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The Government's Web sites are being put to the test to see if they actually provide useful and helpful information relevant to people's needs.

The Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) - which deals with around six million problems a year - has teamed up with public sector-focused consultancy, Socitm, to see if the Government's e-services actually work.

Research in the past has tended to look at the mechanics of Government Web sites - such as how fast they load, browser compatibility and the number of errors on each page.

This latest research is intended to find out how useful the sites in helping people deal with their affairs on issues such as debt, disability benefits, income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, and separation from spouses or partners.

Although no one is prepared to pre-empt the findings of the study, the CAB is aware that some the Government's Web sites "could do better" in providing information and help for people in need.

In a statement Malcolm Taylor, e-government project manager, who is leading the project for the CAB said: "E-government should be a force for driving through fundamental improvements in public services, as well as making them faster and easier to use.

"This means understanding and responding to the real needs of service users rather than simply putting a form online to meet a performance target.

"Citizens Advice Bureaux are a vital interface between local authorities, Government departments and agencies, and the people they serve. Because of our experience and our position of trust with the public, we can help develop e-services that meet genuine needs and reach far greater numbers of disadvantaged people than they otherwise would," he said.

The study was carried out by a team of reviewers during August and September. The findings of the study are due to be published in October. ®

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