Total of 40 minutes and more on hold to the DWP’s Universal Credit Debt Management line

Keeping a record of these things:

Yesterday morning, I made two calls to the DWP’s Debt Management “helpline” – the 0345 850 0293 number that people who receive benefits, including Universal Credit, must use to sort out problems with debt money that the DWP deducts from people’s Universal Credit payments.

I had to call twice yesterday (I didn’t have all the information that DWP Debt Management required the first time around. Unfortunately, I had to make the first call to find that out). I was on hold for more than 20 minutes both times to that 0345 850 0293 DWP Debt Management helpline, as you can see in the image below. I also called the line on Friday and was on hold for more than ten minutes, before I had to hang up to deal with something else.

As far as I can tell, this number has a charge. (I have a phone contract which covers those charges – that’s why I make calls for people who don’t). I hope this is one of the numbers that David Gauke has decided will be free soon. All helplines lines should have been free in the first place (I’d ask the DWP’s press office where things are at on all of these lines, but their answer to all my questions these days is to submit an FOI. So I have).

People who ring the DWP Debt Management helpline only ring that number because they have a debt problem and are in serious financial hardship. They can least afford extra charges for phone calls:

I was calling on behalf of young woman who claims Universal Credit and whose story I’ve been covering. She is concerned about deductions for child tax credit debt that the DWP is taking from her Universal Credit payments. She disputes the tax credit debt. The DWP has taken over tax credit debt recovery for Universal Credit claimants from the HMRC.

Trying to get to the bottom of disputes and problems with deductions from benefits like this literally takes forever. It really does. It drives people out of their minds. The whole “process,” is unbelievably stressful. I can’t emphasis strongly enough the difficulties we’re having just finding the right people to talk to – or getting through to anyone at all.

I called Universal Credit on Friday to try and understand who to contact. We wanted to do two things – challenge the tax credit debt and stop the reductions from benefit. Universal Credit said we’d have to speak to the HMRC about challenging the tax credit debt decision, and then to DWP Debt Management about stopping or reducing the deductions the DWP was taking from the Universal Credit payments each month.

Universal Credit gave me two different numbers to call. There was no suggestion that Universal Credit could just me put through to DWP Debt Management. I had to make new calls all over again. I’ve literally spent the time I’ve had available since then on hold to DWP Debt Management.

I post this, because I want to keep talking about the problems that people who are on the lowest incomes and most in need have with these systems. Waiting on hold to a debt management department for more than 20 minutes when you’ve got a serious debt and income problem is dreadful. It really is. People have complicated situations, too. I had to call Debt Management twice yesterday, as I say, because I didn’t have all the information needed when I made the first call. That sort of thing happens all the time. It meant I had to find the information, dial DWP Debt Management again and wait another 20+ minutes for the phone to be answered.

This really is the sort of thing that has people climbing the walls.

27 thoughts on “Total of 40 minutes and more on hold to the DWP’s Universal Credit Debt Management line

  1. Hi, Kate

    You wrote: “As far as I can tell, this number has a charge. People who ring the DWP Debt Management helpline only ring that number because they have a debt problem. They are people who can least afford extra charges for phone calls.”

    It strikes me that a fundamental question is whether the exorbitant ‘pay per call’ ‘helpline’ is privatised or not. Those who love to privatise public services through franchises such as G4S probably rub their hands with glee at putting down poor people as a ‘business opportunity’, such is the nature of their operations and corporate culture.

    Through ‘commercial confidentiality’, performance assessments of such operations are also probably more difficult to monitor. Before such operations were privatised through franchises, in 2004-5, 21 million calls to Jcp ‘helplines’ (44% of total) went unanswered. The Blairite government of the time buried that bad news under ‘targeting benefit thieves’ campaigning.

    The problem of supposed Working Tax Credit ‘overpayments’ was also under-reported in those days outside the ‘trade press’ of social workers as those who helped poor people ‘pick up the pieces’.

    Up until 2011, Hertfordshire County Council’s Head of Money Advice Gary Vaux wrote regular incisive articles for Community Care magazine. The heading of a 2009 piece he wrote about non-charitable advice givers could as easily apply to these franchised time: Welfare Rights: Beware of organisations exploiting benefit claimants
    By Gary Vaux on January 30, 2009 in Community Care

    Sadly though, the free local welfare rights advice sources and/or CAB Vaux refers to have had their funding severed under austerity while the ‘fatcats’ have grown even fatter. As you wrote two years ago, It can be really hard to get welfare rights advice; yet I believe we should cast a light on the privatised identities of the charlatans who run ‘helplines’ with Government blessings!

    • Yes I have an FOI in on that very topic as per our last conversation. There are contract history docs around which list the companies invited to bid for DWP contact centre provision but nothing further that I could easily find. Press Office wouldn’t say or confirm anything past those 2012 docs when I asked about 10 days ago. Will publish the FOI when it comes.

  2. I have said it before, and I will say it again and I will keep saying it until the corrupt DWP do this. Their letters give two options one is a phone number and the other is their address. They should include an email address, never mind claimants going online to look up the local JCP office and starting the body of the email with Please make sure this gets to the correct department.
    I did this after kicking my son out to get the SDP restored to my ESA they wanted me to phone an 0345 number so in a rather abrupt manner I told them they had just paid out nearly £3000 to a person because they refused to let him contact them. After 3 weeks I sent them an email telling them they had 14 days or I was taking court action against them. Day 11 the money went in, plus day 14 I got the letter saying it had. That Thursday my payment increased If they think I will ever call them they had better think again. I use my chosen method and they better get used to it.

      • My chosen method, if you haven’t guessed is email. If I want to contact them it is easier to go into my email and grab their email address from my contacts list, oh yes they are in my contacts because I never want to speak to them no matter what they say to try and persuade me.
        I have used this since 2008, all you do is type in your postcode and you get the address of the local office and just below a button to contact the central team, click on this and copy the email address to your email client contact and save it.

        SDP for those who don’t know what it is, it’s Severe Disability Premium and EDP, Enhanced Disability Premium, and neither exists under universal credit. So moving to a different area it might be wise to check if you will be changed from ESA with SDP & EDP to Universal credit where they do not exist! If I am not mistaken then if the DWP move your area to UC then claimants won’t lose the money but it will always be the amount it is on the changeover date until any future increase is just the JSA part of the ESA. By which time I think the claimants of ESA as a standalone benefit will have died off.

  3. Well what do you expect when you let a right-wing extremist make up a benefit system to punish the unemployed ? And then sit cowering on the opposition benches in case someone says something nasty to you about welfare ?
    Universal Credit and all its difficulties is nothing more than a deliberate fence placed around benefits, and an obstacle to any potential claimants.

    • So true. The obstacles really are something else. I’ve been dealing with social security systems for a long time now. A lot of them have been shit for a while, but things have really achieved a whole new level of intentional uselessness in recent times. Looking forward to finding out who is making money out of all of this

      • I just read that article about Universal Credit on open democracy that you tweeted a link to, that’s a very good & insightful piece. It confirms what most of us already know; that UC is a monumental balls-up & IDS is completely fucking insane.

  4. Pingback: Total of 40 minutes and more on hold to the DWP’s Universal Credit Debt Management line | Benefit tales

  5. Even the Nazi state would not its citizens starve or freeze during the winter months. Can we say the same of Universal Credit ?

    The Winterhilfswerk des Deutschen Volkes (English: “Winter Relief of the German People”), was set up by the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization to help finance charitable work. Its slogan was “None shall starve nor freeze” and was designed to provide food, clothing, coal, and other items to less fortunate Germans during the inclement months.

    • Under the Nazis, people DID both starve and freeze to death in concentration camps, before they were deliberately gassed to death.

    • That brings up another point COLD WEATHER PAYMENTS! You get 6 days of weather at zero or below and day 7 it is 1 above or estimated it will be, and the claimants get feck all! In 28 bays you can have 24 days of zero or below and 4 above but every 7 days there is one day it is above zero the person might have used their heating all of those 24 days expecting payments but got none. This is why you get homes that are cold, people wrapping up in extra layers of clothing, keeping hats, coats and gloves on in the home.
      I would rather they go back to a DAILY RATE, say £3.50/55 per day payable with the next benefit payment, either way, the government save money as 7 days of the £3.55, top rate, is less than their £25 payment.

  6. It would be a lot better if they called it Reluctant Credit.
    People don’t want to claim it, and the government don’t want to give it out.

  7. I agree it’s dreadful.

    If you are having money troubles and you have a smartphone, PLEASE order a SIM card from Three. Go on the Three website next time you are on the computer. They will post it to you and the only charge you pay is £5 to top it up. Then calls are 3p per minute. That’s £1 for 20 minutes on hold. I know that’s still money, but it’s A LOT BETTER than some of the other networks. Vodafone, EE, etc. have the highest charges.

    If you have no smartphone, you can buy a basic mobile phone for £5 at Carphone Warehouse. It doesn’t connect to the internet, so you can’t use it with Three. Instead, go on the Asda Mobile website and order a SIM card. Again, they post it to you free and the only cost you pay is £5 to top up.

    Please note customer service is FREE with Three, even when you speak to a person.

  8. Our Social Security system has never been in such a mess, it’s an absolute shambles. All quite deliberate of course, and if the Tories want to deny that then the only other possible explanation is incompetence. Universal Credit has been described as “the Poll Tax of our times”, and anyone old enough to remember the Poll Tax Riot knows how that ends. Will history repeat itself?

  9. Pingback: Total of 40 minutes and more on hold to the DWP’s Universal Credit Debt Management line | Kate Belgrave – leftwingnobody

  10. When are we all going to riot?I see all these groups on fb all complaining and worrying but no one and so mean no one is organising mass protests.We as a country should be outraged.We shoukd be holding national strikes.We should all unite to stop this government for it’s mass genocide of the poor.None of that is happening.We’re all just having a moan on social media and hoping somebody else does something about it.The time for action is now.One week of a national strike will let the 1% know where the money comes from really.Lets get the ball rolling NOW.

  11. There is an article on Labour Uncut written by the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, criticizing UC & calling for Gauke’s resignation. You can leave comments.

  12. I made 4 attempts to call yesterday Mon 2/7/18 was cut off twice after 3 minutes then 10 minutes. Then had to give up after 20 minutes on my third attempt as my lunch break was past being over. Called again at 16:52 and remained in “the queue” still having not spoken to anyone until 18:00 when the lines closed. 1 hour and 8 minutes waiting. I’m now on day two of trying to call and as I type this I’ve been on hold for 20minutes

    • As I said above in an earlier post use email if you are persistent you can use reasonable adjustments if you have a disability, or just hate using the phone. I won’t ever use the phone to contact them no matter how much they try to get me too.

  13. to say u.c.and in particular debt managment are a joke is an understatement. we have just spent 8 months retrieving an amount of money which was deducted from our u/c payment . this money an overpayment of w.t.c. had been repaid back by us to HMRC I january. although the amount has now been returned to us they have now begun taking it back yet again. recent intervention by our local m.p. has resulted in debt management owning up and admitting fault. but the refund we are now due was promised to be returned within 7 days from 13th of july. that was now 40 days ago. if you have a similar problem you are wasting your bloody time attempting to try and get any resolution from these people i dont know how half of them are working in these jobs. dont have a long drawn out stressful situation . if you do then take your problem to your local M.P. and request that he or she get answers from these hopeless faceless people at u.c. and debt management

  14. tomsteel, I would have been after then when the first payment was short. I would have put that they had 14 days to pay the money plus compensation of £50, the £50 error works both ways, and told them that on day 15 the legal proceedings start and will not be stopped until at least £750 compensation has been paid as well, even if the money was paid on day 15, this would be outside the period given and further compensation will be sought.
    I advised someone to do this and they paid up in 9 days and they got the letter on day 14.
    14 days is adequate time for them to pay, you just need the Ballz to carry it through.

    • thanks for that info. terminator. will look into that. i certainly have no hang ups about taking these people to task.

  15. Pingback: Politics UK Tax credit debt – The Universal Credit problem nobody is talking about

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