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Official: More than 7 million Brits have NEVER accessed the interwebs

Oldsters, disabled and poor all left behind

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Brits who are disabled, over the age of 75 or poor are among the vast majority of people living in the UK who make up more than 7 million citizens found to have never been online, official government figures show.

People over the age of 75 are - perhaps unsurprisingly - the age group least likely to have ever accessed the internet with 3.23 million of those UK pensioners remaining completely offline.

That figure was revealed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week, with the release of its latest Internet Access Quarterly Update report [PDF] covering the final three months of 2012.

It found that 7.42 million taxpayers in Britain had never accessed the internet, of which 44 per cent of those people were over the age of 75.

The other major group not to have embraced the internet, arguably due to inaccessibility issues, was disabled adults. The ONS said that 3.8 million people over the age of 16 with disabilities - more than half of the 7.42 million figure - had never accessed the internet.

It said:

This indicates that individuals with a disability are just over three times more likely never to have used the internet than individuals with no disability.

The stats also revealed how many people from poorer backgrounds were offline. It found that 300,000 Brits who earned a gross weekly pay that was less than £200 had never accessed the internet.

The ONS added:

Internet use has almost reached full coverage for those earning in excess of £500 a week, with internet use above 98 per cent for all adults with weekly pay rates above this level.

Just over 43 million Blighty citizens are now online, the ONS said. The stats showed that the number of people not accessing the internet had fallen by 9 per cent from the same period a year earlier when it recorded that nearly 8.2 million British citizens had never used the net.

But the figures also continue to demonstrate a major challenge for a government whose agenda is set on making public services "digital by default", even though 15 per cent of the population remains offline.

The debate about social exclusion among those groups who aren't accessing the internet is becoming more prominent because the government is adamant that it can reel in billions of pounds of taxpayer money by putting more public services on to the internet.

The Department for Work and Pensions' Universal Credit project - which has been dogged with personnel problems - will be the first big test of such a system. Britain's benefits process will merge six government handouts into one regular payment that can be claimed and managed online.

While the latest ONS figures reveal that old age and the internet don't exactly mix, another picture is now clearly starting to emerge: Vulnerable groups who are disabled or on low incomes could find themselves frozen out of the benefits system if they don't embrace the internet - however inaccessible or costly it might prove to be to those Brits. ®

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