S4M-05655: UK Government’s Digital Benefits Push

That the Parliament expresses concern at the findings of the report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), Voices From the Frontline, Digital by Default, which has been published in response to the UK Government’s digital strategy; understands that the strategy aims for 80% of benefits applications to be completed online by 2017; notes that the report states that CAS “is concerned that a digital by default approach to welfare benefits could exclude some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society from accessing the very services they rely upon”; understands that the report cites numerous examples of job seekers without access to computers or the internet who have faced difficulties applying for benefits and who, despite applying for work in writing and by telephone, have received sanctions from their Job Centre for not doing so online; believes that the UK Government needs to recognise that, while the internet can be a hugely important resource for job seekers, it is not reasonable to expect everyone to have the level of skills, ability or access required; notes that, in 2009-10, the Scottish Household Survey estimated that a third of homes do not have internet access, dropping to less than half of households on an annual income of less than £15,000; considers that computers and internet access are a significant expense for unemployed people already trying to budget on benefits that are not rising in line with inflation, and further expresses concern at the impact of library closures, in light of councils withdrawing services under what it sees as the UK Government’s austerity drive, on people who can only access the internet using these services.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Bill Kidd, Kenneth Gibson, Mike MacKenzie, Colin Beattie, David Torrance, Gil Paterson, Dennis Robertson, Stuart McMillan, Christine Grahame, Colin Keir, Dave Thompson, Sandra White, Nigel Don

Date Lodged: 18/02/2013

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