Katherine Sangster’s View – Staying connected

Wednesday April 28th 2021


Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by Katherine Sangster, the Scottish Labour Party's and Scottish Co-operative Party's candidate in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

This is my last Holyrood Challenge. I am very grateful to Midlothian View for setting the challenge, and for the opportunity to set out some of the ways Scottish Labour hopes to use the powers of our Parliament to build a better and fairer Scotland.

Understandably and rightly, our response to COVID has dominated this election. COVID has impacted all our lives, but the impact on our older communities has been absolutely heart breaking. The loneliness and isolation experienced by our older people has been at times almost unbearable to them as they were separated from their loved ones and friends.

Our care homes needed protection from Covid-19, but keeping relatives locked out for so long harmed the wellbeing of residents and was a cruel denial of their human rights. In the future I believe that relatives should be recognised as essential caregivers with statutory rights of access to their loved ones where necessary

We know that 59% of households where everyone is aged 80 or over do not have internet access. Therefore when the pandemic hit, for many, the lack of a digital connection meant they were struggling to get essential supplies by online shopping. Our communities rallied round and in every town and village volunteers delivered shopping, prescriptions or a newspaper, and even a hot meal to those who needed it. It was a fantastic community effort but I know in my own village and in the constituency office where I work our biggest fear was that someone was forgotten.

So the pandemic brought home to all of us the importance of digital communication as a means of “staying connected”. That’s why Scottish Labour has committed to establishing a ‘Staying Connected’ fund offering grants to every household with someone aged 75 and over, up to the current £159 value of the TV licence, to go towards either paying their licence fee or other digital connectivity bills.

The ‘Staying Connected’ fund will help every person aged 75 and over in Scotland pay their TV licence or pay their broadband bill. There are 7232 people in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale who would be supported by the fund.

Internet access is absolutely vital for everyone in our communities, for education, online shopping, health and other services. When the pandemic separated us all in our homes, for many people TV became a lifeline and the way we could come together was online over video calls like Zoom. All of this makes Internet access essential for our older people too, in a way that previously wasn’t imagined by them. It’s right that we use the powers that the Scottish Parliament has to deliver this support for older people and to ease the cost of digital services.

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