back to article UK digi exclusion: Poor families without internet access could 'miss out' on child tax credit

Brits who aren't online but are entitled to access to the Tory-led Coalition government's childcare tax break could lose out, it has been reported. According to the Independent on Sunday, which was handed a leaked letter to MPs from Exchequer Secretary Priti Patel, up to 200,000 families could be affected when the new tax is …

  1. Dan Watson

    No transition?

    Would it not make more sense to first introduce the ability to claim online before forcing everyone to use it?

    Currently you can't even download the form, you have to phone up.

    I'd also be interested to see how many eligible people even understand the bloody tax credit system. Everytime I use their calculator I get a different amount out of it. So my application is very much an 'apply and see' application.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: No transition?

      They withdrew the ability to claim online due to them getting lots of fraudulent applications. You just end needed someone else's details and your own bank details, and you got lots of free money.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about Public Libraries?

    Don't these count as access to the intenet?

    As for the 6% who have never used the internet. So What?

    My 92yr old mother has never used it. I offered her a tablet but she really wasn't interested. There are others of her generation have the same attitude.

    1. Chris G

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      It's 13% not 6%, why should those who are already possibly disadvantaged be forced to go looking to use the public library?

      My father is not interested, has emphysaemia and lives some distance from his local library, not that he is about to go and claim a tax allowance for child support. Presumably HMRC are about to go totally online so anyone needing to claim anything will need access.

      I always like the way HMRC or whatever it's current incarnation has been has always decided what is best for it rather than the population it is supposed to serve.

      Civil Service? Not civil and not serving too much!

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Civil Service? Not civil and not serving too much!

        Not their choice, I'm afraid. 'Digital Inclusion' is just a way for this government to sack Civil Servants. Making it harder to get access to benefits is just a bonus.

        1. BearishTendencies

          Re: Civil Service? Not civil and not serving too much!

          You misunderstand.

          It's a way to sack Civil Servants who actually help the public and instead employ Hoxton hipsters at GDS to reskin a website for the millionth time.

          YAY! GO GDS!

          1. Frankee Llonnygog

            Re: Civil Service? Not civil and not serving too much!

            Thumbs up for dissing GDS - ( Government Digital Soya-latte )

            1. BearishTendencies

              Re: Civil Service? Not civil and not serving too much!

              I do a good assassination too on the pointlessness of the leadership of Crown Commercial Service too if you're up for it.....

              Like 'free' Extended Support* for XP (but only if you sign up for a Premier Support agreement that you never had nor needed......) YAY! GO CCS!

              *I don't have a problem with a deal being done for XP but I do have beef with saying the cost is £5m. It's a lot more than that. And now you've got people onto Premier Support, how many will stay with it indefinitely?

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      Public Libraries are under threat in many parts of the country, and despite their legal obligations to maintain a comprehensive service, a lot of councils are cutting them, or handing them over to teams of volunteers (because who needs librarians, eh?).

      So, for many people, there may not be a convenient library - and that will be particularly true in rural areas.

      Even if there is, a lot of people may not be very keen on having to sit on at a screen in a public place where they could be overlooked, filling in details of their family's financial circumstances. That will be a situation that's exacerbated for those with poor IT skills, who may need someone to help them through the process.

      Yes, doing government online can save money - but it should never be the only way, otherwise, as hear, some of those who most need help will end up being unable to access it adequately. And when that happens, it seems to me that it's less a way of making government more efficient and more a way of further inconveniencing the less well off so that others can be bought off with tax cuts from the 'savings' come election time.

    3. Da Weezil

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      Would these be the same public libraries that are facing cut backs and closures due to the current austerity regime?

      That would be about right for UK politicians, a lack of joined up thinking - or a devious way to dis-enfranchise the lower orders even further.

    4. Peter Stone

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      "...As for the 6% who have never used the internet. So What?

      My 92yr old mother has never used it. I offered her a tablet but she really wasn't interested. There are others of her generation have the same attitude...."

      I'm now a volunteer for AgeUK, & I teach computing to the older person, (my translation), & I have to say that there is a large waiting list for the course. In many cases, these are people who have never even used a keyboard before, never mind a computer. I will admit that for some, the motivation is for services like Skype, to allow them to keep in touch with their with extended families, for others it merely seems to be a way to keep the lump of grey matter on their shoulders exercised. the oldest person I've had on the course was slightly younger than your mother at 89 - 91, & they were using an iPad, (bought before they had attended the course, & I had advised them on what to purchase).

      With regard to public libraries, The times, when out of work I used them to fill in on-line job applications, I was usually frustrated at some point, by incompatible browser software or connection problems. Not to mention access time restrictions.

    5. Tom 7

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      My local library charges to use the internet. Not much but if I was to travel to the library I'd need a bus or parking (well both its a long way to the nearest bus stop) and would be well out of pocket at the end of the deal.

      For the money the fuckwits who 'write' these systems get paid we could just give the less well off the money instead.

    6. John Tserkezis

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      "Don't these count as access to the intenet?"

      Have you actually BEEN to your local library? Round here, you'll need to stand in line to get a 15 mintute stab at it. That's not even long enough to download your porn. The humanity!

    7. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about Public Libraries?

      My 92yr old mother has never used it.

      Blimey, if she's applying for child tax credits, she either sprightly old girl or a master con-artist.

  3. gerryg

    Just a thought

    When everyone has finished working out the ways this won't work, the requirement to do stuff on line might provide a reason to keep libraries open.

    And while we can talk about a "Tory-led" coalition, those Labour party supporters that want to use any stick to beat the drum should remember the stick (doing it all online) was fashioned by the previous Labour-led government.

  4. cantankerous swineherd

    this is where nudge turns into coercion. thanks MLF.

  5. JassMan

    About time they told the truth

    Unless you are a personal friend of an MP or live in a million pound mansion, you are no longer entitled to any government handouts. Obviously the more money you have got the more they are prepared to give you.

    On a more serious note, shouldn't they at least have ensured that the internet is available in 100% of the countryside. Otherwise it conflicts with the plan to get all the poor out of the towns and cities so that they are out of sight out of mind.

  6. Gray

    Deliberate bottleneck

    Not much of a mystery, really. Here in the US the situation is pretty much the same: overcrowded library computer access; restrictive software, limited hours; travel distance; etc. Plus there's a rather shameless tactic: the closing of smaller rural offices and facilities in favor of consolidation into large urban centers. With an almost total lack of public transportation between rural towns and large cities, the "clients" must either drive or be driven, and have money for gas/meals/lodging.

    It's all very convenient in the name of "efficiency" for the state & federal government, but in truth it's a thinly disguised means of restricting access to qualify for benefits. That, plus the multi-page application form issued with instructions to return it "another day," and of course, there are errors found, again with instruction to return "another day," and so on. The miracle of the internet is simply that this game of delay and evasion now happens at light speed.

  7. truetalk

    no friends with any computer literacy ?

    Maybe I'm being cold hearted but I thought everybody knew at least somebody that has access to a computer/smartphone/tablet. Maybe I live in a different world but when somebody needs help and asks for it, people are usually more than willing to help. Especially when it comes to computers there are plenty of people to offer help & advice. I haven't looked but surely there is a charity that gives away used Linux PC's to the needy complete with an hour of training. Maybe the government should give free internet access for those that can't afford it. A bit like a free TV licence that the elderly get.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: no friends with any computer literacy ?

      I see your point but it's not simply a case of having access. It's also understanding that they need access and what they can do with it.

      Imagine a seventy year old widow living alone up the top of one of the Yorkshire Dales, or even someone on the rimward edge of the Llyn Peninsula who can't speak English. The first thing they have to comprehend is that they have to go 'online'.

      Most of these people that I meet simply don't understand the concept of 'online' at all. I have elderly relatives who are a little fortunate in that they can speak some English but to them and their friends this 'online' is something to do with the television, isn't it?

      They're used to writing letters in longhand, or even typing it them out on a portable typewriter with carbon paper for copies, when they are dealing with official bodies and their communication, either via phone (which won't be a tone dialling handset either but will, confusingly have buttons) or it's by letter.

      These are the sort of people which won't understand what an internet is, why they should be on it and when they get to a neighbour's house who may have a PlayStation know what to do next.

      As usual, this is an ill-thought out policy made my people in offices who make all the wrong assumptions. And they do this time and time again.

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: no friends with any computer literacy ?

      "Maybe I'm being cold hearted ..."

      I was tempted to say "No maybe about it", but as I read further, it became clear that you are not. You believe in community and people helping each other - good on you. However, as the first reply to you says, there are a lot of people who don't have friends, or language skills, or any support at all. You aren't cold-hearted - you just don't have experience of just how isolated a lot of people are.

    3. Gray

      Re: no friends with any computer literacy ?

      There are usually any number of good people willing to help with computer problems for elderly neighbors and friends ... but that's just the barest surface of the problem. First thing comes to mind, how about internet access? Here in the US, that is a major expense, easily costing $90/month for broadband. And in a great many rural areas broadband access is not available except as a poor compromise with satellite beaming ... more expensive, slower, and problematic.

      Unless ... is your Gov there in Blighty dishing out free broadband for the elderly/poor citizens?

    4. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: no friends with any computer literacy ?

      For some people, this sort of thing is as embarrassing as having to say to a friend "Can I borrow your computer to look up STD clinics? I've got this discharge..."

      They who would simply die of mortification if they thought that their friends would know they have to apply for tax credits.

      There is a large number of people eligible for various benefits who don't claim them, for a variety of reasons. I think we should be trying to help those people more, not adding "can't afford a computer" to the list of reasons.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Bunbury

    Poor policy approach

    Rather than introducing 'online only' for a single benefit a government should set a general access policy for all interactions with government. Otherwise, when other departments decide "postal only", "libraries only", "benefit office only", "Magic word only", etc. citizens have to have access to ALL mechanisms.

    Narrow thinking of this nature creates significant inefficiencies. For example, if you are unemployed in my area you have to physically attend an office in a town 10 miles away every two weeks on a specified time and day. There are no direct public transport links, so that's a lengthy journey there and back. When you get there, a jobsworth asks you if you've looked for work and you tell them two methods of doing so. They don't check. They get upset if you don't attend (for example if you've found some work that day) and seem to automatically stop your benefits for two weeks, prompting an hours call to sort it out, at your cost. There is, of course, absolutely no help given to actually find work.

    The whole system seems to be a complete waste of time, as they don't check that you are looking for work. So why not either allow this to be done online (people can type as well as speak) or on the phone or even not at all. I'm tempted to say sack the jobsworths and sell the building though aI suspect stopping them being an ineffective policing function and starting them helping to marry people with appropriate jobs would be better.

    1. ScottAS2

      Re: Poor policy approach

      You're under the quaint and old-fashioned impression that the people at the Job Centre are there to get people jobs. They're not: they're there to get people off benefits. This sounds like it ought to be the same in practice, but since it's a lot easier to sanction someone - thus getting them off benefits and chalking up a "success" - than it is to find them a job, guess what the system has become geared up to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poor policy approach

        Sadly, I agree. Getting people off benefits a way to reduce unemployment (because if they're not claiming they're not unemployed, you see) and it looks good for the politicians.

        AC because my wife, for whom I care for full time, was one of these 'benefit scroungers' who is unable to work because of a disease which is attacking every tendon and ligament in her body and thus is unable to do things for herself. And she's only just turned fifty and has been a nurse in the NHS and in the TA so she's done her bit for society.

        In a few moments I will have to get her up, bathe her, dress her and help feed her breakfast. She can't do it herself as she will be in so much pain. Afterwards she's going to have to decide whether to stand, sit or lie down for the next hour or so (and then decide each hour afterwards) because of one of these three may be less painful than any of the others.

        She may wish to go out to the garden to feed the birds. I will have to support her walking. If she wants to go anywhere I have to be there with her. I can't leave her alone for a moment if she wishes to move anywhere, even if it's to the next room.

        But the good news is that she's fit for work.

  9. truetalk

    Assisted digital support.

    For those that are unable or incapable of using the internet "assisted digital support" is available which according to this government document "should" provide in person visits to home or hospital to help somebody fill in the online forms. As to whether assisted digital support is appropriately funded & provided by HMRC that's another question.

  10. Rol

    Social Internet workers?

    If you have communication difficulties due to a mental/physical health problem you will most probably have been assigned a social worker, who will help fill out all your forms, claim for the benefits you are entitled to and set your life to some semblance of bearable.

    If the same criteria of communication difficulty was applied to those who cannot get online for whatever reason, then shouldn't the state be looking to assign a "Social Internet Worker" who could phone or visit with a dongled laptop to help smooth the way?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Social Internet workers?

      No. You will only be assigned a Social Worker for disability if you are found to be disabled by ATOS. Once ATOS have decided that you are a benefits scrounger and fit for work then Social Services will not be involved any more and you will be well and truly on your own.

      I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly. But, alas, the Real World is slightly different and not so caring.

  11. F0rdPrefect

    ATOS got dumped in March and "Disabilities Minister Mike Penning said a new company would be appointed in early 2015"

    Until then go whistle?

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