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Government Helplines: Low-income Households

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

11. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the cost of phone calls to Government helplines on low-income households. (901053)

The Government are committed to answering calls from the public in a timely manner. Where Departments are experiencing surges in demand, performance is being monitored and staffing is being increased. For example, for the weekend of 1 July, the Home Office answered 77% of calls to its helplines within 30 seconds, with an average wait time of one minute and nine seconds.

By definition, women eligible for Healthy Start vouchers are on low incomes, but the cost of making calls to the helpline at local rates is prohibitive for many, contributing to the cost of poverty. Will the Minister undertake to speak to Health colleagues to see what can be done to minimise the cost of that helpline and, more generally, look at the cost of calls to helplines across Government that are specifically designed to enable people on low incomes to reach the services and benefits intended to help them?

We are always looking at these matters. The Department for Work and Pensions reviews the forecasted telephony demand and plans its resourcing accordingly to keep wait times down. All DWP customer telephone lines are freephone numbers. Separately, I should say that the DWP is digitising key parts of its service to increase efficiency.