Third of government helpline calls go unanswered

Tax credits line misses more calls than it answers...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Tax credits line misses more calls than it answers...

More than a third of all calls to government helplines and call centres have gone unanswered in the past two years, according to official figures released today.

The figures, which were obtained by the Liberal Democrats, show that since the beginning of 2003 more than 119 million calls were either abandoned, met with an engaged tone or went unrecorded by the system.

That amounts to almost 37 per cent of all calls made to government helplines - or 88 calls per minute - going unanswered.

The worst performing government departments are the Department for Work and Pensions, which missed 62 million calls, and HM Revenue and Customs, whose tax credits helpline missed more calls - 52.7 million - than it actually answered.

One of the worst individual helplines is the Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance number where 79 per cent of calls went unanswered. Other helplines shamed by the figures include the Benefit Enquiry Line, the Child Support Agency and the Rural Payments Agency.

The Liberal Democrats claim the real number of calls going unanswered is actually greater than 119 million because many government departments were unable to provide complete records for the last two years.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Secretary, David Laws MP, said the government's overly complex means-tested welfare system is responsible for generating huge call volumes, which the helplines are unable to deal with, and called it a "colossal waste" of people's time.

He said: "Over one in three people calling government helplines are receiving engaged tones or abandoning calls when they should be able to speak to an adviser."

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