Alistair Carmichael, Northern Isles MP, has today challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd, over the policy decision to only accept applications for universal credit online. The challenge came after recent research from Which?, that showed that Orkney had once again received the worst internet speeds in the country, with Shetland in second bottom place.
In the letter, Mr. Carmichael said:
“As you are no doubt aware, increasing amounts of work done by your department requires forms to be completed online including, in particular, Universal Credit. I have, for some time, been concerned by this change due to poor broadband availability in my constituency. Which? have recently published new independent research, which confirms the poor quality of broadband in the Northern Isles, and lays bare the challenge of accessing online only services in remote rural communities. In Orkney broadband median speeds are just 3Mbps, with the Shetland figure barely better at just 6.7Mbps.”
Commenting, Mr. Carmichael said:
“Access to public services must be universal. To move services online when much of the country, and nowhere more so than Orkney and Shetland, cannot access reliable broadband is wrong.
“The Government is constantly talking about ‘joined up Government’ and so I am surprised that the Department for Work and Pensions is moving increasing numbers of benefits online only, like Universal Credit, without waiting for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport to finish their roll out of reliable universal broadband.
“Amber Rudd should look again at the strategy of pushing more benefits online until the roll-out of broadband is complete, and every eligible person can access these important services.”