Universal Credit: Millions missing out on £144 discount off broadband bill

Martin Lewis details cheap broadband deals for jobseekers

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Those in receipt of the benefit payment from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are entitled to additional support through their broadband provider. These discounts are known as “social tariffs” and offer families £144 off their broadband bill if they are eligible for them. However, the UK’s media regulator Ofcom is calling on broadband providers to promote this discount to their customers as millions are not getting it.

Ofcom has recently released new research which found that nearly 1.1 million households, around 5.5 percent of the country, are struggling to pay their broadband bill.

This figure jumps to around one in 10 when taking into account the lowest-income households.

The regulator shared that only 55,000 of the eligible 4.2 million households have claimed this broadband discount.

This is the equivalent to 1.2 percent of eligible households who are currently in receipt of Universal Credit.

Claimants of this DWP benefit can contact their home’s broadband provider to see if they can get this support.

Each broadband provider has a different social tariff for Universal Credit claimants, with BT and Virgin being examples of companies which offer this essential support.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said: “The cost of living is increasing at an alarming rate and telecoms customers aren’t immune to these rises.

“Today’s announcement from Ofcom, updating their guidance on the treatment of vulnerable customers, sends a clear message and shows consistency to providers when helping those who are in financial difficulties or are in debt on their broadband or phone bills.

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“As broadband is an essential utility, many providers have packages available for financially vulnerable customers, but our research found that two thirds of these customers (65 percent) don’t know these options are available.

“Broadband providers must do more to help people in need. For those struggling to find work, internet access is vital and being threatened with disconnection can cause huge stress.

“Social tariffs aren’t the only way broadband customers can save money.

“Seven million households in Britain are overpaying by £162 a year because they don’t realise they are out of contract on their deal, despite the looming price rises.”

On the report, Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director, explained: “Phone and broadband are vital to our lives, but many households’ budgets are being seriously squeezed.

“So it’s crucial that people who are struggling to afford their bills get the support they need.

“We’ve set out clear expectations on the steps providers should take, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on firms to make sure they’re treating customers fairly.”

Gillian Fyfe, Citizens Advice Scotland’s Strong Communities spokesperson, said: “These take-up figures are shocking. Low income families across the country are really struggling because of the rise in energy bills, the end of furlough and the reduction in Universal Credit.

“Saving £144 could be a lifeline for them, and yet it seems very few of them know about it or feel able to choose that option.

“The responsibility here lies with the broadband providers. It’s not enough for them simply to offer social tariffs.

They need to make people aware that these options exist, and exactly how they should go about selecting these tariffs.”

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