Millions of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable people are being “fleeced” by rip-off 0845 helplines, it has been reported today.
According to a report by the Daily Mirror, figures uncovered by Labour MP Frank Field show than pensioners, carers and benefit claimants are still being charged for higher rate calls, despite promises from the government two years ago that it would phase out 0845 helpline numbers.
Since 2012, the Pension Service has received around 12 million 0845 prefix calls, including 2.5 million over the last year.
2.9 million 0845 calls were made to the Carer’s Allowance helpline, while more than 530,000 people called for advice about Winter Fuel Payments and 360,439 higher rate calls were made about Bereavement Benefits.
0845 calls can cost anywhere from between 1p and 12p a minute from a landline and from 5p to 40p if calling from a mobile phone.
Callers spent a combined total of £56 million from using 0845 helplines in 2012 alone.
Frank Field said:
“At the very point in their lives when millions of people are most in need, they are being fleeced by the Government and the phone companies.
“Ministers promised over a year ago that these rip-off lines would be scrapped. Might they now sanction such a move as quickly as they sanction claimants?”
The Cabinet Office issued guidance in 2013, stating it was “inappropriate” for “vulnerable and low-income groups” to pay “substantial charges for accessing core public services”.
Two years later the Department for Work and Pensions is still “in the process of replacing all its 0845 number prefixes in use for its national helplines”.
A DWP spokesperson added:
“We introduced 0345 numbers for DWP national helpline service numbers – this is alongside an 0845 option, which can currently be cheaper for some dependent on their telephony provider.”
Soure – Welfare Weekly, 23 Mar 2015
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made nearly £120,000 in just five months from “rip-off” helplines, the Daily Mirror has reported today .
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is facing mounting pressure to explain why his department is raking in thousands of pounds from some of Britain’s poorest citizens.
The Daily Mirror reports that the DWP makes 0.3p from every phone call they receive to its 0845 helplines. This money is used to help fund other helplines.
Labour MP Roger Godsiff has discovered that Iain Duncan Smith’s department made £117,000 from callers “hammered by unnecessary phone call costs” in just five months.
Mr Godsiff told the Daily Mirror:
“People are being hammered by unnecessary phone call costs. This is all part of IDS’s relentless pursuit of reducing the benefits bill – irrespective of the devastating impact on people’s lives.”
David Hickson from the Fair Telecoms Campaign added:
“The continuing use of expensive numbers by Government and businesses is a rip-off.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said:
“We have negotiated a rebate from our phone line providers, generating a better deal for the taxpayer.
“We make no money from call charges and this rebate does not mean extra charges for claimants.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 15 Sept 2014
Up to 212,000 people have been ‘beaten up for being on benefits’ as a direct result of the despicable ‘scrounger’ rhetoric in the media and ‘poverty porn’ TV programmes, a shocking new survey reveals today.
A survey by YouGov reveals the devastating impact of newspaper benefits propaganda, and ‘poverty porn’ programmes like Channel 4’s Benefits Street, on some of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
YouGov asked 2,352 benefit claimants:
“Have you ever been verbally or physically abused because you are on benefits?”
15% said they had experienced verbal abuse and 4% admitted they had been physically assaulted.
If the survey had asked every single benefit claimant in the UK it would suggest that nearly 212,000 have been physically assaulted.
6% of respondents said their children had been victims of bullies, while 16% said they had been turned down for a home for being in receipt of benefits.
Campaigners and charities are now calling on the media and the government to end their use of socially divisive language, which is turning British society against itself.
Philipp Newis from the Who Benefits? campaign told the Daily Mirror:
“We’ve heard a lot of negative talk from politicians about benefit claimants, even though these are people who might need support for all sorts of reasons.
“Around 4.3million families receiving benefits are in work, but earning too little to get by.
“Many others are ill, caring for a loved one or have lost their job. It could happen to any one of us.”
The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of a number of charities including Gingerbread, MIND and the Children’s Society.
Its findings will be sent to a report which is investigating whether benefit claimants are being treated like second-class citizens.
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014
> Oh dear, oh dear – people will just line up to be exploited, won’t they ?
The second series of Benefits Street, which is being filmed in Stockton, will reportedly feature a grandmother-of-six known as Orange Dee.
Dot Taylor, 48, is due to appear on the programme when it airs on Channel 4 early next year.
Mrs Taylor told the Daily Mirror : “I’m fun, me – because of my size. I’m only little, I’m only 4ft 11ins.
“I wouldn’t mind being the next White Dee. I’m not horrible, I’m nice to people.”
One of the main characters in the first series was ‘White Dee’, 43-year-old Deirdre Kelly, who is currently taking part in Celebrity Big Brother.
Mrs Taylor added: “I could go in there after this, the things I’d get up to, it would be brilliant.”
She told the Daily Mirror how she had previously worked in a crisp factory but had now “given up” looking for a job.
“I stopped working for the kids,” she said.
“Most of them [job adverts] they say you have to have loads of qualifications, but most people who even have the qualifications can’t get a job anyway.”
Love Productions, the company making the series, has insisted the show is not about “exploitation” but giving a “voice to a community that don’t really” have one.
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has warned the residents of Kingston Road are “being set up for entertainment purposes“.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 29 Aug 2014
The Housing Benefit bill is set to spiral out of control due to low wages and rising rents, official figures suggest.
Between 2010/11 to 2018/19 the amount spent on helping struggling households to keep roofs over their heads is set to rocket to a staggering £12.9 billion, or £488 for every household in the UK.
The figures obtained from the Commons Library also show that Housing Benefit paid to people in work is set to more than double, from £2.4 billion in 2010/11 to £5.5 billion in 2018/19.
Stagnating wages will also have a knock on effect on how much is spent supporting low-income households with tax credits. Currently the UK spends £21.2 billion on tax credits, but this is forecast to rise to £23.7 billion by 2018/19.
Speaking in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, Rachel Reeves is expected to say:
“The number of working people claiming housing benefit is set to double because the Tory Government has failed to tackle low pay, insecure work and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Labour will raise the minimum wage, introduce living wage contracts and get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020 to tackle the bill and ensure working people can make ends meet.”
She will also say that Labour may withdraw its support for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme, unless “urgent action” is immediately taken to prevent “more money being wasted” on the crisis hit programme.
Ms Reeves will say: “Today I want to make a direct appeal to David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith.
“Labour wants Universal Credit to work. But we won’t accept more taxpayers’ money being wasted. It is in crisis and needs urgent action.”
> Yes, Rachel, but what you need to understand is that the problem with Universal Credit is not just that it’s a money pit. Its also the way in which it makes life so much more difficult for people who already have more than enough problems to be going on with.
Are Labour going to deal with those aspects ? Nothing seen so far suggests that they would anything except continue with more of the same.
Earlier this year, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud described the write-off of a failed £40 million IT system for Universal Credit as “deeply regrettable”.
He insisted that the programme would be delivered on time and within its £2.5 billion budget and that the scheme would benefit taxpayers to the tune of £35 billion.
Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP, told the Daily Mirror that the government had “inherited an out-of-control housing benefit system from Labour”.
He added that the government were working to “build a welfare system that provides a safety net for those in need, while rewarding the willingness to work”.
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 Aug 2014
27 church leaders, including a number of Anglican bishops, have slammed coalition benefit cuts and “punitive” sanctions in an unprecedented attack on the government’s welfare policies.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror, the church leaders warn that “one in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children” and others are having to face the unenviable decision between eating and heating as “food prices have gone up 30% in just five years”.
The church leaders argue that half a million people are having to turn to food banks to feed themselves as their families, and that it was time for society to “face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs and failures in the benefit system”.
According to the signatories of the letter “5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year”.
They say that there is a “moral imperative” for society and the coalition government to act on food poverty and take immediate action to “make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger”.
The letter sent to the Daily Mirror reads as follows:
“Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.
“Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.
“One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and even more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.
“We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
“Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
“On March 5th Lent will begin. The Christian tradition has long been at this time to fast, and by doing so draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God.
“On March 5th we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us.
“There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support food banks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.
“We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 19 Feb 2014