The Social Security Minister says her department is looking into the cost of calling the Social Security and Covid-19 helplines, after admitting she was astounded to hear some callers pay up to 39p a minute.
Deputy Rob Ward questioned whether, as owners of JT, the government could set up a free phoneline.
Deputy Judy Martin said while 'nothing is free in this world', options are being considered.
"When the vaccinations (appointments) went out, it (the waiting time) did go up to about five minutes and it’s not acceptable if people are on the 'Pay as you go'.
"So we are working, we are talking to telecoms and we’re keeping all the options open.
"That’s a lot of money for somebody on a low income (with a) 'Pay as you go' phone."
The Minister admitted that she only became aware of the issue after seeing Deputy Ward's question before this week's States sitting.
He asked: "Given that pay-as-you-go mobile phone users can pay up to 39p a minute when held in a queue for the Social Security or Covid-19 helplines, will the Minister advise whether there is any facility for members of the public to make these calls for free; and if not, will the Minister commit to enabling this as a matter of urgency?"
A meeting with the Director General was then arranged to discuss the issue.
She told the Assembly that every 44+ number costs approximately £40,000 and that other options to contact Social Security were being considered.
The Minister also told fellow States members that while he understands Deputy Ward's concerns, she can reassure him that all calls to Customer and Local Services are answered 'very quickly', with call-back options offered as well.
Apparently being monitored but social security minister also stated that "nothing is for free". We should not be penalising those on pay as you go who need the helpline.— 🌈Deputy Rob Ward (Reform Jersey)🌈 (@deputyrobward) January 19, 2021