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The Labour MP Frank Field has said the government needs to ‘iron out difficulties with telephone costs before they blast the poor to bits’. Photograph: Mark Pinder. Pressure is growing on ministers to make calls to the universal credit helpline free, after it emerged that low-income claimants could be paying up to 55p a minute for calls to fix problems with their claim. Campaigners want charges dropped as evidence grows that claimants are forced to spend long periods waiting on the phone to resolve issues, and often have to make a number of calls. There are also concerns that poor training of call centre staff and underlying problems with the complex universal credit system contribute to long waiting times. Full story

12 October