Scandal as universal credit helpline costs claimants 55p a minute

Theresa may

Claims the government is profiting benefit claimants 

12th October 2017 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Theresa May been branded a disgrace after it was revealed universal credit claimants have to pay up to 55p a minute to get help with their claims.

The new system, which is being extensively rolled out across the UK, is mired in problems leading thousands of claimants complaining of delayed payments and administrative errors.

However if they call the official helpline they’ll be charged up to 55p a minute by the same department which created their problems in the first place.

Universal credit, which combines six working age benefits into a single payment, has proved controversial because one in five people are forced to wait more than six weeks for their first payment.

At prime minister's questions, Jeremy Corbyn revealed that the helpline for people struggling with the changes costs up to a staggering 55p a minute to call.

He said: "Will the PM show some humanity and at least make the helpline free?”

May wouldn't be drawn on the cost of the helpline, but insisted: "I do want to get people into work. I want people to get on without government support.”

According to the Citizens' Advice Bureau, calls to the universal Credit helpline cost 9p a minute from a landline, and between 3p and 55p depending on which mobile network is used.

Some 55,000 calls a week were made to the helpline during August, according to a freedom of information request.

Sue’, a 54-year-old claimant explained to Citizens Advice Bureau that she phoned the helpline because she couldn’t use a computer.

“The process is complicated if you aren’t very good at using computers,” she said. “Going to the Jobcentre and using wifi all costs money I could be using for food.”

Some 30% of respondents to a Citizens Advice survey of claimants reported calling the helpline more than 10 times.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "As I understand it, most of the issues can be resolved online.

"But if there are issues where people feel they need to call the hotline and they are concerned about the cost, they can say straight away and DWP will ring them back so there is no cost."

12th October 2017 by Ian

DWP got rid of premium rate 0845 numbers on 17 March 2014.They replaced them with 0345 numbers. These are not premium rate calls. The normal cost of a call to an 03 number is zero - it's simply included in your allowance along with calls to 01 and 02 numbers. This applies on landlines, and on mobiles - both contract and pay-as-you-go.The "55p per minute" rate applies on a Vodafone contract where the caller has exceeded their monthly calls allowance. This is an unusual situation and anyone in that situation should increase their monthly payment by a few pounds per month so as to increase their call and message limit by a significant amount.