Public Services > Central Government

DWP to scrap Universal Credit helpline charges

Matteo Natalucci Published 19 October 2017

Customer telephone for the benefit lines will become freephone in November


David Gauke, Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced its customer telephone lines will be changed to freephone numbers by the end of the year.

The Universal Credit scheme is intended to bring together six different benefits: Child Tax Credit; Housing Benefit; Income Support; income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance; and Working Tax Credit.

The Universal Credit helpline, which is open weekdays from 8am to 6pm, is an 0345 number, with costs for the users of up to 9p a minute to call it from a landline, and between 3p and 55p a minute from mobiles.

DWP has announced that Universal Credit customer telephone lines will be the first to become freephone in November.

Gauke said, “We know that many people prefer to use online services and the vast majority of claims to Universal Credit are made online.” DWP says 99% of claims to the Universal Credit full service are made online.

Gauke added, “Everyone can check their statement and engage with their work coach through their online account and we have free wifi and computers in all our jobcentres.”

“Our work coaches support anyone who needs extra help with their online account but we want to make the process as burden free as possible, including for people who use our telephone service. That’s why we are making all our customer phone lines free to use”, Gauke added.

The department will inform customers and partners of new freephone numbers in advance of these changes. The numbers will be rolled out to all remaining DWP customer phone services by the end of the year.

DWP said, “Applications for Universal Credit are made online and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone. Currently this call is charged at local rates which are set by providers and are free for many people as part of their call package. If someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back.”

DWP added, “Universal Credit claimants can update any changes in circumstances, check on their payments and rearrange appointments 24 hours a day through their online journal.”

Yesterday, on an opposition day motion, Labour MPs called on the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit full service while the issues associated with the social security programme are fixed.

MPs voted 299 to zero to “pause and fix” Universal Credit, as Conservative MPs did not vote. The vote on an opposition day motion is not binding on the government.

Tory MP Heidi Allen said, “Having discussed this matter personally with the Prime Minister yesterday, it is probably too ambitious to expect a response just yet, but I am confident that she will consider”.  


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