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:

February
Calls put in queue 415,552
Calls blocked 34,860

March
Calls put in queue  488,965
Calls blocked 306,865

April
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.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jp2210 · 8 months ago
    The DWP are in such a mess. My award date is 20/7/23, and although they have been assessing it since January, nothing yet! I have written to my MP for help, and they have told her that due to backlogs, they are automatically extending for a year, and are letting claimants know 35 days before the award is due to end. Mine is now due within this time period but no letter! I need this to re-apply for Blue Badges which my local council will not issue without proof, so we are in a situation of the DWPs making. The cynical side of me thinks this is being purposely done to stop claimants from starting a claim, but we cannot allow them to grind us down.
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      jane · 8 months ago
      @Jp2210 I am waiting same for my blue badge, I emailed council explain and told them the 35 day situ 

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    Kevin Scardifield · 8 months ago
    Been left waiting for over an hour before I hung up
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    Heena · 8 months ago
    I called as I am applying for the first time for PIP that I should have applied years ago for. I kept getting cut off and got so frustrated that I almost stopped the process to even fill out the form. I felt more  helpless from this process as it has taken a lot for me to ask for help. 
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    Toni · 8 months ago
    DELIBERATELY DISCONNECTED really calls do just drop off some service providers cut the calls off too
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jill Azzouzi · 8 months ago
      @Toni This is a freedom of information request for a specific question. Yes they deliberately cut them off. 
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    ValerieHealey · 8 months ago
    Both times have called took 50 mins 
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    Jules · 8 months ago
    I always write to DWP , copy the letter and send recorded delivery so it’s signed for because it’s futile trying to get through by phone 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Dan · 8 months ago
      @Ellen Hall They don’t deal with them sort of things
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      Ellen Hall · 8 months ago
      @Jules I agree with that sentiment   I sent them an email to let them know my pension had been increased (civil service) and sent a copy of my pension letter.  Last year I received a letter and a self addressed envelope - as you are supposed to inform them of any increased.  They sent email back and said we don't deal with pension here.  Talk about thick and just trying to get rid of me.  Put it this way they got the message when I sent an email back.  My esa was reduced by 75 pence a week.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Bowley · 8 months ago
      @Maggie I wrote just to ask for the application form because I find it difficult to use the telephone. It was signed for too but they claim they never received it so I now have to call somehow. Why is this the only benefit that cannot be applied for online? 
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      Maggie · 8 months ago
      @Jules They still lost a form for us when it was recorded delivery with proof of signed for! 
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    Theresa C · 8 months ago
    I was refused warm home discount this year after having received it last year and before that. Told I now had to call DWP to sort this as they were now sorting this out instead of my energy supplier. Why or who decided this? Wrong!! Now get pushed from pillar to post until basically I gave up - probably spent another £150 trying to get the award! Oh well, now have to argue with ovo about the massive mthly chg that I can't afford!
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    Elle · 8 months ago
    Called on the 1st week of June to ask for an update statement of my award.  Press 1 press 2 press well!   you all know what I mean.  Eventually after 10 mins of pressing 1 pressing 2 etc.  I m thinking oh goody I get to speak to an advisor now.  No..cut off.  Tried a couple of more times and exactly the same.  Gave up. Dug out my award letter with last years date and it was accepted by the person needing to see it.  
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    Sonia · 8 months ago
    Called the text phone for the Deaf, your end  immediately hung up. What's the point! 
    How am I going to let you know about the telephone consultation you've  booked with limited time to contact you 
     I CANNOT HEAR on the phone. Looks like you are gonna put me through it all again, ended up going to court, stressed to the max. 
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    Rosie · 8 months ago
    Why can't they be honest and just say "all our lines are currently busy" right from the start? I got cut off 4 times in a row after 4 minutes back in March this year.  Secondly, wouldn't it be easier if claimants could report changes and request forms via the Government Gateway? The answer is of course YES, but presupposes that the DWP have any interest at all in making things easier for claimants; in reality they seem to just want us all to go away and stop bothering them. Is it any wonder that the call handlers get masses of abuse when claimants finally get through?
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    Angela · 8 months ago
    thankyou for sharing this. on your own it can get bloody demoralising. somehow knowing we are all in the same boat makes me more determined to fight.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Rosie · 8 months ago
      @Angela You are certainly not alone! I used to feel that I was being singled out when I got cut off, but that was all part of my general paranoia. Now, instead of thinking "why are they doing this to me?" I think "why are they doing this to US?" It doesn't make it right, but it helps me to deal with it in a more rational way.
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    Bob · 8 months ago
    If you think pip busy now imagine what it’s gonna be like when the big changes come in?well for me will be 2029 because I’m still on esa at present like I said in a previous comment I’m gonna have to carry on and fight it no choice with me being around 55 then it’s going to be a nightmare 
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