Universal Credit helpline charges to be scrapped following challenge by Jeremy Corbyn
From The Guardian: The Universal Credit helpline will be made free, along with other Department for Work and Pensions numbers, after Jeremy Corbyn last week challenged the government over the 55p-a-minute charge for people using mobile phones to get help.
David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, told MPs that all charges would be abolished by the end of the year.
The move is a victory for Corbyn after he asked Theresa May about the issue at prime minister’s questions last week.
Labour hailed the decision over the phone lines. The shadow pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, said: “The Conservatives have finally listened to Labour and scrapped the premium phone helpline for claimants.
“Now they need to listen to the calls of charities and councils and back Labour’s motion today to immediately pause and fix the rollout of universal credit before more people are pushed into rent arrears, poverty and homelessness.”
Labour MP Frank Field told Gauke a food bank in his Birkenhead constituency had warned it would need 15 tonnes of extra supplies for Christmas given the imminent local arrival of Universal Credit.
The 12 Lib Dem MPs will also vote against the rollout of Universal Credit. Stephen Lloyd, the party’s work and pensions spokesman, called it a “slow motion car-crash” and said he was particularly concerned about housing payments, which now go directly to tenants rather than landlords.
“With the delays in payment we have already seen, many vulnerable people will lose their homes,” he said. “And many landlords will simply stop taking on universal credit tenants, so where are these hundreds of thousands of people supposed to live?”