SDLP Social Development Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has expressed his concerns that Universal Credit will be administered largely on the internet.
Mr. Durkan was speaking following the publication of research which suggests that there are significant numbers of people in Northern Ireland, including those in social housing, who do not have regular access to the world wide web:
I am deeply concerned that people will face obstacles to accessing Universal Credit given that it will be administered largely on the internet.
Recent research demonstrates that many people living in Northern Ireland do not use the worldwide web never mind have regular access to it. London has 88% of people using the internet while Northern Ireland has only 77%.
There are additional barriers for people in rural areas in Northern Ireland who do not always have good access or connectivity to the internet. Furthermore seven out of ten people living in social housing do not have access at all to the internet.
It is imperative that applicants for Universal credit are not discriminated against because they don’t have the means to access the internet.
The government has suggested they will offer assistance and train applicants who are seeking Universal Credit. However there can be no substitute for front-line services which will support and explain the process to applicants in a clear way.
It may also be useful for people to make their applications in a community context where they feel more comfortable, this could be in their local library community or church groups. This requires proper funding.
Those people who are already deeply concerned about the changes Welfare Reform will bring need reassurance that they can access Universal Credit in as straightforward and simple way as possible.
SDLP Press Office 028 9052 1364
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