An end to Payphone Access Charges for helplines

Paula Ojok

Helplines Partnership celebrates an end to Payphone Access Charges for helplines that offer free to caller services from 1st April 2015.

Every day people call helplines for support. Some particularly vulnerable people use payphones to contact helplines. The Payphone Access Charge (PAC) was charged to helplines that operate a free phone number and have callers contacting them from payphones. Costs have increased from 9 pence per minute (ppm) to 79ppm over the past few years and this has caused financial difficulties for service providers. Some helplines were forced to bar calls from payphones as a result of these costs resulting in loss of services for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

PAC_infographicHelplines Partnership has campaigned on this issue for a long time. Our research has shown that helpline callers who use payphones are particularly vulnerable, and the payphone may be their only source of access to help and support.

Key groups that we identified were people fleeing domestic violence or people living in violent situations where access to a mobile or landline phone is controlled and monitored; children who have run away from home, people in prison or receiving in-patient treatment for mental illness; homeless people and people who are feeling suicidal.

Other reasons why people need to use payphones include not having the economic resources to own or run a mobile phone, a lack of confidence in mobile phones from older callers, people making a spontaneous decision to call, or their mobile being unavailable through lack of credit or battery life.  Helplines also receive calls from people who live in chaotic or crowded accommodation for whom the payphone offers a safe, private and confidential space.

From 1st April 2015 all voluntary organisation members of Helplines Partnership that operate a free to caller number will no longer face BT Payphone Access Charges. With a typical helpline call of 40 minutes duration this represents a saving to a helpline of £31.60 per call from a vulnerable caller who has to use a payphone. This saving applies to all member helplines operating under the Special Freephone Tariff, or who have numbers beginning with 0800, 0808 or 0500. In addition any helpline on the 116 range will also receive relief.

Further details can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions below:


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