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Benefits Helpline

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will assess the effects of the methods of operation of Benefits Helpline on benefits claimants; and if he will make a statement; (256411)

(2) what representations he has received on the operations of a company called Benefits Helpline; and if he will make a statement.

The Department for Work and Pensions makes advice on benefits and a wide range of other entitlements easily accessible to everyone through a variety of channels including information leaflets, telephone helplines, websites, and through intermediary organisations working closely with us.

These sources of help and information are consistently promoted through the Department for Work and Pensions website, phone books, in Jobcentres and pension centres and by local authorities.

In order to streamline public access to this and other Departments' information, it is now government policy that Departments should use Directgov:

an online, TV and mobile phone service, providing citizens with access to information and services from across Government. This will replace the large numbers of standalone websites that Government currently run. The change is taking place between now and 2011.

We also run many promotional campaigns to ensure that eligible and vulnerable people are aware of their entitlements.

We would always recommend that where people are seeking information on entitlements, they should turn to the relevant Department for Work and Pensions agency or trusted sources of information like Age Concern and the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

We are aware that other organisations promote benefits advice services on a commercial basis and have received a small number of representations. However, these services are not in themselves illegal, and it is the responsibility of the service Regulator to monitor their operation and to take action where necessary to control them.