Headlines: November 11th, 2002

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched an electronic claim service that also has a facility for advising change of circumstances such as a new address or a different partner. The service is not totally electronic, because claims must be supported by a birth certificate. Research by the Department published recently makes it clear that unless the marketing challenge can be met, take-up will be modest.The Department surveyed its different client groups to assess interest in electronic services. Overall only 8% of respondents said they would use the Internet to contact the Department in the future. 57% preferred the telephone, 38 % face to face and 5% said they would write a letter.

Barriers to greater Internet usage were found to be limited access, usually resulting from the cost of owning a computer and lack of knowledge and experience. There was also widespread concern about Internet security. Respondents said they would not feel comfortable providing personal details over a government website, because of internet security generally, rather than the government’s use of information.

The survey revealed that raising awareness of the potential of the Internet increased the likelihood of people actually making use of it. At the end of the questionnaire people were asked how likely they would be to use it for the Department’s services and 28% said very likely, and 33% fairly likely. This marked difference to their earlier responses to the question of how they would contact the Department in the future shows that marketing could affect attitudes substantially.