The single biggest change in the coalition government’s welfare reform programme is the introduction of Universal Credit. The new system will involve a number of changes for claimants – including the provision that making and managing benefit claims will be done online. While this clearly has the potential to simplify the administration of the benefits system the government has recognized. that help will need to be provided for those who cannot use the Internet. In its Support Framework document, it has said:
A survey of existing claimants found 78% already use the Internet, although only a small proportion yet use it to make benefit transactions. However, we recognize that some will need help
In order to ascertain the scale of assistance which will be required locally a survey was carried out among clients attending at or telephoning Citizens Advice bureaux across West Surrey. The survey sought to estimate the proportion of people in the area who would be likely to require help to complete and manage benefits claims on line. The 637 respondents who took part were asked to complete a short questionnaire during phone calls and visits made to bureaux in Woking, Guildford, Camberley, Ash and Waverley in February 2013
What we found:
i) 17% of the adults who took part had never used the Internet. This compares with the 16.1% reported by the Office of National Statistics as being the proportion nationally in the first quarter of 2012.
ii) The CAB survey went further and sought to establish the proportion of respondents who had low Internet use capability based on frequency of use and confidence in their own ability. 21% were rated as “low” capability.
iii) 42% of respondents were benefits claimants. 27.4% of these benefits claimants had never used the Internet. However the proportion of benefits claimants with a low Internet ability rating (and therefore requiring assistance) was 32.7%
iv) The 55-64 age group contained the highest number of respondents with low Internet capability
i) Although a significant number of adults in West Surrey have used the Internet many are still likely to require assistance with making and managing benefits claims on line
ii) Any assessment of the help required by on-line benefits claimants purely based on whether people have or have not used the Internet will significantly underestimate the scale of the need
iii) Almost a third of benefits claimants could require help with making and managing claims on line.
Read the full report Claiming Without Confidence;Internet Access for Universal Credit Claims