- 2016 National Retired Members Conference
- 8 June 2016
Our 2014 Conference instructed the National Retired Members Committee and the National Executive Council to resist moves to make access for retired people to goods, services benefits and social communications available only via the internet. Sadly this process continues with many service providers such as banks, building societies, energy providers and travel companies only offering their best deals to on line subscribers. Of even greater concern is the trend for many Government, Local Authority and Health organisations to increasingly turn to on line communication as their preferred means of contact. In the vast majority of cases the alternative means of contact is via a call centre which introduces a different set of hurdles for retired people. For example callers can be faced with complex menus, sometimes requiring spoken requests to a voice analyser, and dealing with people who are not familiar with their local accents. Rarely is there an option for a written response. In addition calls to call centres often take a long time to answer with a proportionately high cost to the caller. As noted in 2014 such practices are a form of discrimination that disproportionately affects older people who are more likely to suffer age related disabilities and have a lower income.
The ideal would be for much greater availability of face to face advice for retired people but this is unlikely to happen in the present economic climate. An alternative would be to raise the standard of call centre operations by means of a “Quality Mark” to those meeting defined criteria such as a maximum time for response, staff with clear diction, seamless transfer to “expert” staff for complex enquiries and a commitment to confirm advice in writing. Such a Quality Mark could be instituted by a coalition of retired people’s organisations including UNISON.
Conference therefore calls upon the National Retired Members Committee to liaise with the National Executive Council to consult with the National Pensioners Convention, other Trade Union retired members sections and other relevant organisations to bring pressure on Government to develop and institute Codes of Practice reflecting these objectives.