Headlines: April 16th, 1999

The Government’s target to provide all services electronically by 2008 may be achieved, but it is questionable how many people will choose the electronic version. Research into the payment of benefits has revealed that order books are well like and preferred by many to other forms of payment. It also showed antipathy to banks.

Order books are popular because they provide a guaranteed amount of money on a guaranteed date. This element of certainty gives a sense of assurance. Receiving benefits in this way also fits in with the claimant’s own arrangements for managing their affairs.

The research also shows that banks are unpopular with benefit claimants. Reasons given for keeping banks out of the benefits system included the belief that payments would be used to reduce overdrafts, that banks are unreliable and that they continue to close down branches. This is bad news for Natwest who are seeking a pilot project to test out a benefits dispensing cash machine.

The message of the research is clear for developing electronic interfaces for customers to interact with government. Failure to take attitudes and life style of customers fully into account could result in underused systems.