Government phonelinesGovernment telephone helplines in chaos

09 December 2005

More than one in three people ringing government helplines are not getting through according to damning new figures released today

Almost 120 million calls - or 88 calls per minute - have gone unanswered in the past three years.

Callers ringing for advice on issues ranging from benefit claims to pensions and tax credits got engaged tones, were lost in the system or gave up their call before getting through to an adviser.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman David Laws obtained the official figures which revealed more than a third of calls to all government helplines were not being answered.

Worst departmental offenders were the Department of Work and Pensions, which missed the most calls at 62 million, and HM Revenue and Customs, which missed more calls than it answered, said the Lib Dems.

Enormous frustration

David Laws said: 'The government's direct line to the public is failing. Over 119 million phone calls from the public have been missed since 2003 - a colossal waste of people's time and an enormous frustration.

'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.'

The individual helplines with the worst records in terms of the proportion of calls missed were:

1. Attendance Allowance/Disability Living Allowance - 79.0 per cent of calls abandoned, met with an engaged tone or lost in the system.

2. Work Permits UK - 53.9 per cent

3. Benefit Enquiry Line - 53.9 per cent

4. Tax Credits - 52.7 per cent

5. Rural Payments Agency - 34.3 per cent

6. CSA - 33.7 per cent