New data has shown almost half a million people needed help to apply for the government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit online, HuffPost UK can reveal.
The Universal Credit system is the first of its scale to be rolled out by government through an online-only application system.
But the IT-only model has prompted fears that people who do not have a computer or smart phone, or who are not IT literate, will be excluded.
Now, a Freedom of Information request by HuffPost UK has shown 462,000 people required help from friends, family, the Job Centre or a charity to apply.
The data shows the difficulties some are having with the online-only system and has led to concerns that genuine claimants may be blocked from applying.
Rachel Gregory, of the debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), told HuffPost UK: “The question we ask is: how many more are out there who haven’t completed their applications because they had no help?”
The figures revealing the scale of difficulties come after the government on Monday admitted its flagship welfare reform was to blame for soaring food bank use, despite years of denying this was the case.
To obtain the data HuffPost UK asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) how many people had answered “yes” to a question on the online application form asking: “Did anyone help you make your claim - for example a family member, friend, or someone from the Job Centre or a charity.”
The figures shows 2,000 people answered yes in December 2016, 85,000 in 2017 and 375,000 in 2018 - taking the total to 462,000.
The numbers equate to 22% of the total digital applications for 2017 (380,000) and for 2018 (1.71million).
The steep increase in figures from 2016 to 2018 reflects the increasing numbers of people claiming Universal Credit as the system roll-out has accelerated.
The charity CAP, which is based in Bradford and works with people across the country, says IT and internet access is a problem for many it has contact...