DWP drops universal credit helpline charges

Phone calling

​Claimants could run up significant costs when phoning the helpline 

18th October 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Benefit claimants will no longer be charged for calling the universal credit helpline.

Last week there was furore after it was revealed people were being charged up to 55p a minute if they called the line on a mobile phone.

The matter was made worse by the fact the new payments system is beset by problems and delays – leading to thousands calling the helpline.

Welfare secretary David Gauke said the helpline would now be free by the end of the year.

Universal credit is a new single benefit for working-age people, replacing income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit.

It comes as a dozen Conservative MPs want the rollout of the new system halted ahead of a debate on the issue taking place later today in the Commons.

Although the debate is largely symbolic - any vote that is held will not be binding on the government - it has been tabled by Labour to increase pressure on the government.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said its latest data, from last month, indicates 81% of new claimants were paid in full and on time at the end of their first assessment while 89% received some payment.

A spokesperson said the system was working and the majority of recipients were telling them they were comfortable about managing their finances.

"No-one who needs support should have to wait five or six weeks for their first payment.

“That's why we have updated our guidance to make sure anyone who needs an advance payment can get one within five working days, and on the same day if in urgent need," they said.