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Sinn Féin slam government phone line ‘rip-off’'

18 June, 2008

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has hit out after it emerged that low-income families are forced to pay to use government help lines.

Ms Anderson said:

"It emerged this week that so-called freephone government help lines are in fact raking in millions every year in call charges.

"These phone lines are supposed to offer help and advice around issues such as benefits payments and tax credits.

"However, these 0800 and 0845 numbers are only free to call from a landline and that simply doesn't reflect the reality of life for those who need this help the most.

"The vast majority of low-income households do not have a landline. Instead they use pay as you go mobile phones because it is the only thing they can afford and they are being ripped-off as a result.

"I find it incredible that in the same week the Assembly published the child poverty report, low-income families are still unable to seek help because of the exorbitant cost.

"I will be raising this matter with the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and calling on her to petition the Social Security Agency to end this exploitation of the most vulnerable people in our society." ENDS

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