HOW much? DWP’s helpline will break the bank for benefit claimants


Not funny: But Iain Duncan Smith likes to put obstacles up to stop people from claiming DWP benefits.

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.

Source: Universal credit helpline charge ‘could force people to choose between benefits and food’ | UK Politics | News | The Independent

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21 thoughts on “HOW much? DWP’s helpline will break the bank for benefit claimants

  1. Dez

    Nice little earner from a sad race of lizards. If they are only half as efficient at answering the phone as the tax office they will have a nice little profit centre to buy more uniforms for their storm troopers and low lifes.

  2. Spamlet

    Under the Equality Act, the DWP is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ not to discriminate against disabled people. A large proportion of those forced to use this service will be disabled people. It is not reasonable to force them to use food money waiting for hours in the hope that they might eventually get through! I once had a £17 phone bill for one afternoon calling help lines, just trying to find the right person to complain to about lack of service.

    1. Ian

      Landline operators offer unlimited Anytime calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers for around five to eight pounds per month.

      Mobile operators offer one-hundred to three-hundred minutes for £5, or two-hundred to one-thousand minutes for £10 on pay-as-you go, and “unlimited” calls for a little more money.

      Anyone paying 12p per minute on a landline or 45p per minute on a mobile for calls to ordinary 01, 02 and 03 numbers is on an particularly unsuitable tariff and should look to change their deal and/or their provider at the earliest possible opportunity.

      These numbers are not revenue sharing. The call price for 01, 02 and 03 numbers is set entirely by the caller’s landline or mobile provider.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Is that £5/£10 per month? It may not seem much but could be a huge slice of the money available to a claimant.
        When you read about people having to prepare meals for themselves on £2 per day, you begin to understand the scale of the issues here.

      2. Spamlet

        I’m on giffgaff now, and mainly make departments call me–which actually adds extra minutes to my allowance–but, when I was on a £15 a month deal from virgin, I had a £300 excess for the month I was being discharged from hospital and had to call many sources of help–which all came to nothing.

        It actually proved very difficult to change service suppliers and get the phone unlocked just as the contract finished. It couldn’t be done without a computer to arrange it on, so I wasted an awful lot of money on virgin before I managed to change. Giffgaff is cheap and easy, once set up, but it only works by using an online community of users to help each other.

        It is interesting to read of other companies being more generous now, but it’s very difficult for people not raised on cell phones to know what to buy and work out the best deal.

  3. Tim

    I’ve read that millions of working people are only ever two pay packets away from destitution. If this is the case what will the seven day waiting period for Universal Credit end up doing? How will poor people who lose their jobs going to be able to pay their rent and live for seven weeks without support if they lose their jobs and need to claim UC? As is UC has ended up throwing 90% of claimants living in social housing, i.e., usually the people with the lowest incomes, into arrears.

    There’s something terribly wrong with social security that fails so many people in this way by design.

      1. Malcolm MacINTYRE-READ

        Sick, sicker and sickest. What will he think of next?

        Reintroduce the original Concentration Camps (cheaper than Work Houses – no need for bricks) we used to deal with the pesky Boers in 1900? Oooops… perhaps I shouldn’t have made that suggestion. So sorry folks.

      2. Spamlet

        They should be forced by the Equality Commissioners, to make the very reasonable adjustment of communicating by email. Don’t know why they haven’t been forced to come into the 21st Century before now!

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        They could add it but not everybody has it – and also email communication tends to stack up very quickly.

      4. Spamlet

        Even those without their own equipment could still have a free email account that they could use from advice centres, libraries, or borrow a friend’s phone or pc/tablet/notebook.

        The work certainly would mount up, and it would then be obvious that they were understaffed and not making the reasonable adjustments necessary to make the DWP fit for purpose.

        They stick to phone calls both because it makes them money, and it prevents people keeping records of how bad they are. Without these records they can, and do get away with lying about the claimant at tribunals; they even get away with giving out false names when you phone them–one I had to deal with just called himself ‘Mr Smith’, like he was out of Matrix! There’s nothing you can do about this on the phone, but an email gives you instant access to what they said, for years. I never give them my phone number if I can help it.

      5. Mike Sivier Post author

        “Free email account”? “Borrow a friend’s”? Neither is practical. Government cannot rely on people being able to borrow friends’ equipment, and in both cases there are security issues – unless people are diligent about deleting their browsing history and cookies, others can visit the same sites and interfere with what they’ve done.

        That being said, this latest information supports what you’re suggesting about phone calls.

      6. Spamlet

        I’ve had a free hotmail account for a decade or more: anyone can get one. People use them as the safest way to make transactions when travelling in places where phones and laptops would put them at risk of mugging. There are simple solutions to all your security caveats, and nobody said that DWP was going to be made to solely rely on email. On the contrary: it is their sole reliance on the phone which is discriminatory, and access to any pc is going to be much cheaper than 45p a minute waiting in an endless phone queue.

        No adjustment is likely to suit everyone, but providing the reasonable adjustment of an email service is a no-brainer, and I’m confident that a test case against the DWP (and, incidentally, Tribunal Service) would win.

        On top of that, I’m also discriminated against because I don’t have a printer, or photocopier, and can’t post physical bank statements and claim forms etc. to the DWP from my bed. (Especially when the demand letter arrives the day before the deadline–as happened before Christmas.). I could email all these things in minutes.

      7. Mike Sivier Post author

        You can’t use a free Hotmail account if you don’t have access to the hardware on which it must run, though.
        And what happens if someone steals your password?

      8. Spamlet

        You seem to be trying to find reasons not to help disabled people rather than find positive ways to help them. I already had the Equality Commission agree that I had a good point.

        What a shame so many people just like to argue when they don’t know what they are talking about. 🙁

      9. Mike Sivier Post author

        Charging them a fortune for a “helpline” isn’t helping them.
        Expecting them all to have the wherewithal to have computers/internet accounts on which they can rely not to be hacked isn’t helping them.
        The Equality Commission might have agreed you have a good point but you haven’t tried to answer mine.

  4. Mr.Angry

    Smith is lower than snakes belly, he will get his due deserves one day. I am certain he is related to Satan.

  5. Ian

    The usual arrangement is that DWP offers 0345 numbers for helplines for existing claimants and 0800 numbers for benefit claim lines as these can be very long calls.

    Calls to 03 numbers are inclusive from landlines and from mobiles, else charged at ‘geographic rate’ – the same as for 01 and 02 numbers. The called party pays the additional call-forwarding fees inherent in the use of a non-geographic number.

    The new 0345 numbers replace the premium rate 0845 numbers previously in use before 17 March 2014 and there is one 0345 number for existing claimants of each type of benefit.

    As these are normal numbers, landline and mobile operators offer a huge amount of inclusive minutes to 01, 02 and 03 numbers for very little money – even on pay-as-you-go. This allowance should cover all of your calls to family, friends, doctors, customer services, banks and public services.

    Calls to 080 numbers are free from landlines and from mobiles. The called party pays the additional call-forwarding fees inherent in the use of a non-geographic number as well as paying a Call Origination Fee to the caller’s landline or mobile provider to compensate them for the fact that the caller paid nothing for the call.

    There’s an 0800 number to claim each type of benefit currently available, with one exception. In the case of Universal Credit, there is no 0800 claims number because all claims must be made online.

    The online-only application process for UC will be a massive barrier for very many people.

    The request to DWP should be to introduce a claims line for UC on an 0800 number and scrap the “online only” policy.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That’s an interesting reversal on the original alternative put up in this comment column.
      However, there’s quite a large caveat, which I’ll mention in response to your next comment…

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