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Dave2019

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  1. I haven't received a bill since I got their letter in December, but the next bill I get, I should be able to pay it.
  2. I am with Severn Trent Water, and over several years I have managed to build up arrears of nearly £1,400. I'm in my late sixties, I live in social housing, and receive the State pension plus pension credit. Last December, I got a letter from them saying they were preparing to take this to the County Court. I asked them to provide me with copies of all the relevant bills, and I found them to add up to the figure they were claiming. I checked if any of the debt was over six years old and might therefore be statute-barred, but it wasn't. I was fairly sure I'd got letters from debt collection agencies about the arrears, so I wrote to ask if any of them had been 'sold on', but they assured me they hadn't. I should point out here that throughout our correspo0ndence, Severn Trent has been very fair and understanding - I really can't fault them on this. I've looked into the possibility of clearing the debt with a Debt Relief Order, and from what I've read on the CAB's website, it seems I'd qualify (though I realise that I'd have to go to a CAB centre and discuss it with a volunteer to be certain). What I'd prefer to do, however, would be to seek a Full and Final Settlement. This is where I need advice, as I have no idea what figure a utility company like Severn Trent would consider. I can get hold of £450, but that's slightly less than a third, and they might see that as derisory. I might in time be able to find some more, but I want to get this thing out of the way ASAP, as it's already dragged on for nearly six months (and I have to say, Severn Trent has shown commendable patience ). So, can anyone give me an idea of what proportion of a debt a utility company is prepared to accept as a Full and Final Settlement? Thank you.
  3. Hi everyone Yesterday I got an email from the councillor I'd first contacted, asking me if things had improved. I thought I'd show you all my reply: "Thank you very much for contacting me. Unfortunately, my original message to you achieved absolutely nothing (though I'm sure you did your best). I have made further efforts to fix this problem, but to no avail, and it has got to the point where I feel I'm just talking to myself. I contacted the Worcester News and they ran an article, but when they approached Platform Housing, its response was totally unhelpful. I contacted my MP, Harriett Baldwin, but she got the same unhelpful response when she approached them. I then emailed Elizabeth Froude, Platform's CEO, but she did not reply. I emailed her again, with the same result. Platform is simply refusing to enter into any dialogue whatsoever. Its chief excuse regarding this change to our computer setup is that they want to protect residents' information, but I am deeply sceptical about this, because for one thing, they actually removed residents' long-standing protection a long time before they made this change. When I first came to The Firs, anyone who wanted a private account on the computer could have one: this meant that when you switched the computer on, you saw several icons with usernames beside them, you clicked on yours, then put in your own unique password to get into the computer. If you needed to save the odd file, this was in your account only, behind that password an inaccessible to other residents. But a couple of years ago, this was all changed: suddenly there were no private accounts, and not even a password to get onto the computer. If you saved a file, it was there for all to see, so you had to remember to copy it onto a USB stick then delete it from the computer, or just download the information directly onto the USB stick from the Web. But if you wanted your information secure, that was no problem. But now they've locked us out of the computer with Kiosk Mode in the name of security, and as you can see from what I've just written, it appears to be a bogus excuse. Platform has supplied a printer, but it's useless to us. There's no paper, we don't even know if there's ink, and worst of all, there's no way of knowing how it interfaces with the present setup of the computer. If I wanted to print out an email right now, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to do it, and I'm one of the most computer-savvy people here. The other problems persist: 1) No copying and pasting. If I wanted to insert a link into this email, it would be impossible. I'm going to give you a link to a Platform Housing publication later on, but the only reason I'll be able to do it is because I've borrowed someone's laptop to write this message. 2) No ad-blocker. The Chrome browser had an ad-blocker that worked fine, but now they've switched us to the Edge browser, we're plagued with ads. Some websites are almost unusable. The Daily Mail and Guardian, for instance, are full of animated popups that distract the eye, and the Mail has so many ads, the whole screen jumps up and down as the ads load, for minutes on end. Youtube videos are interrupted ever couple of minutes or so. The thing is, Edge has its own ad-blocker, made by Microsoft, but Platform will not enable it, and we can't enable it ourselves, as all controls are locked away from us. I've asked Platform to enable it, but just got a flat refusal. 3) We still can't upload anything from outside the computer. For instance, if I were seeking your help on a matter that was affecting my health, and I needed to show you a letter from my GP, until recently that would have been easy: just scan it, put in onto a USB stick, write an email to you and attach the letter. Now, that is simply impossible. One very important thing to note is that in its treatment of Firs residents, Platform Housing is going against everything it claims to stand for when it comes to digital inclusion for its tenants. Here is a pdf of its 'mission statement' (which, I should remind you, I could not even link you to using the Firs computer): https://www.platformhg.com/download.cfm?doc=docm93jijm4n6904.pdf&ver=10036 Its treatment of Firs residents renders this publication meaningless. I hope you will contact Platform again and try to get its staff to engage with us. Thank you." I copied Platform Housing's CEO into the message. Probably won't do any good, but it's made me feel that at least I'm trying.
  4. As suggested, I've just emailed my MP again. Here's the message: "Dear Ms Baldwin I am sorry to be writing to you a third time about this problem, but Platform Housing is just completely ignoring it: Elizabeth Froud, the CEO, will not even reply to my emails. One thing I feel I must point out is that Platform appears to be deliberately ignoring all its stated aims with regard to digital inclusion when it comes to the way Firs residents are being treated. It has published a mission statement titled 'Customer and Community Engagement Strategy', which can be seen online. It discusses its aims with regard to digital inclusion in considerable detail, but it would appear that in its treatment of Firs residents, it is flouting all of those aims. I will give some examples: On page 2: Its strategy identifies what it refers to as 'six themes that will support us in our journey to become a truly modern housing association'. Two it has clearly failed with in this present case are 'Our Customers' and 'Digital and Intelligence', as it failed to consult/notify its elderly residents of the changes to the computer and did not offer any support in the way of training to get used to this new system. On Page 4: It has failed in what it terms its 'People Values', as it never consulted/notified those tenants affected nor offered any training support to date, and when complained about has basically given the same unhelpful response: it has digitally excluding elderly residents without giving any good reason for doing so. The document states "We say what we’ll do and then we do it. We listen, understand and are empowered to make decisions". No, they don't listen. it says, "We are connected, collaborative and in it together. We want everyone to reach their potential and be the best they can be. We actively support each other to make this happen." in view of the way they are treating Firs residents, this is plain insulting. it says, "We are curious and courageous. We look for better ways to do things..." Better ways? Depriving elderly people of something they enjoyed for over 10 years? Page 10: It says "We will work closely with partners to support and influence community investment as we work to digital inclusion". They're doing the opposite with Firs residents. Page 12: It mentions its 'Digital4Everyone Programme', described as "training, help-centres, specialist training, better broadband in rural and digitally isolated areas " They appear to be doing the very opposite when it comes to Firs residents. It says, "We recognise that the availability of digital equipment, skills and abilities remain a barrier for some customers and in turn impacts their ability to access an increasingly wide range of services such as health, banking and leisure, as well as our own." This totally contradicts what Platform Housing is doing to Firs residents. Page 14: It says, "we will support the delivery of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy to encourage diverse representation in opportunities for customers to co-create and influence the services we provide". There is very little equality and inclusion if poorer tenants are excluded from a vital facility like the Internet. To put it plainly, in treating Firs residents this way, Platform Housing appears to be just throwing away a lot of the values it claims to espouse, and what is worse, it seems perfectly happy to do so. In spite of all its stated aims, all it has done for us at The Firs has been to effectively remove a facility we enjoyed without any problems for over ten years. It claims we can use the new setup to do the same things we were able to do with the old one, but it will not show us how to do this. It appears to be treating us with utter disdain. With the greatest of respect, Ms Baldwin, if you are to help us in this, you will need to do more than simply accept Platform Housing's excuses for why it is treating us this way. This is an important matter. As you know, access to the digital world is becoming more and more essential every day, and people without such access are rapidly becoming side-lined by Society. For this reason it is simply wrong for Platform to shut us out of the one communal portal to the Internet that we have. Whatever Platform Housing is telling you, the way it is actually treating us is unacceptable. Yours sincerely" Don't think it'll do much good, but you have to try these things.
  5. Once again, thankyou to everyone for your support. I've just sent an email to the newspaper, incorporating most of Stu's ideas. Here it is: "Dear Ms Preece I am afraid I only found your email notifying me about the news article a couple of days ago, which is why I have not replied until now. The article is just about perfect, and expresses the situation fully, but unfortunately, Platform Housing's response can only be described as 'fobbing you off'. It is wholly misleading. For this reason, I would be grateful if you would read what I have to say here then consider doing a follow-up article. I can assure you of my full cooperation. As an example of Platform's (in my opinion) disingenuous attitude, I will quote what it told you about the printer: "There are no files stored locally on the computer for safety reasons, a printer is present at this site and documents can be printed using it". That is utterly misleading. What happened was, when I complained, a few days later, a printer appeared next to the computer. It doesn't have any paper, and I don't know if it has ink or not. You can switch it on, but that's all. It appears to be plugged in and physically connected (ie: there's a lead running to the PC), but there's no way of knowing even if it has been installed, because everything on the PC to do with printing has been locked out. There's just the Internet and nothing else. I think I know more about computers than most people my age, but I certainly can't figure out how to print a document with this setup. And how can you get a document onto the PC in order to print it? You can't - the PC won't allow you to transfer any files onto it. You can only print stuff that is already on the Internet, and even that is not really feasible, as 'copy' and 'paste' doesn't work anymore. Worst of all, Platform just put this printer there, with no explanation, and appears to be totally unwilling to send someone from IT to show us, a bunch of pensioners, how to figure out how to use it. I also don't buy what they say about no files being stored on the PC 'for safety reasons'. For one thing, Firs residents hardly ever stored anything on the PC after the housing association did away with separate accounts and anyone could see what you stored there. The few times I stored a bit of text there when I'd forgotten to bring a USB stick, I noticed my file was usually the only one. The other thing is that it isn't about storing files on the PC - it's about putting them on in order to attaching them to emails, print them, etc. There are a number of other facts here that shows Platform Housing's apparent disdain for Firs residents: 1. The residents of the Firs were never consulted nor informed of these changes taking place to the computer : we had used it under the previous setup for over 10 years, and these are drastic changes. 2. We have been offered no assistance in the way of computer training for this new system therefore I feel we have been digitally excluded by Platform Housing. 4. I believe Platform Housing has breached its own policy by treating Firs residents this way. I would like to refer to Platform Housing Group Customer and Community Engagement Strategy 2021-2026 (see link below to download the PDF) https://www.platformhg.com/search?term=Customer+and+Community+Engagement+Strategy+2021-2026&search=Search&searchType=all Page 2: Their strategy identifies what it refers to as 'six themes that will support us in our journey to become a truly modern housing association'. Two it has clearly failed with in this present case are 'Our Customers' and 'Digital and Intelligence', as it failed to consult/notify its elderly resident of the changes to the computer nor offer any support in the way of training to get used to this new system. Page 4: It has failed in what it terms its 'People Values', as it never consulted/notified those tenants affected nor offered any training support to date, and when complained about has basically given the same unhelpful response: it has digitally excluding elderly residents without giving any good reason for doing so. The document states "We say what we’ll do and then we do it. We listen, understand and are empowered to make decisions". No, they don't listen. it says, "We are connected, collaborative and in it together. We want everyone to reach their potential and be the best they can be. We actively support each other to make this happen." in view of the way they are treating Firs residents, this is plain insulting. it says, "We are curious and courageous. We look for better ways to do things..." Better ways? Depriving elderly people of something they enjoyed for over 10 years? Page 10: It says "We will work closely with partners to support and influence community investment as we work to digital inclusion". They're doing the opposite with Firs residents. Page 12: It mentions its 'Digital4Everyone Programme', described as "training, help-centres, specialist training, better broadband in rural and digitally isolated areas ". They appear to be doing the very opposite when it comes to Firs residents. It says, "We recognise that the availability of digital equipment, skills and abilities remain a barrier for some customers and in turn impacts their ability to access an increasingly wide range of services such as health, banking and leisure, as well as our own." This totally contradicts what Platform Housing is doing to Firs residents. Page 14: It says, "we will support the delivery of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy to encourage diverse representation in opportunities for customers to co-create and influence the services we provide". There is very little equality and inclusion if poorer tenants are excluded from a vital facility like the Internet. To put it plainly, in treating us this way, Platform Housing appears to be just throwing away a lot of the values it claims to espouse, and what is worse, it seems perfectly happy to do so. This is what I hope your newspaper will look into this matter again. Yours sincerely" They might do a follow-up, you never know.
  6. Hi Since everyone here has been so helpful, I thought I'd bring you up to date. The detailed email I sent to Platform Housing's CEO that can be seen in post #56? She just ignored it. No reply. I sent a reminder a while later, but she ignored that as well. They've just stopped talking to me about the problem. I said I'd spoken to someone from my local newspaper, the Worcester News. I thought they weren't going to cover the story, but I found out later that they did. Here's the article: "A TECH savvy older man is having to take buses into the city centre to add email attachments after restraints were put on residents' internet access. [MY NAME], 68, claims he and other residents at The Firs in Kempsey are unable to send emails, download attachments or have free computer usage. He is having to travel into the city centre and visit The Hive's computers just to attach a document to an email. He explained that in the last couple of months, Platform Housing has put the shared computer on to kiosk mode which prevents residents from properly using the internet. [MY NAME] said: "Originally, any resident who wanted an account on the computer could have one. You would log in with a private password and could do anything you wanted on the computer. Around six weeks ago suddenly Platform Housing put it into kiosk mode." Kiosk mode only allows one application to run at a time and limits people's full use of the internet. [MY NAME]and other residents are unable to send emails, download attachments or have entirely free computer usage. [MY NAME] added: "The feeling is that they won't trust us with anything. We are not teenagers, we are people in our 60s, 70s and 80s we can be trusted to operate the computer and not abuse it. It feels like they have locked us out - they have digitally excluded us. It makes life very difficult. In our village, we are not served well by public transport. If I want to attach a file to an email I have to take the bus to Worcester library and use one of their machines." A spokesperson from Platform Housing said: "The computer equipment at The Firs is set in line with equipment at other Platform Housing sites at installation to ensure misuse or downloading of files for safety reasons. These computers are provided as a shared resource for our residents to use for safe internet browsing. There are no files stored locally on the computer for safety reasons, a printer is present at this site and documents can be printed using it." I won't comment except to say that the bit about the printer is rubbish. They did put a printer bedside the PC, but since we're locked out of the files part of the PC, I can't even ascertain if it's actually installed. There's no paper, and no-one has told us how to print a file using Kiosk mode. The only step I can take now is the Housing Ombudsman, but judging from its rating on Trustpilot and Google Reviews, there's probably no point. This organisation seems to have the attitude of 'they're just social tenants with no power, so we can treat them as we like'.
  7. Original poster here. Just bringing things up to date. On April 15th I emailed Platform Housing's CEO with the message you can see in post #52. She has not replied yet, even though I sent her a reminder. I then emailed my MP, Harriett Baldwin, with more or less the same message. She contacted Platform Housing and forwarded this reply from them. "The PC is in kiosk mode, not only to protect the Group but also protect the tenants and their data. I understand that this has not been the case in the past, but recent innovations in Cyber Security for the wrong reasons have led us to install such a set up in all our schemes, which has proved to be quite popular, extremely secure and easily accessed and as previously mentioned, the device is a communal device that is owned by Platform Housing Group and we need to ensure that anyone using the PC has their personal data protected at all times. Cyber security is very important to us and running the PC in kiosk mode is one of the ways to minimize the risk of anyone's personal data being exposed to somebody else, it also minimizes the risk of the PC being infected with a virus, ransomware or any other similar threat that may put anyone at risk. There are also further implications for Platform to consider should a data leak arise, the ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty (CMP) on a data controller of up to £17million (20m Euro) or 4% of global turnover. Microsoft edge allows you to view your emails and your cloud drive documents such as OneDrive or Google Cloud which negates the need to store documents on unencrypted memory sticks, this poses another risk altogether around data leak should the USB device be lost. The chances of the computer being infected under the new set up with a virus are very low compared to the old set up, we wouldn't have to build it from scratch, here we can simply re-create the user profiles, we understand that Kiosk mode does have some limitations and copying and paste is one of them, however this is in the interest of protecting the user, Platform and the PC. I would re-iterate that cloud storage is far safer; it's encrypted, clear audits are done on files with proper change control, zero chance of corruption as opposed to uncontrolled data that can reside on a memory stick which can be lost in most cases. I hope this helps - I am happy to answer any further queries if required. Kind Regards, Mohammed Zabir — Director of Technology and Delivery" This has not helped at all: we still can't do the things we could before they changed things on the computer, and basically, Mr Zabir appears to be saying 'everything's fine'. So this morning I emailed Harriett Baldwin again with this: "Dear Ms Baldwin I sent the email below to you on April 3rd, and received a letter from you in response yesterday. This letter contained a message from Mohammed Zabir, Director of Technology and Delivery, which purported to address my concerns, but as far as I can see, it does not. I had hoped my writing to you would solve the problem, but I find we are no further forward. I think it best to begin by commenting on what Mr Zabir wrote: He claims that tenants' being able to store our data on USB sticks threatens the security of their data, as they may lose the stick. But surely, that is up to the tenant. Platform should not prevent a tenant storing their data on a USB stick just in case he or she loses it. Nr Zabir also does not address the fact that we can no longer upload anything from a USB stick. I will give you an example of the inconvenience this causes. Recently, I had to email a scan of a document from my GP. Before this change, it would have been easy: put it on a USB stick, take it to the communal computer and attach it to the email. But instead, I had to take my USB stick into Worcester, get onto a computer at The Hive, and attach it to the email there. Buses from Kempsey to Worcester are very infrequent: if you need to use an OAP pass, there is only the 10.20am, 12,20pm, 2.40pm, 3.50pm and 5.20pm. Buses back are just as infrequent. This means that if you just want to send an email attachment, you have to waste perhaps half a day doing it. This issue of USB sticks also seems to be a case of 'one hand not knowing what the other is doing', as what Mr Zabir says directly contradicts what Platform's IT department told me in a letter dated March 15th: "Anyone using it [ie: the computer] should be attaching/saving stored files on a USB device". So do they want us to use USB sticks or not? Here is another example of how this change has affected us. Some of us use the computer to book flights, and the airline sends you boarding passes, which of course are essential. If like me, and some other tenants, you do not have a smartphone to display the pass at the airport, you need a printed version. In the past, this was easy; just put the pdf file on a USB stick and take it to a printer. But now, it is impossible. Mr Zabir suggests that it is possible to get around such problems by transferring such a file to websites like OneDrive or Google Cloud, but there are major problems here: 1) We're OAP's and not very computer savvy. I for one do not know how to use OneDrive or Google Cloud on this computer, or even if it's possible. If I had an email attachment like a boarding pass, and wanted to print it out, I would not have the faintest idea of how to use this computer in conjunction with those two websites to do this. As far as I know, there is only one person at The Firs who could figure out how to do it, and he has his own broadband so he never uses this computer. 2) Even if we could figure out how to use those websites to print stuff, we would need a printer. Platform did deliver a printer, but did not give us any clue on how to use it: we just came in one day and found it there. It has no paper, we don't even know if if has any ink, and worst of all, there seems to be no way of knowing if it interfaces with the computer at all. Year ago, the computer had a printer, but when it wore out, it was not replaced. It was easy to use it: if you wanted to print a document, you went to 'My Computer', then 'My Documents', clicked on the document the clicked 'print'. But all of that has been locked away from us now the computer is in Kiosk Mode. 3) The change to the computer has been a major one, and virtually nothing we could do before is now possible now. It might be possible to do them in a different way, but we can't figure out how to do it ( I know more about IT than almost anyone at The Firs, and it defeats me). If we are to adapt to this major change, we need training from Platform Housing, but we're getting none. As I mentioned before, it did not even warn us about the change, or consult us, and it certainly shows no sign of offering to train us to use the new system. They do not appear willing to address even the simplest of these problems. I will mention two: 1) Being able to copy and paste text and links is a crucially important part of using the Internet, but we can't do it anymore. This has nothing to do with Kiosk mode, it's just that there is a fault in the way the computer is configured. Platform Housing has promised to fix this, but weeks have gone by and nothing has been done. 2) When we had Chrome, it had its own ad-blocker, but now, we are plagued with distracting animated pop-ups. Some websites have so many, it is very difficult to use them. Edge has its own ad-blocker which can be enabled in seconds, but we the tenants cannot do it because we are locked out of all settings, and Platform Housing refuses to enable it . When I complained, all I got back was a letter saying, "We're under no obligation to provide this particular facility". When I first came to The Firs, it was run by a HA called Elgar Housing. It offered training courses in computing, and if we had any problems with using this computer, or did not know how to do a particular thing on it, IT staff were willing to come here and actually 'walk us through' how to do things. There were even notices on the wall of the computer room urging us to get training to use the Internet. But now, with Platform Housing, everything has changed. I will finish by saying that I strongly suspect that Platform Housing is no longer even prepared to have a dialogue with us about this problem. I say this because I emailed its CEO, Elizabeth Froude, describing the problem in detail, and though I sent the email on April 15th, I have not as yet received a reply. Despite what Platform Housing claims, I maintain that we at The Firs are largely (though admittedly no entirely) digitally excluded. If you read Platform's Customer and Community Engagement Strategy (available online) you will see that it expresses various aims regarding tenants' access to digital technology, and I would suggest that with us at The Firs, it is almost completely failing in these aims. I realise how busy you are, Ms Baldwin, but I hope you will appreciate that we at The Firs are elderly social tenants, that some of us cannot afford private access to the Internet, and that we live in a rather isolated rural situation. I am sure you will therefore see how vital the one computer we have here is us, and how severely this change is affecting us. Yours sincerely" I'd appreciate people's opinions on this. I'm sorry that this post is so long, but this is what tends to happen when you're in a long-running situation like this. In order to get Mr Zabir's message and my message to my MP into this post, I had to take a bus into town. I think this is a ridiculous situation.
  8. Stu007 kindly suggested a message I could send them, so I based my latest message partly on those suggestions. It's a bit long, but I can't really help that. I get a bit shirty towards the end, but that's just the way I'm feeling about the way we're being treated. Anyway, here it is: "Thank you for your email; unfortunately, I have not found it very helpful, and it has just added further issues to this matter that I must make you aware of. I think it best if I describe the present position we Firs residents are in with respect to this computer: 1) We used to be able to download files, place them on a USB stick and take them away to be (a) stored on our own devices and (b) print them. You said Platform would solve the printing problem by installing a printer, and while this has been done, the result has been useless to us. One day, we found a printer beside a computer, but it is no good to us at all: it has no paper, we do not know if it has any ink, and none of us can figure out whether it is even possible to print anything from the computer on it. We have been given NO training on how to use it, and were not even told it was being installed. 2) Since the change, many if not most websites have lots of annoying animated popups, and Youtube videos are interrupted with ads every few minutes, now that Chrome with its adblock extension are gone. Edge has its own adblocker, but it is in Settings, and we have been locked out of Settings. It would be an easy matter to enable Edge's adblocker but your IT department's response in a letter to me just said 'even our staff computers have ads' - something I find hard to believe when this computer had been free of them for years. 3) To use the Internet effectively, you must be able to copy and paste both text and links, but Platform has now made this impossible. Now, if we wanted to put a link into an email or forum post, we would have to type the URL in manually; this is unworkable with most URLs because they can consist of dozens of letters, numbers and symbols. 4) Youtube no longer works properly. In addition to those intrusive ads, if we select 'full screen', this locks us out of the rest of the Internet: though we can restore the standard view using the F5 key, there is now no access to the rest of the browser, so the only way to access any other website is to restart the computer. 5) Anyone should be allowed to download data such as emails and store it physically in their own home, on their own device. No one should have to depend on storing everything in 'The Cloud'. Many of us worry about the security of our data when it is 'out there' on the Internet, and feel that the only certain way of safeguarding it is to have it on our own device, in our own home. I feel this should be our right, yet it is now being denied to us, even though there were no problems with our doing this in the 12 years I have been here. 6) Though this change to Kiosk mode has been a major one, we were not consulted about it, and we have been given NO assistance in the form of training on how to adapt to it. I will sum up by saying that we residents have in effect been digitally excluded by Platform Housing. You say in your email that once we get used to this new setup, we will find that, in your words, 'the functionality is exactly the same'. This is manifestly untrue. I cannot speak for others at The Firs, but speaking for myself, I have to say that in my opinion Platform's attitude to us in this matter has been uncaring and disrespectful,. Platform knows perfectly well that digital exclusion is a big problem in both the poor and the elderly, and that it is a problem that can only grow as the Internet plays an increasingly important role in everyday life. Yet despite all this, Platform has taken away most of the functionality of the only computer we can use to access the Internet, without telling us, or asking about our feelings on the matter, or offering training on how to adapt to the change. I think many if not most people, on being told that a housing association had completely changed the way tenants can use a scheme's computer, in a housing scheme exclusively occupied by elderly people, the least 'computer savvy' part of the population, and were also told that this housing association had not even consulted them or offered any help with adapting to the new setup, they would be incredulous. I look forward to your response." I'd appreciate people's opinions on this. Thanks.
  9. OP here. Have just found their 'manifesto' on digital inclusion. Will attach it here if my ancient tablet and my supermarket's Wi-Fi allows: Customer-and-Community-Engagement-Strategy-2021-2026.pdf gy-2021-2026.pdfCustomer-and-Community-Engagement-Strategy-2021-2026.pdfCustomer-and-Community-Engagement-Strategy-2021-2026.pdf
  10. Original poster here. I thought I'd bring people up to date on this. I'd contacted my local newspaper, and a report did phone me and ask me about the problem. I told her everything as carefully as I could, and said I'd be more than willing to be interviewed. She said she'd contact the HA, but I've heard nothing since. My guess is that whoever she spoke to convinced her I was a 'vexatious complainant' (my HA is fond of using that term) and that's cwhy the reporter has just dropped the story. I have just go an email from the CEO, but I don't find it satisfactory at all, and I'm not even sure I believe what she's saying. Here it is: "I trust you are keeping well and believe we have also had a similar enquiry from your local Councillor, so thought I would write to clarify the situation regarding the computer at The Firs. The computer was actually replaced last October, when the last one died. There are routine upgrades done to all Platform computers usually for security reasons. The changes you have noticed on it’s operating systems and the shift to Kiosk mode are for exactly that reason, to keep the computer and our residents personal data safe and secure. Google Chrome will no longer be supported as a product from January next year and since June last year is only getting “necessary “ maintenance by Google. So like you we are all having to move over to Edge as our new browser, although you will find once you get used to it the functionality is exactly the same as Chrome. So we cannot go backwards and re-instal a product which is going to become a security risk soon. Regarding the ability to print documents from your mail box. Whilst USB drives are equally a security risk, to help with this the IT team are shortly due to instal a printer to the computer to allow direct printing of anything you should need. With direct access to the internet you should be able to access your mailbox and any online storage to allow you to send documents to yourself from the internet. I have asked the IT team to verify if any of our settings are preventing you copying URL’s to other platforms as this is not a standard setting and it has not come up before. If there is something preventing this which is unique to The Firs it will be removed I hope you will see that this is for the safety and security of all at The Firs and Platform, which becomes ever more important every day. Regards Elizabeth" She seems to be saying that this is all to do with safeguarding residents' personal data, but I feel certain that this could have been done without locking us out of the computer. I got a letter a while ago on this subject, and they don't even seem to be telling the truth about ad-blockers. I'd told them that we had the adblock extension on Chrome, but now, there were popups all over the place. They replied that even their staff computers don't block ads. I think that's disingenuous - I've just looked on Google, and Edge has its own adblocker - you don't even have to use a third-party program. But to activate it, you need to go to Settings, and Settings has been locked out. I think what is upsetting me the most is that they're treating us like children - I think they could easily fix it so we could download stuff, store things on the PC itself, and use USB sticks, without compromising security. After all, this was the case for at least the last 12 years. But instead they seem to have the attitude of 'don't let the tenants do any more than WE think they should be allowed to do'. It's an attitude that pervades this organisation. If the local newspaper won't run a story, the only other thing I can think to do will be to go to the Housing Ombudsman.
  11. I did write to my local newspaper (the Worcester News) about this, but did not even get a reply. I tried again this morning - here is the message, with names redacted: "Dear Ms [NAME] I saw from your newspaper's website that you cover consumer affairs, so I believe you are the most appropriate reporter for this story; if not, could you please forward it to a colleague? It concerns my housing association, [NAME], and the way it has excluded me and other elderly tenants from having proper access to the Internet, without consulting us. I live in a multi-occupied housing scheme called [NAME]. Ever since I came here, we have had a communal PC connected to the Internet, and we could use it to do anything one would normally need to do. There were never any problems with this. However, a few weeks ago, without telling us, [NAME] reconfigured the PC so that now we can do virtually nothing with it. I have made valiant attempts to engage [NAME] about this, but to no avail: I cannot get a sensible answer from them. As you no doubt know from your consumer affairs reporting, digital exclusion is an important issue, and I believe the elderly, and those who are isolated by their rural location, can be affected by this more than most people. Here we have 45 homes, all with elderly people in them, in a village that is poorly served by public transport, yet our landlord has for all practical purposes revoked our access to the Internet without even consulting us, and so far, has refused to let us have it back. I think this is a matter that should be covered by your newspaper. If you wish to speak to me, you would be more than welcome. Yours sincerely" Frankly, I don't expect a reply to this message either, because for some reason, this newspaper appears to hate printing anything my housing association would object to. My MP seems too close to the HA for comfort as well: if it opens a new housing scheme, she's there in the newspaper posing with the CEO, all smiles. That is why I wish there was something in housing law I could argue, because I'd be willing to go to Court, even as a Litigant In Person, to get this organisation to behave properly.
  12. Thanks. The thing is, I've already sent it. What should I do? Should I send a shorter one?
  13. Original poster here. Once again, I want to thank everyone for their help. I thought I should do an update. The big problem here is that my housing association has only one attitude and that is: 'We decide what the tenants get, and if they disagree, hard luck'. For this reason, the only hope we have of getting our computer back to a usable state is if we involve an outside party, so the other day, I emailed my MP. I'd really appreciate people's opinions on this email. I've redacted it as necessary: "Dear X I would appreciate your help with a problem I and other tenants at [name of housing scheme], are having with our housing provider [name of housing association], concerning our communal computer. Ours is a scheme of 45 flats, and we share one computer (it isn't really enough, but that is another matter). As we are social tenants, many of us are not financially well off, and cannot afford broadband in our homes, or a smartphone with a broadband contract, so we have to rely on this one computer. Ever since I came here in 2010 until recently, there have been no problems with this. The computer was set up so that each tenant could have their own private account, accessed by their own password. This meant that if you needed to download a file from the Internet, or paste text from a website into a text editor like Notepad and then just store it in your account, you could. It also meant that if you needed to send someone a document via email, you could put it on a USB stick and upload it, and if someone sent you a document, you could download it onto a USB stick for safekeeping. It also meant you could print things, by saving the document to a USB stick and finding a tenant with a printer (I used to use this all the time, as I have a very old computer that has a printer - though I can't afford to have broadband). You could save 'bookmarks' for favourite websites as well. But a few weeks ago, without any warning, and without consulting any of the tenants, the housing association suddenly changed everything. We switched it on one morning to find that the browser was now Microsoft Edge - not a problem in itself - but also that it had been configured into 'Kiosk Mode'. This means that the housing association has in effect locked us out of the computer. In Kiosk mode, you can look at stuff on the Web, and send and receive emails, but that is all. You cannot attach documents to emails or download documents. You cannot download anything from the Internet. You cannot get a document from the Internet to print it elsewhere. You cannot even copy and paste within the browser, which makes using the Internet very difficult. For instance, when I looked up your email, I would normally have just copied and pasted into this message, but instead I had to copy it by hand. A web forum is helping me with this matter and I will be pasting this email into a post (redacting all names, of course). Before, it would just take minutes, but now, I will have to go into town and get onto a computer at the library to do this. It also means that if you want to paste a URL into a forum post, the only thing you can do it type out the URL manually, and the URL for some web pages can consist of dozens of letters, numbers and symbols. Platform claims the change is to protect tenants' security, but I doubt this: in all the years the old system was in operation, I never heard of any tenant having a problem with security. There has only been one instance of a virus getting onto the computer, and that was from someone going to an infected website, which could happen under this new system as well. Another problem is that whereas Google Chrome had its own ad-blocker, Edge on this computer does not (Edge does have its own an ad-blocker, but it is an 'add-on', and though it would take only minutes to add it, the IT department will not. I could do it myself, but everything to do with configuring Edge is locked away from us tenants). This means that viewing some website, like those of the Independent or the Guardian, is hardly worth the trouble - you just get animated pop-ups everywhere, and every Youtube video is interrupted every three minutes or so. Platform told me that we could solve the problem of not being able to download documents to a USB stick by saving them to The Cloud, but some of us, me included, hate the idea of our information being stored somewhere on the Internet, out of our control. I for one prefer to store it in my home, and this was simple until our housing association changed everything. I know a fair amount about computers, and I can say with confidence that it would be perfectly possible for the housing association to change things back to how they were without putting anyone at risk. The only change that needs to stay is the Edge browser, as Chrome will soon not be supported, but otherwise, it could all go back with what we were used to, and what we have been using without any problems for at least the last 12 years. I am sure you will have seen that, with every year that passes, access to the Internet becomes more and more important; it is approaching a point where normal life without such access will be difficult or impossible. As such, what is being called 'digital exclusion' is becoming a major concern, and nowhere is such exclusion more prevalent than in elderly social tenants, especially those who, like us at [name of housing scheme], are also physically isolated because of our rural location. I myself do not have a car, and there are quite a few other tenants like me, and since the bus service was drastically cut back to one bus every two hours, our dependence on proper Internet access is even more important. I would therefore say that when it comes to tackling digital exclusion, Platform is seriously failing to meet a proper standard of service, and its locking us all out of the computer was a totally unacceptable thing to do. I have tried discussing this with the housing association but have got nowhere. One of our local councillors approached the housing association on our behalf but judging from his reply to me, he got the same result. I am therefore asking you to ask the housing association either to change things back to how they were or else give you a good reason why this cannot be done. Thank you." Yours sincerely" Not sure if this will do any good, as our MP is sort of hand in glove with this housing association, and will probably make just a token effort, but I can't think of anything else to do. I just wish we had some sort of legal redress.
  14. Once again, my thanks for everyone helping me here. There is one important fact that just occurred to me this morning - it had clean slipped my mind. Although we've had the same computer for at least 12 years, it used to be configured very differently. For years, every tenant had their own private account if they wanted one. This meant that when you switched the computer on, you got a screen with a list of tenants, each one with an 'avatar' just to the left of the name (if they wanted an avatar). You clicked on your name, then put in your own indidivual password, to gain access to the computer. This meant you could store files securely, you could have your own set of bookmarks for the Internet, and so on. But then they changed it so there was only one password to access the computer, and no individual accounts at all, which meant that if you downloaded an email or created a text file and forgot to copy it to a USB stick then erase it from the computer, anyone could see it. Then they changed it again: now, there's no password: you switch on the computer and up pops Google.
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