The UK government is going to make the Universal Credit helpline free to use, and they’re going to do the same with all the other Department for Work and Pensions phone numbers. This comes after, last week, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn kicked up a fuss about the fact that mobile phone users are charged 55p per minute simply to get the help that they need.

So, the government has seen that this is a senseless cost and it has been announced to Members of Parliament by the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, that these charges will be removed by the end of the year and calls to those numbers will be made free. The work and pensions team have been facing a lot of heat recently over the issues that universal credit raises.

May/Corbyn rivalry reignited

Remember the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episode, “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry?” Well, that’s what this universal credit thing has done to the rivalry between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. There’s been a heated breaking out over these charges being scrapped, with some MPs saying the rollout should be put off until a later date and further debate, since this has all gone down in the space of a week.

According to Gauke, since the universal credit helpline is an 0345 phone number, the charges are simply the local, regular rate, and not a premium rate enforced by the government. However, since these issues have been brought up, the decision has been made to switch it to a freephone number. Gauke called his reason for making the switch “the recent attention and concern,” so basically, if no one had said anything, he’d continue ripping people off.

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The change will happen as quickly as “over the next month,” he says, because he’s finally seen that a 55p-a-minute charge “could place a burden on claimants.”

Gauke also said that his department’s “longstanding position” had been to charge “local line charges” for calls to their helplines, but that after looking over “this matter more widely,” he’s seen that line charges can be a massive pain, especially when the people in the call centre don’t care about you and take a very long time to talk to you and fix the problem you have, he will be making sure that all DWP phone lines will be free to use “by the end of the year,” although he seems to be doing this very begrudgingly. Very begrudgingly indeed.

Victory for Corbyn

This move to make the DWP helplines free is a small victory for Corbyn, as was last June’s general election. He got his way and May didn’t get her way. So, that’s like two wins in and of itself, really. This don’t usually move this fast in the government. An issue was raised last week and now it’s been fixed, and the whole thing will have been fully resolved by next month.

It’s beautiful. The government should do more things like this (well, unless they’re bad changes, of course – in that case, we can hope that they spend eternity in legislative limbo).

The Labour Party are ecstatic about the freephone decision, with their shadow pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams rejoicing that the Tories have “finally listened to Labour” and gotten rid of the premium rate that Gauke insists is not a premium rate but that certainly seems like a premium rate. She added that the Conservative Party’s next move should be to hear “the calls of charities and councils” to freeze the universal credit rollout and get that sorted, too, “before more people are pushed into rent arrears, poverty, and homelessness.” Conservative MPs are happy with the change as well, with one of them, Heidi Allen, tweeting that the news of the freephone switch was “a great start to the day.”