Scottish Referendum

The Elderly & Benefits

Francis Maude-Cabinet Office Minister Tells Elderly to Go on-Line or Lose Your Benefits

1. The elderly will soon have to have to go on online or risk losing access to key government services.
2. Refuseniks, who do not want to use computers will be able to apply for a one-off lesson to help them get on to the internet.
3. In future the Government will only make services available over the internet, in the same way an airline sells tickets.
4. Ministers are migrating dozens of public services onto the internet, including the carers’ allowance, (used by 3.2million carers a year), the small claims service, and Lasting Powers of Attorney, (which allow families to take control of a loved one’s financial affairs).

The comments were greeted with dismay by groups representing the estimated five million pensioners in their 80s and 90s who have never been on the internet.

Mr Maude was unveiling figures to an audience of civil servants at the Treasury showing the billions saved by the Government by moving Government services online. Asked by the Telegraph if all Government services would be online at some stage, he said: “Our point is that everything that can be delivered online, should be delivered online and only online.” He added: “There are some things that are physical and can’t be online. The key point is that like airlines, airlines do everything that is not physical, is not about actually flying the aeroplanes online, which is better for them and better for the passenger.”

1. Dot Gibson, general secretary of the, “National Pensioners’ Convention”, said: “The move towards largely digital only services could pose a huge problem for millions of older people. Over five million of today’s pensioners have never been online, and this is particularly true for those who are at the upper end of the pensioner age group, in their 80s or 90s. “It’s also a problem for poorer pensioners who may not be able to afford a computer and the other equipment needed. Fundamentally there’s an information gap that the government are creating. “Just because someone uses the computer now, doesn’t mean they will want to when they are 85. The idea that we all have to be digital citizens or else we end up as second-class citizens is wrong.”

2. Lisa Harris, Saga’s communications manager, said: “It is somewhat disingenuous to assume that everybody wants to be online. Recent research shows that the vast majority of those that are not online have made a conscious choice not to be. “To say that all ‘old’ people should be online and all they need is a little mollycoddling is somewhat patronising. “Government needs ensure that people have proper protection online, such as ensuring banks and financial institutions treat those who make genuine mistakes fairly, but also provide help and advice for those that want it. “It is essential that people are able to deal with public services in a way that suits them. The digital tide is certainly turning, but Government need to ensure we can all ride the technology wave and not leave some left to drown unaided because they don’t choose to ‘conform’.”


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