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Department for Work and Pensions: Telephone Services

Question for Department for Work and Pensions

UIN 128050, tabled on 10 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what proportion of calls to her Department’s Debt Management team were answered in (a) August (b) September (c) October and (d) November 2020.

Answered on

15 December 2020

It is important to note, since March the caseload on UC has increased from around 3 million people on UC to 5.8 million.

The proportion of calls presented to agents answered by Debt Management for the months requested are shown in the table below:

August

September

October

November

Proportion of calls presented to agents that are answered

77%

71%

80%

78%

The Debt Management queueing system allows only so many calls into the telephony system, matching volumes to the number of telephony agents available. The Percentage of Calls Answered therefore underestimates the number of attempted calls.

There were, however, large numbers of callers who could not make it into the system and are therefore not included in the proportion of calls answered.

November saw a large increase in the volume of notifications issued, largely due to the automated nature of the system used by Debt Management to manage customer accounts. This caused a significant increase in the number of customers attempting to contact the service as a result, starting on 20th November.

Debt Management have put steps in place to address this issue. A limit to the number of notifications issued has been set to ensure the resulting contact is manageable. Improvements have been made to the messages customers hear when they call; this will ensure they are made aware of any high call volumes and are also directed to the right place, to help reduce the time spent waiting. This includes directing customers to GOV.UK if they want to make a payment by bank transfer. Debt Management are also recruiting more telephony agents - 90 additional agents have now joined Debt Management and are being trained, and a further 100 will join early in the New Year.

Debt Management continues to monitor the number of notifications issued and their call handling data. At the height of this issue, an average of over 51,000 calls were blocked each day. For the last 5 days for which we have data, from 7th–11th December, this had fallen to less than 6,000 each day.

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