UNIversal credit was a supposed flagship reform of the benefits system.
It was a system in dire need of simplification, and it brought together a number of benefits into one monthly payment. But it has been dogged by failures and criticisms and now a report to Leeds City Council points out that this benefit, which came into force here for all claimants in autumn last year, is failing those who are not computer literate. Claims must be made using a computer and some claimants don’t have the skills to make the claim - let alone to maintain their claim and navigate the complexities of the system.
It means on IT alone the system is failing those which it set out to support. Digital skills are not a luxury, they are a necessity.
Leeds is fast becoming the second city for technological and digital innovation and will need a workforce to fulfill its potential for growth. We need to ensure its people are digitally adept, not just so that they can access the help they need now but so that they have the skills to earn their wages in the future.
It’s fundamental. Without it the gap between the technically savvy ‘haves’, and the analogue ‘have-nots’ will grow ever wider. Not only are there social issues which come with such a divide but it risks the city not realising its full economic digital potential, as it won’t have the workforce to service the potential growth.