Perhaps you already are doing without a fixed line phone. It is one cost that most of us can do without. Some people will decide to cancel their service in an effort to save some money. This is also often done because it duplicates what we already can do with our mobile phones. But what do you do when that is too expensive as well? What if you also need a fixed line telephone for safety reasons, or say for a family member who is disabled?
We understand that one of the most common reasons for not having a fixed line phone is owing money to your previous telecom supplier. There may be other debts owed also, making it even more difficult to determine what, if any, of your outstanding bills you can pay. Sometimes you just have to prioritise the most important obligations that you have.
We can normally do without the fixed line unit as long as we keep our mobile service paid in full. If you need help affording your monthly telephone bill, there are places where you can turn to get the help that you need. It is true there is no Cameron Phone (British version of the US Obama Lifeline Service). There are however responsibly operated financial aid programmes that can assist with the need for a phone when it becomes unaffordable for a lower income household.
Low Usage Schemes
Some estimates show that fewer than 20% of UK residents know of low usage schemes that can make a fixed line phone affordable. British Telecom made headlines a few years ago when they scrapped their Light User Scheme. However, their BT Basic service is still available. It is for lower income residents and it starts at just £5.10 per month. The programme is generally available to you if you already receive benefits, including Universal Credit.
If you are having trouble paying your bill, there are repayment options that can allow you to avoid any adverse action in the future. Many providers will work with struggling households to come up with a payment plan. The best way to reach an alternative agreement is to contact them immediately to discuss your hardship and to see what leeway they can grant you.
Some of the common solutions include the provider allowing a customer to reach an agreement for a payment holiday. Perhaps you could spread repayment of any arrears on your account over the course of 2-3 months or maybe even longer. There may even be individual charges that you can dispute.
To avoid a credit check and to also reduce your expenses, you could just opt for a pay-as-you-go phone. These PAYG start at around £10 per month. So they are much less expensive then other services that are available. They can be a great option for those who need a mobile phone for emergencies. Also, what may people may not know is that if you already have a telephone, you could cut your rates further with SIM-only options.
Very few UK charities provide assistance for this expense. It is not generally viewed as a critical need. There are a few resources though for some very specific situations.
- The Children’s Society distributes phone cards to runaways that need to be able to contact project workers or other emergency workers.
- Telephones for the Blind (TFTB) is another organisation for those with a disability. They can provide mobile phones as well as BT landline grants when someone in the home is visually impaired.
- Go ON UK provides computers for as little as £24. By using free VOIP software and broadband for as little as £2.99 per month, you could have free phone service just by using your computer.
- The Veterans Charity sometimes receives donations of mobile phones and other electronics that it in turn gives away to Veterans in need.
- Women may be able to receive long term support from the Society for the Assistance of Ladies. Grants will be issued to help pay for telephone costs and in some cases there may even be financial aid for TV bills.
As indicated by the Go ON UK program, you can have access to free telephone services by using your home’s broadband service. This is a trend that is accelerating across the UK. Even if you do not have a computer, having a Wi-Fi enabled device (even an iPod) with Skype or some other VOIP software app can allow you to make free phone calls.
BT has a tariff plan as well that help families that are on benefits. It provides some free minutes to call as well as a discounted rate. The scheme can also provide customers with savings on their wireless bills too. More on the BT Basic Tariff Scheme.
Help with Old Phone Bills
Old telephone debts can be assisted with when you contact one of the leading national budget counselling agencies. These places are ideal to call when you owe many different creditors and cannot afford to repay everyone. Your counsellor can help with phone expenses, credit cards, personal loans and all other personal financial problems that you are struggling with. Calls are free to Citizen’s Advice, Business Debtline, Christians Against Poverty, Civil Legal Advice, Debt Action NI (N. Ireland), Debt Advice Foundation, National Debtline, Shelter and StepChange Debt Charity. Any one of them can help you prioritise phone bills around other debts to determine the best way to proceed. They can also counsel you on ways to cut what you owe.
Your telco can help you as well if you are unable to afford your current phone expense. In some cases, the counsellor can help you enter into a payment plan. Many companies offer customers these, but they can be hard to enroll into. When successful, the plan can address any arrears on the account. So these charities can often be the best place to start for bills that have turned into bad debts or are in danger of doing so. As you can see, there are many options for getting help with paying or saving money on your phone bills.