Since 2003, eight out of every 10 calls to the government helpline on attendance allowance and disability living allowance were not answered, say the Liberal Democrats.
Over 119 million calls – over one third of the total – to government helplines and call centres since 2003 met with an engaged tone or were abandoned, according to figures obtained by Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions secretary, David Laws MP in a parliamentary question.
The benefit enquiry line, for people with disabilities, missed over half of all calls, as did the tax credits line, say the Liberals. The helpline for the Child Support Agency missed one third of all calls.
This is an average of 126,270 calls missed a day or 88 calls a minute, say the Liberals.
Figures quoted by the Liberals are out of date and helpline services have improved “vastly in the past six months,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions – responsible for the DLA/attendance allowance helpline and the benefit enquiry line.
“Ongoing improvements at the DLA/attendance allowance helpline mean customers are receiving a better, faster and more responsive service,” says the DWP.
Government figures for July 2005 on the DLA/attendance allowance helpline show 78 per cent of calls are answered in 30 seconds, and no caller received an engaged tone.
The real number of calls unanswered since 2003 is likely to be even larger as many government departments are unable to provide complete records for the period, say the Liberals.