By Daniel Martin
Every household could be forced to use the internet to apply for a range of government services in an attempt to save money.
Officials want everyone to use the web to obtain driving licences, passports, student loans, pension credit and disability benefits.
They say moving from paper to internet-based claims will help save billions of pounds a year.
But critics say the changes will discriminate against pensioners – because six million over 65s have never used the web and around 27 per cent of households still have no internet connection.
Over-50s group Saga said the plan, which will be launched this week, proved that the Coalition was out of touch with senior citizens, calling the proposals ‘an outrageous idea’.
But Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: ‘Online services are better for consumers and better for government, making services available in a convenient 24/7 format and reducing the costs of transactions.’
The plan looks set to open a rift in Government, with unhappiness already being expressed by the Lib Dems.
The first service to go online-only will be student loans, followed by school-related benefits, such as school meals.
Personal applications such as driving licences and unemployment benefit would follow.
Any changes would be phased in over a number of years.