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Chief Human Rights Commissioner To Sign CAB Petition Against Digital Exclusion

Chief Human Rights Commissioner to sign CAB petition against digital exclusion; Election candidates urged to commit to change

Today, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) launches a campaign urging party candidates in the upcoming election to commit to ensuring that government services are accessible to all, not just for those who can engage online.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt is showing his support by signing CAB’s petition – ‘Leave no-one behind: Campaign to address digital exclusion’ at the Wellington CAB office at 10am today.

Election candidates are also being contacted to lay out the serious exclusion vulnerable members of our society are facing from digital exclusion. CAB is seeking candidates’ commitment to address this by offering genuine choice in the ways people can interact with government agencies.

CAB released a Report ‘Face to Face with Digital Exclusion’ in February this year providing evidence of the digital exclusion caused by government’s approach to digital services.

“We are seeing already-vulnerable people made even more vulnerable because of government driving people to engage with them online,” says CAB’s Chief Executive, Kerry Dalton.

“This is avoidable harm being caused by the digital-only or digital-first approach which has been embraced by government agencies. This is unacceptable.”

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt says “Access to government services is a human right. The government has a legal obligation in its provision of public services to ensure that it does not exclude people from the services, rights and entitlements they are trying to access.”

Ms Dalton says the report showed that for those who experience digital services as a barrier, the emphasis on ‘doing things online’ leaves them feeling frustrated, isolated and excluded from full participation in society.

"Interacting with government services is often about accessing rights and entitlements and it’s important that there aren’t any barriers in the way. There needs to be genuine choice for people about how they can interact - whether online, face-to-face, through others or by phone. It is getting harder to access human support from government agencies, but people’s needs for face-to-face services are as real as ever," says Ms Dalton.

“It is critical that as a country we don’t allow the digital transformation of public services to further entrench disadvantage and vulnerability. We are asking for candidates in this year’s election to pledge themselves to correcting the current approach of government agencies and to support measures to address digital exclusion by ensuring choice for people,” says Ms Dalton.

“With many government agencies withdrawing from being physically present and accessible in communities, as well as ceasing toprovideprintedforms and resources, the CAB is beingheavilyrelied onto be there for people. Government agencies actively refer people to the CAB for helpto access information and services, to fill in forms, and to get paper copies of resources. As part of our campaign, we are seeking funding to cover this cost shifting,” says Ms Dalton.

Ms Dalton says ensuring equality of access to public services is a human rights issue and CAB has sent a letter to election candidatesasking them topledge their commitment to the following:

1. Leave no-one behind:

Ensure that steps are taken to address digital exclusion and that no-one is left behind or left out because they can't or don't wish to engage online.

2. Public services accessible to all:

Implement accessibility and inclusion standards for the delivery of public services that include offline channels as part of the proactive design of government service delivery.

3. CAB compensated for cost-shifting:

Ensure that the Citizens Advice Bureau is properly funded to meet the demands and cost-shifting that has resulted from government services going online.

The CAB has also launched its petition on ActionStation on this issue (paper copies are also available at CABs).

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