Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Jamie Stone has secured cross-party support from 50 MPs for his letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport asking for a ‘Happy Hour’ of free phone calls.
According to Mr Stone's proposals, telephone networks would need to provide free calls for at least one hour a day for their customers over 75 years of age.
Mr Stone developed the idea after his constituent, Ms Judith Perham, got in touch to ask if phone companies could provide free calls to the elderly who do not have broadband and were worried about calling their families because of the cost. Mr Stone has made Judith Perham a leading signatory on the letter and credited her for the idea.
When asked if she would like to be a signatory, Ms Perham told her MP:
"I know I’m probably one of the lucky ones to be able to use some of - not all of the modern technology - but l also know there are an awful lot of us older generation that don’t.
"I think that giving some sort of free time on the phone would be of a benefit to them in order to contact family, who might also be experiencing financial hardship at this time and trying to be careful with money. This is especially important when living in a rural area as we do in the far north of Scotland.
"We all need to be looking out for each other at this time and if this achieves a result then l know that with your help we have helped someone somewhere."
Before sending the letter, Mr Stone said
"Calling elderly family and friends to see how they are is seriously important because, sadly, a lot of people are fearful right now. Not in any way to underestimate the absolute danger or coronavirus, but all of us have a duty to cheer each other up. I rang my old auntie on Sunday last, and she told me that was all part and parcel of winning the 1939-45 war. She should know. She’s 88."
"With 2 million pensioners living in poverty and so many more at risk due to this crisis, it is our responsibility as a nation to make sure we’re not isolating this vulnerable population even further.”
“Happy Hour calls will help older people to stay in touch with their loved ones and avoid loneliness during this global crisis. Alleviating just this little bit of financial pressure could make all the difference to someone struggling with loneliness right now."