West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has led a debate in Parliament about loneliness in vulnerable people. 

Mr Thomas’ speech focused on how elderly and vulnerable people are at particular risk of loneliness because they are less likely to be online.   

He demanded action from the government to ensure that all services are available for those without the internet. 

Access to cash is protected for those who do not bank online, through post offices and banking hubs; 

The Post Office network is supported, especially by the renewal of the contract to provide DVLA services; and GPs provide face-to-face appointments for patients. 

Mr Thomas said: “As we race towards a potentially digital-only platform, it is our job, and the government’s job, to pause and ask who will miss out or be left behind, and to ensure that does not happen. As I have said, my main concern is those whose loneliness and isolation can be completely avoided if we get this right.”   

Mr Thomas challenged ministers to look at the successful campaign to prevent the closure of ticket offices.   

The concern about how elderly and vulnerable people would cope if all ticket sales were online or through a machine persuaded the government to ask train operators to withdraw their proposals.  

Mr Thomas said: “I want the Department for Transport’s example to be followed by all departments, and I ask the minister to take a lead on that.  

“We have protected elderly people who cannot navigate the internet but want to navigate a journey to see friends or relatives; now we need to help them to navigate their day-to-day lives.” 

The minister replying to the debate, Stuart Andrew, a minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the “Minister for Loneliness,” promised to take Mr Thomas’ concerns forward. 

He said: “We are continuing to work closely with stakeholders to understand the challenges that digital inclusion presents, and I will raise the matter with my colleagues to consider how the services we provide can be more mindful of those challenges. 

 “I have brought together ministers from 11 different departments, and we will continue to work closely so that we do not lose momentum, but do everything we can to tackle loneliness in this country.” 

Mr Thomas said: “I was pleased to be able to bring this debate, especially at this time of year.   

“Christmas can feel more lonely than any other time of the year for those without friends and family nearby. 

 “We know that loneliness is as big a risk to health as smoking, and I wanted to urge the government to take action on loneliness with as much vigour as Rishi Sunak is taking on smoking. 

 “I was also able to highlight some of the excellent work done by voluntary organisations in the constituency to combat loneliness among older people – especially Chris Goninan and the Penwith 50+ Forum, which celebrated 20 years of helping older people this year.”