Navigating HMRC’s online services can be tough for people who aren’t savvy with computers, but with a little help from a local Online Centre, it’s getting easier for one learner in Manchester.
After speaking to her local Sure Start centre, Patience Izzy Okaebben knew she was entitled to tax credits. English is not her first language so she felt she needed help to fill in the online forms and the Sure Start centre gave her the details of her local Online Centre, Northmoor Community Association, as a place to get support with this.
“I needed to know more about how to use these services online,” explains Patience, “because I needed to claim tax back, and I needed to know how to claim tax credits. I found it too difficult to do at home on my own.”
Originally from Nigeria, 44-year-old Patience was “not very good” with the computer. Through one-to-one sessions, the team at Northmoor first showed Patience how to set up an account for HMRC services on GOV.UK, before going on to cover the specific services Patience needed.
“It was difficult when we first started,” says Patience, who has been to around five one-to-one sessions at Northmoor. “The first time was really difficult. Now, I would just describe it as a little difficult, so I’m definitely getting better!”
The team at Northmoor support people like Patience every day.
Fiona Gallagher, Community Development and Volunteer Co-ordinator at Northmoor Community Association, says: “For many learners who visit us, English is not their first language. They need our support to fill in online forms and decipher official letters they receive from HMRC. If there is a problem we often call the relevant help desks with them to make sure they understand what needs doing.
“Many also do not have the computer skills they need, so as well as supporting them with the HMRC forms, phone calls and letters, we sign them up onto Learn My Way to increase their skills using the computer.”
The HMRC sessions aren’t like the other classes at Northmoor. The learners simply drop in whenever they need a hand, as opposed to attending regular, structured classes.
Patience explains: “Whenever I have something to do, I come around and sit with my tutor. She walks me through it on the computer. It’s good when she walks me through it because I learn more and more every time.”
Patience says her ability to use HMRC services online is now at about 85% - but she still thinks she’s got some way to go before she can do it at home without any help.
“Sometimes I don’t feel like 100% is possible for me, because it’s not easy,” she says. “But the more I learn, I know I will get there in the end - I hope so anyway!
“Learning these things have benefited me in a good way. Obviously financially but it also makes me feel more confident.”