BENEFIT claimants are being charged up to 55p a minute to call the government’s hotline for queries about universal credit, it emerged yesterday.
But calls to scrap the fee were dismissed by Theresa May as she revealed that nearly 20 per cent of claimants have to wait longer than six weeks to receive their first payment.
The prime minister was challenged over the government’s controversial welfare reform just days after one of her predecessors, John Major, branded it ‘socially unfair’.
Jeremy Corbyn demanded she ‘show some humanity’ and axe the charges as the pair clashed at prime minister’s questions.
‘I wonder which planet the prime minister is on,’ the Labour leader asked.
‘Citizens Advice describes universal credit as “a disaster waiting to happen”. Will the prime minister today intervene and make at least the helpline free?’
Mrs May insisted universal credit would help more people into work. Taunting Mr Corbyn as being ‘on planet Venezuela’, she told MPs: ‘Changes have been made and performance has increased. At the beginning of this year only 55 per cent of people were getting their first payment on time, now that is over 80 per cent.’
Iain Duncan Smith — who introduced the benefit as work and pensions secretary — defended the roll-out but said it was hampered by spending cuts by former Tory chancellor George Osborne.