Political correspondent

SEVEN out of ten benefits claimants in the most deprived communities on Glasgow can’t use the internet to apply for benefits a survey has found.

A shift towards on-line and digital services is one of the key justifications for the DWP plan to shut half of Glasgow’s Jobcentres.

The Government says more people are choosing to access job seeking opportunities though the internet leading to a fall in the numbers using Jobcentres for services other than to sign on, reducing the need for on-site services.

However research shows that in Glasgow, and particularly the poorest areas where unemployment is highest, there is a lower rate of internet access.

People are also less confident in their ability to use the internet to apply for benefits or to apply for jobs.

A study by Citizens Advice Scotland of almost 1000 people, many in the very areas where the Jobcentre closures are proposed, shows that many people lack the equipment or the knowledge and skills required to access DWP services or search for jobs on-line.

The study ‘Internet Access in Glasgow’s Deprived Areas’ shows a glaring gap in the picture painted by the DWP about a digital based benefits and job seeking system and the reality in the poorest parts of Glasgow where many of the Jobcentre closures are targeted.

Citizens advice Scotland said in the report: “The scale of the challenge is illustrated by the amount of respondents who were unable to use the internet due to lack of access or skills.”

It found 42% of respondents had never used the internet and only just over a quarter used it often.

Almost have did not have a computer or an internet connection at home.

There were 35% who said they were unable to use a computer at all.

Seven out of ten who were benefits claimants said they would be unable or would need help to claim benefits online.

The CAB said that forcing people out of Jobcentres and onto digital services will require investment to improve access and skills and without it make life harder for many benefit claimants in the poorset parts of Glasgow.

The report stated: “Strategies such as ‘Digital by default’ are inevitably going to result in hardship and a widening of the digital divide.”

Frank Mosson, Manager of the CAB at Bridgeton, said internet access did not necessarily mean a computer or laptop at home.

He said: “People may have mobile phones and internet access through that but that is not enough. “Try filling in a benefit claim form or job application on your mobile phone.”

He said some people are sent to use computers at a library but said there is a strict time limit for using the computers which sees people’s applications timed out.