• STV
  • MySTV

Universal credit helpline call charges to be abolished

Welfare secretary David Gauke has revealed the line will be free from next month.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke.
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke. PA Wire

People will no longer be charged for calling the Universal Credit helpline, the government has announced, following huge criticism from MPs and campaigners.

Abolishment of the helpline charges - which cost claimants up to 55p a minute - marks a victory for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who challenged Theresa May over the issue at Prime Minister's Questions last week.

Welfare Secretary David Gauke said the line would be free from November and all of his departments helplines would be free by the end of the year.

"Given the recent attention and concern that this could place a burden on claimants, I have decided that this will change to a freephone number over the next month," Mr Gauke said, as he appeared before the work and pensions committee.

Heidi Allen, a Conservative MP on the committee and outspoken critic of the Universal Credit roll-out, said the announcement was a "great start to the day".

Mr Gauke is being pressed on the difficulties faced by welfare claimants as a result of the Universal Credit roll-out.

Critics claim flaws in the scheme - in particular the six-week wait for initial payment - are leaving people destitute, forcing vulnerable families to foodbanks and facing the threat of eviction.

Labour has called on the government to "pause and fix" the flagship reform, while a number of Tory MPs are also reported to be willing to rebel.

Mr Gauke defended the scheme, insisting advance loans were available to anyone struggling during the waiting period.

But, responding to a question from Labour MP Frank Field who chairs the committee, Mr Gauke said he was unable to guarantee that the roll-out would not lead to an increase in the use of food banks.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.