The DWP has been told to set up a freephone line for poor welfare claimants in a scathing report by its own experts.
The Social Security Advisory Committee called for reform to “rip-off” 0345 numbers that cost callers on some mobiles 45p a minute. Its 15 experts called for 0800 numbers or callback services for the most “vulnerable or low income customers” of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The recommendation is a step to victory for the Mirror, which revealed the rip-off charges for people stuck on Universal Credit or disability benefit PIP. We told how callers could not get through on the PIP enquiry line 18,949 times due to “heavy demand” from January to April – 4,700 a month.
HMRC was also beset by complaints of long waiting times but these have been cut significantly since last year, the report said.
Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told the Mirror: “The new Work and Pensions Secretary must act today to help fulfil the Prime Minister’s objective of a government ‘that thinks of you’.
“Thinking of ‘you’ in this context would be immediately to abolish these rip-off call charges. Each day without action is a penalty on people who are down on their luck.”