DWP online claimants aspiration is 'achievable'

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Pete Searle from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the goal of 80% of people applying for benefits online was an "aspiration not a target" but was "achievable" over time.

Mr Searle was giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee on 14 May 2013.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart had asked the panel about research from Citizen Advice Scotland which had showed three-quarters of welfare claimants would struggle under new rules which would force them to apply for their benefits online.

Mr Stewart questioned whether the DWP's target for online claimants of 80% was achievable.

Department for Work and Pensions Strategy Director Pete Searle insisted this was an "aspiration rather than a target".

He said more than 50% of people are already applying on-line for Job Seekers Allowance which showed it was an achievable aspiration "not tomorrow or the day after, but in time".

Labour MSP and Committee Convener Michael McMahon began proceedings by criticising the decision by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to refuse to send decision making officials to brief the Welfare Reform Committee.

The committee invited staff who make the decisions regarding Employment and Support Allowance to informally brief them.

In a letter from the DWP, the request was declined and instead, the offer was made for MSPs to visit the decision-makers in their offices.

Mr McMahon said it "reflects very badly on ministers" who appear for whatever reason to not want to cooperate with the committee.

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