Telephone Calls

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 17th October 2011.

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Photo of Simon Wright Simon Wright Liberal Democrat, Norwich South

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance he has issued to Work programme providers on the use of 084 and 087 prefix telephone numbers.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The underlying principles of the Work programme give providers the flexibility to design an innovative and personalised approach to helping participants into sustained employment. The providers are best placed to decide how to communicate with participants. If they choose to use 084 or 087 telephone numbers, they need to ensure that they adhere to the Advertising Standards Authority code of practice—this mandates marketers and communicators to advise customers of the potential cost of telephone calls whenever a non-geographical number is referenced.

DWP have been clear with providers that participants should not be worse off by virtue of attending the Work programme.

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David Hickson - fair telecoms campaign
Posted on 21 Oct 2011 8:46 am (Report this annotation)

This is a most excellent and clear answer.

It confirms that the DWP is content for Work Programme providers to recover the costs of running the programme from participants - thus saving the Department money at the expense of those whom the programme aims to assist.

For the avoidance of doubt about the nature of these telephone numbers, I offer a formal statement from Ofcom. This is provided in answer to the question:
"Do companies using 0845/44/43 numbers rather than geographic rate numbers (01/02/03) gain a financial benefit from doing so?"

"0845/44/43 numbers include a revenue sharing component in their charges which allows part of the revenue from the calls to be passed to the organisation using one of those numbers. Geographic rate numbers (01/02/03) do not include a revenue share.

"The revenue available in those ranges is relatively low and to our knowledge is not normally passed as cash to those companies but is used to offset the cost of operating the communications systems used (eg automated call handling, answering machines, call centres etc)."

0871/2/3 numbers are classified as being used for "Premium Rate Services", which operate on exactly the same basis, except that the revenue available is considerably greater.

It is matter of little surprise that the DWP permits Work Programme providers to use telephone numbers whereby the caller incurs a charge including "a revenue sharing component". The Department does exactly this itself!

Obviously we must share the Minister's hope that programme participants will be able to recover the cost of the charges they have incurred out of the wages they earn when entering employment. Similarly, those who telephone the Pensions Agency to query their pension may be able to recover the charge incurred when doing so out of the increased benefit which they may receive as a result. Likewise Job-seekers, the Disabled and those claiming Child Support.

Some, including myself, question whether this is an appropriate way to look at the issue of charging for access to public services.

(See my media release on this matter at