David Gauke scraps charges for Universal Credit telephone helpline
Universal Credit helplines will now be free within the next month - after the Government announced they were to scrap charges.
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke confirmed the move this morning.
Mr Gauke, who is also the local MP for South West Hertfordshire, which includes Berkhamsted and Tring, said he wanted to make the process as 'burden free' as possible.
The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) universal credit phone line, used by people to access help and advice, had been charging some people up to 55p a minute.
This led to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urging Mr Gauke, and Theresa May, to 'show some humanity' and scrap the fees at last week's Prime Minister's Questions.
The DWP said that 99 per cent of applications for Universal Credit are made online, and claimants then arrange their first appointment with their work coach over the phone.
Currently, the government said this call is charged at local rates which are set by providers, and it also claimed that calls are free for many people as part of their call package. They also said that if someone is concerned about the cost, they can request a free call back.
But the move to scrap the charges, which has been called a U-turn by some critics, is sure to please helpline customers. And the Secretary of State confirmed that ALL helplines for the DWP would be free by the end of the year.
Mr Gauke said: "We know that many people prefer to use online services and the vast majority of claims to Universal Credit are made online.
"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 job centres.
"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."