Work and Pensions Committee - Universal Credit implementation: meeting the needs of vulnerable claimantsWritten evidence submitted by the British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia affects around 10% of the population, but it is likely that dyslexia is disproportionately represented among benefit claimants. Small scale studies have indicated that up to 40% of the unemployed may have dyslexic difficulties.

Many claimants may have neither a home computer nor the necessary computer skills to complete an online application. Some may live in non-broadband enabled areas. With the closure of local libraries, access to a computer may be further limited.

Reading on–screen is less easy for everyone, and for dyslexic people there may be particular visual issues. Filling in an online application form requires accurate reading and comprehension skills, organisation and sequencing skills and visual tracking skills. All these may present significant challenges for the dyslexic claimant.

The British Dyslexia Association Helpline has received complaints from benefit claimants who struggle with hard copy forms. Dyslexia affects people across the ability range, but many may still have difficulty with forms; a minority may be barely literate. Unfortunately there have been discriminatory attitudes displayed by some Jobcentre Plus staff and a lack of consideration and support. Not everyone has a family member or friend to help and many would be embarrassed to ask.

An online application process would be completely beyond many dyslexic claimants. Further, it would be expected that all Jobcentre Plus staff should receive mandatory training in understanding and sympathetically supporting this common area of disability as a Public Equality Duty under the Equality Act.

24 September 2012

Prepared 21st November 2012