Forty-five pence per minute for a government benefit helpline?
And after the Department for Work and Pensions swore blind it was cutting the cost of calling in. Outrageous.
Labour’s Owen Smith is exactly right. He said: “The DWP is making it harder for families who are moving on to Universal Credit to contact advisers, even though the system was supposed to offer more dynamic support to help people get in to work faster.”
DWP advisers are often inaccessible by phone, according to David McAuley, CEO of food bank charity the Trussell Trust, who said: “We meet people at food banks who have no money, and no access to the internet. It is not reasonable to expect people in this position to have to make calls that could be charged up to 45p per minute.
“If people are also charged for calls, this will add a further barrier to vulnerable people accessing the help they need and could prevent the very poorest from being able to call at all.”
Yes – that’s the idea.
The DWP has claimed it is possible to avoid charges by asking advisers to call back.
That’s after waiting an indeterminate amount of time for an answer, of course.
Struggling people could be forced to choose between making a benefit claim and buying food because of a Government decision to charge for the Universal Credit helpline, the leading food bank provider has warned.
The phone line, for people trying to make a benefits claim or requiring advice, charges 45p per minute for mobiles and 12p per minute for landlines.
Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had previously pledged to phase out premium rate numbers.
David McAuley, CEO of the Trussell Trust charity, which runs a network of more than 400 food banks, told The Independent that the charge would be “a further barrier” to people seeking support from the DWP.
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