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No broadband, no child tax breaks: Internet-free families face losing out

Around 200,000 families with children could miss out on tax breaks when applying for them becomes online-only. 

Planned changes to child tax breaks due to take effect next year mean that parents who don’t have Internet access risk losing out on access to thousands of pounds in savings. 

Exchequer secretary Priti Patel admitted that around one in ten of eligible British families could miss out on the savings because the government has decided to make the initiative ‘digital by default’, only allowing applications through an online portal. 

No broadband, no child tax breaks: Internet-free families face losing out
The BDUK programme is increasing broadband availability – but will it help everyone claim child tax breaks?

In a letter sent to the Independent on Sunday, Ms Patel wrote: “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. 

“HMRC is committed to helping people use its services online and will make assisted digital options available for those currently not able to access the Internet. These will help all parents register for the scheme, reconfirm their details and operate their account digitally.” 

The Childcare Payments Bill is designed to give working parents tax breaks on childcare that have risen substantially in recent years. 

Labour’s counter-policy would give 25 hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds on top of the Government’s existing tax-free childcare plan. 

In December 2013, Ofcom said 22.6 million homes and businesses around the UK had access to fixed line broadband services, but the government is now trying to improve this by rolling out superfast and basic broadband to areas that previously didn’t have a reliable connection. 

While BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) aims to make reliable broadband services available to everyone, as the Government’s own recent figures have shown, that doesn’t mean people will automatically sign up. 

While plans like BT’s Connected Society aim to reduce the cost of getting online, a digital by default strategy still risks alienating those who lack any online skills

Despite claimants being encouraged to apply for Universal Credit online provisions have been made to allow for people without Internet access to continue to receive benefits. 

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