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NI's Universal Credit helpline should be free

I was pleased to hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Wednesday that they would change the Universal Credit helpline for England and Wales to a freephone number next month, which was being charged at 55p per minute.

However, the roll-out of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland is coming with a charged helpline, as well.

Granted, it is not nearly as expensive, at 10p per minute from landlines (but up to 40p per minute from mobiles).

However, when claimants are calling the helpline, it is more than likely they are either chasing a payment, or a decision, as this benefit is managed online.

They can ill-afford to pay for any phonecalls when they are claiming such a benefit.

Particularly when call demand is high, claimants have been known to be on a call like this for up to an hour in England and Wales.

Should not the Department for Communities - that is responsible for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland - now follow suit and provide a freephone for Universal Credit claimants in NI?

MATTHEW BEECHING

By email

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