14 June 2009

Andrew George, the Libdem MP for St Ives, has signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 1576 of 2 June 2009 in support of the report Hung up — the cost of calling government from a mobile phone from Leeds Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

I congratulate Leeds CAB on their report, direct and concrete, detailing the problems, showing solutions. I warmly commend Andrew George for signing the supportive EDM. This is an issue which also affects people in Cornwall.

The report is a sorry tale of government ineptitude and failure to adapt to changed circumstances rather than government raw callousness. It is a problem that can be readily solved.

The costs of ringing government help lines from a mobile phone are high; at present free and cheap government department numbers are not available for mobiles. Yet mobiles are the only phones that many vulnerable and poor people have.

The only way of contacting many government services is by phone.

This results in some people with mobiles not claiming benefits they are entitled to. The folly of the present arrangements is best seen in that it costs desperate people dearly to ring the government’s crisis loan help number. This is kicking people when they are down. This is making life more difficult for people in difficulties.

There is a solution through the government negotiating with the mobile phone companies to make 0800 numbers for selected government services, such as the crisis loans service, free on mobiles, if necessary through the Telephone Helpline Association scheme (0800 numbers are free on landlines but not usually on mobile phones).

Here is a problem. Here are vulnerable people needing help. Here is a solution. Here is a government…Ah, how will that sentence end?

EDM 1576 is here.

There is an article about this in the Observer for 14 June 2009.