To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that the premium rate helpline number for universal credit is not included in communications by JobCentre Plus.
20 February 2018
The Universal Credit telephone numbers previously used by the Department were not premium rate numbers and it is misleading to refer to them in this way. The 0345 numbers that were in use were charged at local rate and are included in the call packages of most mobile and landline phone deals.
Any customer who raised a concern about the costs of calling the Department was offered a call back. We have no evidence that people did not call because they believed the service was a premium rate number.
To ensure that customers dial the correct numbers, the Department has embarked on an exercise to update all its products. The Department’s electronic media, such as SMS text messages and Gov.uk website, were updated as the new freephone numbers were introduced. System generated notifications for Universal Credit Full Service were updated on 28 November. System notifications for Universal Credit Live Service were updated between 28 November and 31 January 2018.
During the period that our products were being updated, any calls to a 0345 number were played a message that told them that that number had been replaced with a Freephone number, whilst giving them the new Freephone number to use.
The current monthly cost to the Department for playing the recorded messages to provide the new freephone numbers is approximately £300.