Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Alistair Carmichael concerned about impact of slow internet on Northern Isles benefit claimants

Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael
Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has challenged the UK Government about the increasing amount of online form-filling required to claim Universal Credit.

Mr Carmichael has written to Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, saying he is concerned about its impact on claimants in the Northern Isles, where there is poor broadband availability and slow internet speed.

In his 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.”

The Lib Dem MP cited independent research by Which? magazine which found broadband median speeds in Orkney are just 3Mbps, with the Shetland figure “barely better” at just 6.7Mbps.

Mr Carmichael said: “This makes Orkney the worst connected and Shetland the second worst connected parts of Scotland in terms of broadband connectivity.”

The MP underlined the logistical difficulties in his constituency of claiming the benefit, which was introduced by the UK Government to replace Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit.

Mr Carmichael’s letter said that claimants forced to travel from outlying islands like the Skerries and Wyre to Lerwick and Kirkwall had to undertake a day’s journey there and back.

Forms had to be filled in with “little notice” and often with penalties for missing deadlines.

His letter added: “Given the unique geography and poor broadband connectivity, I would be grateful if you could consider changing the rules, so that communities impacted by particularly bad broadband connectivity can have access to public services like Universal Credit without being forced to spend prohibitive amounts of time and money travelling to libraries to access reasonable broadband service.”

Speaking after sending the letter, Mr Carmichael said: “Amber Rudd should look again at the strategy of pushing more benefits online until the roll-out of broadband is complete.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Most people are comfortable claiming online and digital support is available for those who need extra help, with computers and free wifi available in all jobcentres.

“Claims can also be submitted over the phone or home visits can be arranged on request.”

The spokesman added that free wi-fi was available in job centres. On Shetland, there were Learning Centres with internet access in Unst, Yell, Whalsay, Brae, Mossbank and Lerwick.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal