Crawley people have questioned why potentially suicidal people have to pay to call the Samaritans.
Residents expressed concern at the charity charging for its 247 support line on our facebook page (facebook.com/crawley.observer).
Adam Brown said: “I thought this is what the money donated to them goes to.”
Wayne Edgson added: “Of course it should be free - didn’t it used to be?”
Yashavin Khakhar said: “Any phone company can help by providing free 0800 number for a few hours a day.”
The issue was raised by the Crawley Observer after a reader expressed concerns over people not having enough credit to call the charity in times of need.
He expressed alarm at Samaritans signs which advertise its support line near the town’s level crossings directing people to its website for call charges.
A spokesman for Samaritans said it received more than five million calls per year and could not afford to offer a free call service.
The spokesman added it would pilot a free-to-caller service ‘very soon’.
Ofcom, the UK regulator for communication industries, awarded the charity the free-to-caller number in 2009.
The pilot scheme received a £1.4m grant from The Big Lottery Fund in June 2013.
The costs of the calls would be met by the charity.
The spokesman said: “Establishing a free-to-caller number is one of our top priorities.
“It is vital we not only be able to pay for the calls, but we have enough volunteers on duty to answer them.
“The pilot will begin very soon and will give us valuable information so that we can fundraise and make the free-to-caller number sustainable long term.
The spokesman added: “We have also been working closely with Ofcom and Government to lobby the telecoms industry.”
The charity’s call service was always charged at the local rate.
It offers to return calls from users in financial difficulties.
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