Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Its all going online!

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  April 19, 2013 |

Universal Credit is the first public benefit that everyone will have to access via the internet...

Online at Leeds GATE...it will bring in some big financial and practical changes to so many people’s lives when it is fully introduced next year.  One less talked about part of this, though of likely huge impact to the Gypsy and Traveller community, is the move online.  By that I mean that if you want to do anything with those benefits which come under Universal Credit (most things outside pensions and disability) then you will have to do so using the internet.

In practice, making new claims, reporting changes of circumstances or simply seeking information about these benefits are all expected to be carried out almost exclusively online, by setting up and managing a web based account.  For many, this might not represent a huge obstacle, those who have regular internet access and are comfortable in navigating online, doing so for work or pleasure most days.  However, for many vulnerable groups who have a much lower internet use or access, which definitely includes Gypsies and Travellers, the move will not be so simple.

At GATE we are looking into which members use the internet and how they do so.  If not, we would like to know why and how they would prefer to deal with the upcoming Universal Credit online challenge.  At current, the Government’s clear preference is to help people get online, as opposed to making exceptions or exemptions.  Whilst a phoneline will be maintained to carry out benefit related tasks, there is little secret that this is to be of a limited nature and may charge.  In short, it will be a lot more complicated and probably more expensive if you don’t manage your Universal Credit account online.

Our concern is that those unable or, for understandable reasons, unwilling to manage an online account will find themselves receiving a second rate service.  They will not be able to keep as close an eye on their account, making changes will take longer and being able to make complaints or appeals will also likely be more complicated.  We are therefore anxious to challenge the Government’s apparent assumption that most people are, or can be, online without difficulty. At the same time though, we do wish to make positive steps to ensure that those currently offline, are supported to get access to and learn about using the internet so that they can be prepared for this change.

By understanding what the obstacles are, getting access to a PC, knowing how to use the internet or perhaps fears over online security, we will hopefully be better able to help overcome these. We also want to know how people prefer to use the internet, whether at a laptop at home, a PC at GATE or, as appears increasingly the case, using a smartphone. With this information we will be able to best tailor any support or training GATE can provide, or seek out, for our members to help them manage their Universal Credit accounts as well as other online tasks.

In the coming weeks we will be asking people to participate in a short questionnaire and hope that as many people as possible will take part. Anyone who is interested in this or simply has any other comments or questions about getting online then please get in touch.

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