The Internet has opened a plethora of opportunities. Yet, as financial and public services continue to move online, there is a significant group of people who remain shut out. Digital and financial exclusion are intrinsically linked, and this lack of Internet access means many lose out on the best deals and struggle to access the essential public and financial services they need.
New figures released today from a survey of 1,210 CAP clients show that one in five (22%) in financial difficulty do not have access to the Internet. This is twice the national average. For these individuals, public services are failing to plug the gap. Only 23% of those without the Internet at home or on a smartphone use a library or another public service to get online. For many in financial difficulty the Internet is unaffordable, but low digital capability and concerns about data security also contribute to digital exclusion.
Internet access has transitioned from being a luxury to a necessity. Without Internet access, it is much more difficult to compare interest rates, find out about bank accounts or apply for benefits. This is particularly relevant to Universal Credit. As the roll out of this ‘digital by default’ service reaches 1.1 million claims, these figures remind us of the importance of allowing consumers flexibility in how they access essential services.
At CAP we see these issues causing difficulties in the lives of our clients, for instance Clive who needed help to apply for his Universal Credit online. His claim was subsequently cancelled because he could not check his online account frequently enough and missed an appointment he was only notified about online. This left him without income for a further six weeks while he restarted his claim. It is integral that digital inclusion is a key consideration in policy design.
With the growth of Fintech and other online financial services, adding digital exclusion to the mix risks exacerbating the problem further for those already financially excluded. As this digital landscape continues to evolve and more services migrate online, we need to remain mindful of those who remain offline and ensure non-digital channels continue to remain open and functioning.
Read CAP’s Offline and shut out briefing here. (Link to: capuk.org/offlineandshutout)
CAP is a nationally recognised charity offering free, face-to-face debt help, including a home visiting and a full debt management service. They also provide financial education, job clubs and support for those with life-controlling dependencies.