Categories: Networks

Families Without Internet Miss Out On Childcare Tax Break

Nearly 10 percent of the families eligible for the government’s upcoming childcare tax break may face difficulties taking part because they lack Internet access, according to a leaked letter from a Treasury minister.

A letter to MPs from Exchequer Secretary Priti Patel, leaked to the Independent on Sunday, disclosed that nearly 200,000 families may not be able to take part in the benefit, which can only be applied for online.

‘Assisted digital options’

“HMRC does not have exact figures but estimates that around 9 per cent of parents that will be eligible for the scheme do not have access to the Internet,” Patel wrote.

She added that HMRC is planning to make “assisted digital options” available to such families.

“These will help all parents register for the scheme, reconfirm their details and operate their account digitally,” Patel wrote.

Catherine McKinnell, a shadow Treasury minister, told the paper that the situation is “outrageous”.

A Commons debate is to be held on Monday on the Childcare Payments Bill that will set up the tax break. Labour is challenging the government’s plans with an alternative package aimed at reducing childcare costs. The issue is expected to play a significant part in the upcoming general election.

Digital inclusion strategy

In April the Cabinet Office launched an ambitious digital inclusion strategy that aims to reduce the number of people who are offline by 25 percent over the next two years, and a further 25 percent every two years after that.

Although the government estimates that just under 10 percent of the adult population may never be able to gain basic digital capabilities, due to disabilities or lack of literacy skills, the strategy has a goal of connecting everyone who is capable of being online by 2020.

The strategy cites BBC research which found that 21 percent of Britain’s population lacks the skills needed to take advantage of the Internet. About one-third of smaller businesses don’t have a website, a figure that rises to 50 percent when charities are included.

About 6.4 million Britons, or about 13 percent of the population, has never used the Internet, according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics in May.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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