Sam Fender calls out North East councils as he backs homeless charity fighting helpline charges

Sam Fender has launched an angry attack on four North East councils who he says are charging vulnerable residents for phone calls to helplines.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 7:45 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th November 2020, 12:09 pm
Sam Fender has backed a North East homeless charity fighting council helpline charges for the most vulnerable. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Sam Fender has backed a North East homeless charity fighting council helpline charges for the most vulnerable. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The North Shields singer was supporting a campaign by charity North East Homeless (NEH), calling on councils to offer free helplines for homeless and vulnerable people in need of support.

In a message on Twitter, Sam Fender called on South Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council, Durham County Council and Gateshead Council to act immediately.

He tweeted: "Working with @2014NEH we've learnt that 4 local councils in the NE aren't providing free helplines for the most vulnerable.

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"Absolutely shocking. Charging 40p/min to the most skint & helpless!"

Replying to Sam’s tweet, a South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We’re currently looking into a freephone number and the service can offer a ring back service once contact with our dedicated line has been made.

"There are also free public telephones in both South Shields and Jarrow Town Halls.”

Sam Fender has called out four North East councils on Twitter for not providing a free helpline for the most vulnerable.

But this was disputed by the North East Homeless charity, who said: “You have said this for ages now.

"Jarrow Town Hall is closed because of Covid and South Shields are on a limited opening.

"A ring back service just isn’t good enough when you have nothing.”

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Meanwhile a South Tyneside Green Party spokesman replied to Sam’s tweet saying: “David Francis has already raised this with officers from South Tyneside Council to try and sort it.”

Also replying directly to the tweet, a Gateshead Council spokesman said on Twitter: “But we're already working on it! We’re looking to implement this as soon as we can.

"In the meantime, if anyone calls our dedicated number 0191 433 3174 we will call them back or they can email [email protected]

“Plus there are free Inlink terminals in Gateshead town centre outside of Argos and Barclays Bank from which you can phone free of charge.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “People who are homeless, or are at risk of homelessness, have multiple points of access to the council including through our contact centres and our customer service centre which operates a standard landline charge.

"If we get such a call, a member of our Homelessness and Housing Options Teams will call the person back, so they are not incurring a telephone charge.

"An officer from the team will then work with the person seeking assistance to establish the issues, identify what advice and support is required, which may include provision of emergency accommodation and put them in touch with the relevant support services.

"We are continually seeking to develop and improve the services we offer and we are currently exploring ways for all vulnerable people, including those who are homeless, to contact the council."

Durham County Council have been contacted for comment.

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