SOCIAL tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages for people claiming Universal Credit, Pension Credit and some other benefits. Some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband. They are delivered in the same way as normal packages, just at a lower price.

According to the latest figures from Ofcom, take-up of social tariffs grew substantially over the past year, from 220,000 households to 380,000. However, just over half of eligible households were unaware of social tariffs, and take-up remains low as a proportion of eligible households (8.3 per cent).

Responding to the figures on social tariffs take-up, Matthew Upton, Acting Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens Advice, said: “Internet access is an essential service. People need to be online to access everything from banking to work, education to community or vital government services. Without internet access people are cut off from society.

“But we know household budgets are under incredible pressure. If you struggle to afford the cost of broadband, lower rates are out there in the form of social tariffs. But 91 per cent of those eligible are missing out on this crucial lifeline – leaving over £800 million in support going unclaimed. We’re at the point where it’s obvious the current approach isn’t working. The government needs to set the standard, bringing in a mandatory high-quality social tariff across broadband so people stop missing out.”

Half of the people Citizens Advice helps with debt advice are in a negative budget – where their income is not enough to cover their essential costs. Citizens Advice research shows one million people stopped using broadband in 2023 because they could no longer afford it. Figures from Ofcom indicate 95 per cent of eligible households could save more than £200 a year by moving to a broadband social tariff.

* More information on social tariffs here.

* Sources: Citizens Advice and Ofcom