Referring to my last article dealing with the rollout of Universal Credit overseen by #David Gauke something of a miracle has occurred. From the end of November, all benefit helplines including Universal Credit will be free of charge.

This will come as great news no doubt to all those waiting six weeks or more for their first payment of Universal Credit. Many claimants have been made homeless or thrown into poverty as rent and bills pile up.

South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen held a meeting with Theresa May and David Gauke at 10 Downing Street to discuss the issue. It seems rather than face rebellion and defeat May and Gauke caved in over the issue of callers being charged 55p when phoning DWP helplines.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Often when callers call these lines they are left hanging being told all lines are currently busy with classical music being played to them repeatedly. Maybe the classical music is supposed to help callers calm down but hanging on for 20 minutes or longer does not help the phone bill when it comes in.

Heidi Allen called this announcement "A great start to the day" but has highlighted David Gaukes other failings saying he is papering over other concerns.

Labour press home their advantage

Jeremy Corbyn in his questioning of the Prime Minister last Wednesday highlighted the flaws in Universal Credit. Labour knew many Tories, as well as others from other parties, were against Universal Credit because of the time it was taking to be paid to claimants and the 55p a minute call charges.

It is possible Heidi Allen spearheading the Tory revolt together with Labour and others scared the May government within an inch of their lives.

Advertisements

Possibly an ultimatum was put on the table at that meeting at Downing Street along the lines of "Back down on Universal Credit or face rebellion and defeat in the Commons". Whatever transpired at the Downing Street gathering it has forced the government to announce no charge DWP helplines from the end of November.

Of course, this comes as welcome news and a Phyric victory for those opposed to how Universal Credit was being rolled out and the call charges but there will still be problems. Many calling the helplines now and when they are free next month may still have to face hardship until their benefit is paid to them.

Labour continues to call for pause

Labour after the announcement by David Gauke of free DWP helplines from November said Universal Credit should still be paused for the continuing problems with it to be ironed out.

David Gauke the man overseeing Iain Duncan Smiths brainchild announced that the implementation of #Free Phone lines was motivated by his concern for struggling claimants.

Advertisements

One does not wish to throw cold water on Gauke's statement but the reality is David Gauke would never say fear of rebellion and defeat made him and the government change tack on this issue.

Some would say that the May government does listen and does change but the truth of the matter is the Tories over this issue did not want to lose to face.