Universal benefits, but not universal access?

The following information has just been emailed to all councillors out by a national organisation and should make us all elected members pause for thought. I agree completely with the government’s wish to see the benefits system reformed and the cost of it brought under control. I also believe that it is fundamentally wrong that somebody should be able to collect more money in benefits than they get from full time employment.

However, given the figures below, introducing a system that relies so heavily on Internet access seems like it is going to come with some significant problems for those who will be relying on it for their basic needs.

“The introduction of Universal Credit is less than 18 months away.

The Government says it will be delivered over the internet but the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that at Quarter 4, 2011

· 1 in 6 adults – 8.2 million adults in the UK – have never used the internet
· 4.85 million women and 3.36 million men have never used the internet
· 3.98 million disabled adults have never used the internet
· 8.1 per cent of adults earning less than £200/week have never used the internet

The absence of a local service could have major implications for your constituents. They may be unable to access their tax credits and benefits.”