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Citizens Advice Bureau’s concern over online benefit forms
SERIOUS concerns have been raised by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) over new, online-only benefit application forms.
A report released this week by the CAB found that one in four people did not have access to the internet – meaning one in three people in the York area could have difficulty applying for benefits they are entitled to.
Under current plans by the Department of Work and Pensions, claimants must use the internet to complete the application form, then will receive a text message with the time and date of an appointment with an advisor, before receiving an email to confirm the level of benefits they will receive.
The Access Denied report found 31 per cent of under-65s and 70 per cent of over-65s do not use the internet, while more than a third of people surveyed said they had previously filled in benefit forms themselves, but would be unable to do so with online forms.
The report said: “Digital welfare services effectively places an internet barrier between these people in desperate need of benefits and the benefits to which they are entitled.
“Urgent action needs to be taken now, before online Universal Credit is rolled out further beyond the current, very limited pathfinder projects.”
It also claimed that 41 per cent of under-25s only access the internet from a mobile phone, which would make filling in benefit forms, which can run to tens of pages in length, very difficult and potentially not secure.
Concerns were also raised about the duration of the application process, which takes between 20 and 40 minutes. In North Yorkshire, free internet access is limited to 30 minutes, with every half hour after that costing between £1 and £2.
The report recommended “personal face-to-face contact” for claimants, “locally based, free access to the internet”, and “financial support to help people get online”, with funding coming from the Government to make sure the new system is usable.
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