'People could get more benefits' after Universal Credit digital rollout

By Danny Palmer
04 Feb 2014 View Comments

The Department for Work and Pension's Universal Credit programme could make it easier for people to receive benefits, according to Helen Milner, CEO of Tinder Foundation, a charity that aims to teach people the digital skills they require to take advantage of an increasingly online world with its "Learn My Way" programme.

Among other things, the group operates in deprived areas beyond the "digital divide" where people have limited understanding or limited access to computers and the internet.

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But when Universal Credit rolls out its online platform, Milner believes that so long as people receive the right help and instructions to use the service, many, especially pensioners, could find themselves receiving more benefits from government.

"I hope that when Universal Credit is rolled out that people get the support that they need," Milner told Computing.

"It's inevitably going to be quite a complex service, so it's not going to be like paying for your TV licence, it's going to be quite a complicated thing you're going to be expected to do."

However, the Tinder Foundation is working to help those who are less computer literate to ensure they have the digital skills required to fill out online forms correctly.

"It's that combination of getting help to fill the form in correctly, to declare what you need to declare, along with the digital skills needed, so it's going to be a combination of advice and digital skills."

Milner argued that if users are digitally literate, and the DWP website is set up in the right way, then people could find that through applying for benefits online, they could find themselves better off.

"There's a lot of people who don't get all the benefits they could get now," she said. "If it's all online and all clearly explained to you for you to apply for, maybe people could get more benefits that they're entitled to that they're not claiming right now."

"Things like pension credits are quite under-subscribed. So older people who might get housing benefit and get state pension, you would hope the online system will put pension credit right in front of them and they could apply for it," Milner added.

Universal Credit is scheduled to rollout by 2017, but a number of high profile IT project failures have led to accusations that the project is over budget and behind schedule.

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