How much does the internet feature in your life?

We are asking for your help to try and estimate how many of us who cannot or will not use the Internet. Here’s why.

Some of us use the Internet a lot – for buying goods and services, communicating with friends, downloading games, films and music and even meeting potential life partners. Others manage to avoid having anything to do with it. Love it or hate it no one can deny the impact it continues to have on our lives.

National and Local Government are also keen to make use of the Internet as a way of managing the services which they provide. Universal Credit is a typical example. What is Universal Credit? It is a new system for managing benefits and will affect millions of people as it is introduced over the next few years (starting in April 2013). It should be simpler and cheaper to run. It is also heavily reliant on claims being made online. The government has indicated that help will be provided for those who cannot use the Internet for do not have access to it by means of a telephone service and possibly high street outlets although details of what these might be are sketchy.

Citizens Advice bureaux around the country anticipate that they will be called upon to play a part in helping those who cannot or are unable to use the Internet to manage their claims. We believe it is important to ascertain how many people are likely to require assistance. Here are a few facts about Internet use across the country from the ONS (Office for National Statistics)

  • In the first quarter of 2012 there were 8.12 million adults in the UK who had never used the Internet representing 16.1 per cent of the adult population.
  • Of those who have not accessed the Internet 9.1% are in the 45-54 age group 18% in the 55-64 age group and 38% in the 65-74 age
  • In the first quarter of 2012, there were 4.04 million disabled adults (36.4%), who had never used the Internet. In other words half of the 8.12 million adults who had never used the Internet.
  • The 2011 ONS survey reported that of the 5.7 million households that are without an internet connection 21 per cent stated that lack of skills prevented them from getting the Internet.

This suggests that the most vulnerable in society comprises the highest proportion of those who do not have access to the Internet for whatever reason.

Citizens Advice Waverley is leading an initiative among bureaux across Surrey to try and estimate the proportion of people locally who are not able to access online services without assistance. People calling or visiting bureaux will be asked to complete a short questionnaire. This will be entirely voluntary and anonymous. It will ask questions to establish age group, frequency of Internet use (if at all), ability to do things like filling forms online, disability, benefits and postcode.

We believe we will be able to make use of this information to advise National and Local Government of the extent to which provision will have to be made in the services they manage and provide for those who live outside the online world. If you would like to take part in the survey, please contact Farnham CAB on 01252 728127

If you are comfortable using the Internet and require advice regarding benefits housing, legal matters, discrimination, employment, immigration or consumer issues, please have a look at AdviceGuide, the Citizens Advice self help web site (www.adviceguide.org.uk) or try the Citizens Advice Waverley web site (see www.waverleycab.org.uk). If you prefer the sound of a human voice or a face to face interview please call the Waverley help line on 0844 848 7969.

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