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Jobcentre Plus: Telephone Services

Volume 504: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the answer of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 848-9W, on Jobcentre Plus: telephone services, what progress has been made in her Department's discussions with the Telephone Helplines Association and mobile telephone companies; what assessment she has made of the merits of automated textback helplines; for what reasons her Department does not instruct its operators to offer callbacks; and if she will make a statement. (308317)

I am very pleased to be able to report that the Department for Work and Pensions has now signed an agreement with six of the largest mobile operators to provide free calls from mobiles to our 0800 claims lines.

The agreement will be phased in during January and, by the end of January, all customers who use Vodafone; T-Mobile; 02; Orange; Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile to call our 0800 claims lines will no longer be charged by their service provider. We expect the remaining 24 or so mobile operators to join the agreement meaning that by April 2010 all calls from mobiles to our 0800 claims lines should be free to the caller.

With this agreement we have achieved a significant step towards making a reality of our policy of free calls to our 0800 claims lines for all our customers.

The Department is currently exploring the use of SMS text messaging as a means of communicating with customers. As part of that work we will consider whether text messaging is a suitable way of customers requesting a call-back. In the meantime, where a customer calling either our 0800 or 0845 services asks us, or raises concerns over the cost of the call, we will offer to call them back.