Reported in Wales Online, a whistleblowing Jobcentre manager has told former Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain that the removal of helpline phones for the use of claimants will cause serious difficulties for the most vulnerable people in Britain.{jcomments on}

The manager contacted Mr Hain after he expressed concern about the planned removal of phones from the Jobcentre serving his Neath constituents.

It emerged that the move was part of a nationwide strategy approved by current Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

In an email to Mr Hain the Jobcentre manager, who has asked not to be identified, stated: “I have grave concerns about the upcoming ‘digitilisation’ of [my Jobcentre].

“In essence, this means the removal of all the free phones for customers to contact the benefit centres when they have problems with their money.

“We currently have [a number of] phones which are used constantly throughout the day. The calls could be about [a range of benefits for the unemployed, the disabled and the low paid].

“All of these numbers are [premium rate] 0845 numbers, and customers would prefer to spend time and money to come down to the Jobcentre, as the cost of 0845 numbers can be very expensive. And remember, the reason for these calls is ‘I haven’t received my money’.”

The manager says the line being used by the Department for Work and Pensions to placate claimants and politicians is that staff will be available locally to help people access benefit centres by computer, and if necessary to phone the relevant centre. However, says the manager, there has been no staffing increase to cope with this.

“On many days there is only one or two staff available to deal with benefit enquiries for vulnerable customers,” says the manager. “This will not increase…

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