Lunching with other military veterans, I heard a real story that highlights the problems of the “digitally-excluded”. An elderly lady was trying to sign on with a new doctor but the receptionist was insistent that it had to be done “on-line”. She had no idea that going on-line is impossible for many people (no kit, no Wi-Fi, no skills or whatever). After much haggling, she reluctantly handed over a form for completion. That receptionist and her practice manager need to understand the NHS accessible information standards so that they don’t break the law or deny anyone health care.
But digital exclusion isn’t limited to the public sector. A recent Guardian article revealed similar problems with businesses. In this time of recession, low growth, high on-line fraud and more, does it make business sense to limit those who can buy from you? There’s a big chunk of spending power that’s lost if everything is on-line and inaccessible.
Employers are just as bad. We all know that they are having difficulty filling jobs: lots of vacancies but not enough applicants. Covid seems to have persuaded many workers to retire early while others gained long-term physical or mental health conditions from the pandemic. Alongside, lots of people are having difficulty working because they are on record-breaking hospital waiting lists (NHS again!). The employers’ solution, according to the recent CBI conference, is to get visas so that more workers can come in from abroad to fill the job gaps. They seem to forget that there are probably a million other people with long-term health conditions and disabilities who are gagging to work. It doesn’t take much to make a workplace accessible to them: over 90% may need no or low-cost adjustments to fill the jobs. For the tiny numbers needing extra help, equipment or more, DWP Access To Work funding will help. Doesn’t it make sense to use those keen home-grown workers and avoid extra pressure on our resources? There’s even more benefit as demands on the NHS will ease as their physical and mental health improves with work, they are more loyal employees who have fewer unplanned days off. Everyone wins!
I hosted a large gathering of family from far afield and some dropped in on-line. Dominic had researched one branch of the family back to the early 1700s, Peter had enhanced the computerised family records and all of us were conjuring up memories, anecdotes and more for video and audio records for future generations. Heaven only knows if those yet to be born will have any interest. But it was fascinating to discover more about the parents, grandparents and others only just within living memory.
The great feat was catering for about 15 for lunch and supper, taking account of vegetarian, vegan, nut/egg/cheese allergies while not disappearing into the kitchen for hours. Lamb tajine was one solution: doubled the recipe in a cast iron pot so big it had to sit sideways in the oven. Once full, even the sous-chef had to lift it onto a handy stool for stirring rather than struggle it onto the hob. If you want simple recipes to cook for a large number over Christmas, check out the plan .