Help the Aged plans to charge callers to telephone helpline

Help the Aged is considering charging 9p a minute for its freephone advice line in a bid to help plug the £6m revenue shortfall it faces next year (Third Sector, 12 November).

Steve Jones, Help the Aged's director of communications, defended the proposal: "In a relatively short conversation, callers can increase their income by tens of pounds a week in some cases."

SeniorLine takes 70,000 calls every year from England, Scotland and Wales on issues such as benefits, council tax and housing, and costs £550,000 a year to operate. The average call lasts five minutes, and benefits-related calls can last up to 15 minutes.

Last week, the charity shed nine jobs at its Scottish office, including all five helpline advisors, and re-routed all calls to London. The redundant staff plan to take the case to an employment tribunal.

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