Almost half a million callers to the PIP helpline in the month of April were deliberately disconnected by the DWP before they could even wait in a queue, a freedom of information request by Benefits and Work has revealed. The proportion of calls cut-off before entering the queue is now greater than the proportion who even get to wait for an hour or more before giving up or getting disconnected.
In May, we asked the DWP to tell us the number of calls made to the PIP Enquiry Line on 0800 121 4433 and the number of these which were blocked, for the last three months for which the statistics are available.
The DWP provided us with the following statistics:
Calls put in queue 415,552
Calls blocked 34,860
Calls put in queue 488,965
Calls blocked 306,865
Calls put in queue 388,265
Calls blocked 494,044
The DWP went on to argue that:
“Personal Independence Payment has experienced unprecedented levels of new claims from customers in recent months and as a result we have seen increased call traffic.
“The blocked call figures relate to the enquiry line only and does not impact customers being able to make new claims or raise a dispute.
“We are currently in the process of recruitment [sic] additional resource into telephony so that we can increase the number of calls answered and prevent blocked calls. Although blocked calls relate
to customers unable to join the queue this figure is significantly increased by customers dialling the number multiple times.”
However, whilst claims are at record levels as the DWP says, the number of new claims in the quarter to April 2023 is only up by 20% on the number of new claims in the quarter to April 2022.
This stops well short of being “unprecedented”.
Moreover, whatever the explanation for the increase in calls, it seems that the DWP put 100,000 fewer callers in the queue in April than they did in March. This suggests that the department is dealing with fewer callers as volumes increase, not more.
The worry is that the DWP is now in a downward spiral of increasingly awful customer service.
Forms are not being sent out, letters are not being acknowledged, changes of address or bank details are not being recorded and claimants are being left many months with the horrible uncertainty of not knowing the result of their award review. All this results in a continual increase in the number of desperate callers to the PIP helpline. And amongst them all are the claimants whose health conditions have changed, but who cannot pass on that information or receive the increased award they may be entitled to.
And what these statistics don’t tell us, but we will now attempt to discover, is how many of the callers in the queue ever get answered.
Readers only need to look at some of the many hundreds of comments on our PIP Enquiry Line page to realise the intense distress that this utter failure of service by the DWP is causing to people who simply want to ensure that they meet their responsibilities as claimants.