Broadband: Social Security Benefits

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology written question – answered at on 2 May 2023.

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Photo of Beth Winter Beth Winter Labour, Cynon Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, what steps her Department is taking to raise awareness of the availability of broadband and mobile phone social tariffs amongst those households eligible to apply.

Photo of Beth Winter Beth Winter Labour, Cynon Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, what assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of the number of applications for broadband and mobile phone social tariffs among households eligible to apply.

Photo of Beth Winter Beth Winter Labour, Cynon Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, what discussions her Department has had with broadband and mobile phone providers who do not offer a social tariff on the provision of such a tariff.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

Currently, 22 social tariff packages are available from 19 providers, in various regions of the UK, from as little as £10 a month. Based on coverage of the current providers, social tariffs are available across 99% of the country. We continue to urge those providers who do not currently offer a social tariff to consider the steps they might take to bring a low-cost offer to the market. My department engages with the industry on these issues on an ongoing basis.

We have taken steps to raise awareness of the availability of social tariffs. In November 2022, as part of Help for Households (and in collaboration with operators, charities and consumer groups), we launched a marketing campaign to raise awareness of social tariffs, using radio, press and television advertising to highlight that offers are available to households at this difficult time. Ofcom’s latest April 2023 Affordability Report shows that awareness has increased to 47% up from just 16% in January 2022. While we are pleased with the progress, we have also called on the telecoms industry to do more to ensure their customers know about the support available.

Ofcom’s Report also showed that 5.1% (220,000) of the 4.3 million households eligible were taking up a social tariff. This is a four-fold increase from January 2022. There are a range of complex reasons why take up may not be as high as might be expected, including: the availability of existing low cost, commercial packages; the availability of bundled services allowing consumers to save money over a range of products (such as landline, mobile and pay TV); and public misconceptions about the reliability of the cheaper deals.

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