Pensioners are warned: Learn the Internet or lose your benefits

Francis Maude: He's very nearly a pensioner himself. Perhaps that's why he doesn't like them.

If spared, when I become a pensioner I will vote in every election I can; as a person who no longer makes any direct contribution to the national economy it will be the only way I can exert any influence.

Of course I won’t be voting for anyone whose policies seek to reduce my influence even further – say, by cutting my state-apportioned income, thereby making it harder for me to pay my bills and buy the things I like to buy (which thereby influences the economy. If relatively poor people like me don’t get to show retailers what we like, they’ll simply look to those who do have money – the ever-increasingly rich – and will tailor the market to suit those people and their price points; I will be priced out of the market).

Francis Maude seems to have forgotten this. He has decided that pensioners need to learn how to use government-run Internet sites in order to gain access to crucial services in the future.

Not for them the simple pleasure of spending their dotage playing the latest iteration of Farmville on Facebook, or Angry Birds, or the current ‘Waste-Your-Time-Saga’ – no!

If they want to make sure the right person gets lasting power of attorney over them, if they become mentally or physically incapacitated, or if they want to claim Carer’s Allowance, or for who-knows-what other service, they’ll have to learn how to log in “because we think that is a better thing for people’s lives,” according to Mr Maude.

Note the lack of any evidence base for this claim. And whose lives will be better as a result? The rich taxpayers who won’t be footing the bill for expensive pensioner services because poor granny or granddad can’t figure out how to claim them anymore? (Note: The experience of Universal Jobmatch shows that government websites are notoriously bad at providing helpful information and good at exploiting their users. Indeed, if Jobmatch is any yardstick, we may have an entire generation of geriatric pole-dancers and prostitutes in our collective future.)

But fear not! Help is at hand. According to the Telegraph: “Mr Maude said that online ‘refuseniks’,” – you see, he already has the derogatory nickname ready – “who did not want to use computers would be able to apply for a one-off lesson … to help them get on to the internet.”

“A one-off lesson”? Doesn’t Mr Maude understand that learning becomes much harder as people become older? The article goes on to say that there are an estimated five million people in their 80s and 90s who have never used the Internet. It’s a little late for them to start now!

Come to think of it, Mr Maude’s a bit long-in-the-fang himself – but these creatures never consider how they might cope with what they’re imposing on others. He won’t have to – he’s rich. He’ll have someone else to do it for him.

Poorer pensioners are unlikely even to be able to afford a computer, let alone learn how to use it. Mr Maude is deliberately setting them up to lose their statutory services.

His excuse will be that the services are there but people aren’t bothering to use them.

What a verminous rat.

It seems a strange way to treat the section of the electorate that has been most useful to Conservatives. Pensioners are the most faithful voters, and many of them have been faithful to the Conservative Party more than others, believing the Tories have treated them well.

Mr Maude has no intention of treating pensioners well.

The Conservative Party now wishes to stab the elderly in the back (metaphorically, if not literally, but the effect will be the same: Poorer pensioners will be sent to an early grave. This will further skew the apportionment of the national pension fund, into which we all pay. Even now, affluent pensioners receive more from the fund because their longer lives give them more opportunity to draw money out; under this scheme, there will be even fewer poor pensioners and they will die sooner).

Returning to the point made at the start of this article: When I am a pensioner I will most assuredly vote in every election I can – and I’ll be voting against the Tories.

Can I rely on every current pensioner to do the same?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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50 thoughts on “Pensioners are warned: Learn the Internet or lose your benefits

  1. hstorm

    Maude has taken a big step towards alienating a key part of the Tory vote with this move. A lot of the older generation vote Conservative, and they won’t be happy when the anti-benefits erosion really starts to hit them directly.

    1. paulette

      whose going o pay for the broadband provider. I couldnt afford it as a pensioner.. only have access because I live with my daughter.. on my own it would be impossible to eat heat and use internet.. .

  2. Niki

    We all make contributions even if we don’t pay income tax. The PTBs ignore it, but we do, in fact we spend a bigger proportion of our income on VAT than richer people.

    I can’t imagine my Gran having been able to fill out forms on the Internet, she struggled to do so on paper. She was just capable of writing the odd email. And she was well off, intelligent, well educated and determined.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      for clarity: My point was that, with less money, pensioners will have less opportunity to make those contributions and therefore less of a voice.

      1. concernedkev

        Your comment put me in mind of a young lad in Ireland in the early 90s he was claiming welfare as he was unemployed and an old guy remarked on his lack of contribution and he held up his pint and said ” I might with out a job but I still pay tax on this and all the other things I buy. If we do not purchase then someone will be out of a job. I purchase council services through council tax, energy, food ,clothing, diesel, garage services etc etc. I am a pensioner I contribute and I am still useful to my fellow humans I hope. Lecture over Kevin

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        But if the government changes the system so that you can’t have as much money to pay for all those things, won’t your contribution drop?

    2. Florence

      Totally agree. My in-laws just getting to the point where they’re loosing sight, losing strength, onset of dementia, getting frail. Only mother-in-law used the PC, and then only rarely, and she’s now losing sight & can’t take on new things – like Windows 8. Father-in-law is now her carer (age 79) and is unable to use any form of PC – even a smart phone & digital camera are beyond him.

      They were Tory voters, then said they would vote UKIP. Now? At least MIL has decided to vote Labour. They have seen their generation of friends and family suffer so much in the last 4 years, the decline of the NHS, and the fear of another 5 from the Neo-cons is actually making them anxious: they’re seriously frightened. The “digital by default” is nonsense as even those of us who have been quite savvy, we can still get dementia, forget passwords and PIN numbers. We can become poor and not be able to afford the PCs or smart phones, or the help we may need to do so. It is so open to abuse and genuinely scary.

  3. thomassutcliffe

    Some very pertinent points here – especially about the the lack of user friendliness of online government services. As a volunteer at Learning Works i was the only person they had who could teach others how to use UJM.

  4. DaveD

    I’ve spent some time as a volunteer in a community centre helping people of varying ages learn the basics of using a computer, and it takes more than a one-off lesson. If you’re not already well-versed in computing, it can be bewildering. These aren’t stupid or illiterate people I’m talking about, just people who haven’t yet learnt computing, and it can take several lessons just to get the basics.

    1. robinmcburnie

      But that’s all the man in charge of the DWP seems to have been given – and he’s managed to roll out a massive IT scheme. Oh wait – no he’s screwed it up because, like the rest of the government he has no clue about how computers or systems based on them.

      P.S. What is the final estimate on wasted money between 50 and 500 million, depending who is doing the “estimating”.

  5. ukmike2000

    A further example of this “F**k you” Government. My only worry is that with the growing vote for the SNP and Green parties, the Tories might fluke an election victory. That would be a tragic mistake, for everyone other than the “chosen few”

    1. hugosmum70

      or cheat by making sure polling stations in labour controlled constituencies are closed long before they should be,as someone did last time. don’t know which parties those areas had but whoever did it made sure a load of people never got to vote.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        That’s a good point. It’ll be important to make sure that polling stations stay open until everybody who was queuing at 10pm has had a chance to vote.

  6. Thomas M

    Whilst the Internet (despite this government trying to censor it with varying degrees of success) is great fun, noone should be forced into using it if they don’t want to or can’t. I really like eating watermelon, but would not want it forced down my throat. If this government is idiotic enough to alienate the large grey vote, then it’s going to lose the election. It says something about this government’s stupidity that it’s going to lash out at it’s own supporters just before the election. Pensioners vote in large numbers and they won’t vote for a government that wants to hurt them.

  7. Jane Jacques

    Does this break equality laws in that access of Government services should be available and on a level playing field for every one. Closing of the paper route to elderly claiments may be discrimination in that they can no longer access these services. Has an impact assessment been carried out?

  8. Tim Swann

    Is the Government going to pay for pensioners’ broadband connections when they make them “essential”? Not to mention providing them with a computer. Are they going to fund basic IT tuition for all those people who find the technology bewildering? Yet another ill-considered Tory policy that will probably cost millions of taxpayers’ money before the realization that it is unworkable dawns. Francis Maude demonstrates that his intellectual prowess rivals that of Iain Duncan Smith – or even of Homer Simpson.

    1. Joan Edington

      They won’t pay for broadband. They will tell the pensioners to get down to their library, if they still have one of course.

  9. JeanieDeans

    I AM a pensioner, female aged 65. Luckily I’ve been computer literate since home-computing started, and I’ve followed developments. It’s not just pensioners they’re demanding computer skills from. It’s everyone on benefits, many -maybe most- of whom can’t afford internet access.
    It’s like saying “We’ve set up a wonderful disability benefits system. You’ll find your benefits at the end of this army assault course”.
    In other words, the very circumstances that create the need actually prevent access, whether that be poverty, disability, or even mental capacity.
    It’s incumbent upon the government to fulfil their duty of care and make all benefits suitably accessible to those who need them.

  10. Joan Edington

    I’m a pensioner as well but am lucky to have worked in computers for all 43 of my working years. Since leaving the IT workplace, however, even I am seeing technology whizz by. Of course I can deal with the internet, which is more than whoever designs the government sites, but I know for a fact that, if my Mum was still alive, she wouldn’t know where to start, even though she was probably over average intelligence. She simply wasn’t interested in technology and nobody of that age should be forced to embrace it. The internet should only be used as a helpful, extra means of access to services for those that prefer that method.

  11. Andy Robertson-Fox

    I am just wondering how the blind and partially sighted would cope. Also one sometimes gets requested to submit the originals – not even photocopies will do – of personal documentation -eg marriage certificates.

    1. hugosmum70

      there are programmes that can be used for people in that situation.. my step-mother,now departed this life,was 80 when after seeing us younger ones using computers decided she wanted to learn.. she was going blind.and deaf and by the time she found someone to teach her was more so.. she had to learn to touch type first… unfortunately she died soon after starting so we will never know if she would have mastered it but it was a blind teacher who was teaching her.(blind teaching the blind does happen after on the other hand an old friend just turned 90 a week ago, hates computers. wont have anything to do with them ,mobile phones, e readers etc., even though she has her sight and faculties.

      1. C Cramsie

        Re the programme tbat interprets what you are saying, I got one of those for my daughter and it was hopeless, couldn’t interpret different accents, she persevered with it for a month but it was so frustrating she gave up in the end. That was the Dragon Natrurally programme

  12. hugosmum70

    I am getting on,as some of you on here know. not reached my 80s yet though. i have been computer savvy for 12 nearly 13 years now. within a year i was able to do my own simple maintenance. following year,genealogy complete with website.. plus running a chat room and doing graphics etc. 7 yrs ago, i had a hospital stay of 6 days only,. but when i came out i could not get my head around anything and have done nothing more to my family tree since though hoping to try again soon.. don’t know where to start re websites, graphics etc. even maintenance work i sometimes have to ask my son or daughter how to do certain things… just one example of how as we age, our brains slow down, get be-fogged etc and things we have been able to do on these machines, we have lost confidence in doing.or foggy brain syndrome stops us.
    it is ridiculous to expect old people to use these things beyond the simple things like keeping in touch with family etc on Skype and Facebook or playing simple games.i am dreading these ideas of the libcons happening ,,,if it does og course.

  13. jim

    what a load of bullocks – they want people on the internet so they can spy on them – smoke and mirrors – the reason they give for such measures are nearly always devoid of the real reasons – think of it being able to hack any pensioner – get their bank details and god knows what else. Big brother looking for dirt and anything else they can find.

  14. redangelas

    It is one thing to have a computer in proper working order. Most people can manage to use them.

    It is quite another to have a computer or internet connection which somehow is not working properly. Even when you are technically competent malfunctions can be extremely difficult to sort out, and they will baffle people who have just done an elementary course in computer use .

    For that reason either support with making online claims or an alternative way of making claims will be necessary.

  15. Dianne Burrows

    What about the people who are not literate, and the foreigners who have never learned to write English but have contributed to the economy for all their lives. This man does not live in the real world..Being completely computer literate even I had a problem with the stupid badly written ‘Gateway’ portal.

  16. paulrutherford8

    Wouldn’t they also have to make sure that the ‘website[s]’ were available in the same amount of languages as many govt documents are translated into?

    Or am I taking facetiousness a step far… 😉

  17. nightentity

    I had to make a choice nearly 14 years ago,Television with it’s license fees or the internet. As you can see,no TV lol. The internet is far more versatile that a TV,yet to help my parents out with stuff online,I’m an absolute idiot and get quickly confused. Thank goodness for my sister,she gets things done and will take no nonsense. My parents are both in their 80’s and cannot fathom out the internet,without my sister they would be lost. What ever happened to personal choice? Oh yes the tories are getting rid of that! ( lower case ‘t’ as they don’t deserve a capital one)

  18. robinmcburnie

    As a long-time enthusiast for science and technology, aged 14 I would have been fully behind this idea (of course the Internet, let alone the www that makes it so useful, was not there yet).

    Now at the age of 50, I have gained the insight to know that no sensible adult with a hint of empathy for others would try to bring in this ridiculous plan.

    As another commentator above pointed out there will be millions upon millions spent on it before they come to the realisation that it won’t work.

    So what age is Missy Maude?

  19. Brian B

    Of course if you’re required to register to vote online then the Conservatives need as many pensioners as possible online to register to vote to actually vote (for them). This is a nice financial incentive to figure out those government websites.

  20. Chris Bergin

    I understand that there are areas in the country where ther is no broadband service not to mention no bus service or library facilities. Are allowances to be made for lack of infrastructure?

  21. Ant Lea

    In other words,if your at pension age your screwed with Conservatives in power. What caring individuals setting an example for a 21st Century Britain

  22. Dianne major

    I am 81 on pension credit, I can do the minimum on my computer but it is getting harder and harder to understand what I am supposed to do on it . What will happen to us as we get older and our faculties wane, give up I suppose and die of hunger and cold without money, that’s one way of getting rid of those that live too long.

  23. hugosmum70

    just re-read the above and one thing struck me that Maude said….“Mr Maude said that online ‘refuseniks’,” – you see, he already has the derogatory nickname ready – “who did not want to use computers would be able to apply for a one-off lesson … to help them get on to the internet.”…………..erm correct me if i am wrong but if people DON’T WANT TO USE COMPUTERS.they are hardly going to WANT A ONE OFF LESSON ARE THEY?. STUPID SOD. .THICK OR WHAT.?

  24. Scotty

    It’s all about saving money, that much is obvious. But what cost for the support services that will have to be put in place for those actually unable to use the internet due to disability or sickness?

    Why do I smell a highly lucrative contract going out to yet another Conservative friendly private company that will take great delight in raking in vast profits from the public purse.

    Is that perhaps a little cynical of me? 😉

  25. hugosmum70

    pity some of us might not be here to see it… ill need to live another 20 yrs at least and although i am a creaking gate these days, ill be lucky to reach that… buttttttt you never know.

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