to boost digital skills, adults can undertake specified digital qualifications up to level 1 free of charge.
Coronavirus and lockdown has sped up society’s reliance on online services, but 42% of those aged 75 and above do not use the internet and Age UK says that
“there is little evidence that the pandemic has led to significant numbers of those previously digitally excluded getting online”,
so what are the Government doing to help older people access the equipment and training they need to get online, and to ensure that essential services such as NHS services and banking continue to be delivered equally to those who remain offline?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the need for that equality of access. The Department continues to work across government to make sure that, whether for supermarkets or banks, there is that equality of access, and of course the NHS makes all the efforts it can, as it has recently in the vaccination programme, to ensure that people are contacted in a way that suits them. But the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the issue, and it is why the Department will also work with organisations such as Citizens Advice to tackle what is a perennial problem.