Today I have added my voice to calls for a freephone number to be established immediately following reports that individuals applying for Universal Credit will be charged 45p a minute to make a claim.
This comes as Neil Gray MP has written to Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith to ask that he set up a no-charge number “as soon as possible” for Universal Credit.
At the start of the month I wrote to the the Department for Work and Pensions to ask “how many telephone calls his Department received to its benefit helplines from people in Inverclyde in 2015” and was told that this information is not available.
Making someone pay to access vital public services is a real indicator that the UK Government has no idea of the desperate situations that people claiming Universal Credits are in.
Under current structures there is no cost to make a claim over the phone for those applying for JSA and ESA so why should there be a charge for Universal Credit?
These phone calls are often needed to discuss complicated issues with claimants left on hold for long periods of time meaning they can end up costing those already on little to no income an extortionate amount.
The problem is exacerbated further when you consider internet and connectivity problems in rural areas. Ian Duncan Smith and the DWP must establish a freephone number for Universal Credit immediately.
Picture from Department of Work & Pensions