News : Universal Credit: Helpline has been Accused of Using Scripts to ‘Deflect’ Callers
London, UK, Dec 31, 2018 -- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have refused to share scripts used by call centre staff who speak to benefits claimants, despite an MP officially requesting them.
Labour MP for Midlothian, Danielle Rowley, asked for the information after being told people were being "palmed of" with set responses from a Universal Credit helpline, Daily Record reported.
The DWP have failed to share details on what they reportedly call "supportive lines" and have denied that there are scripts used.
This is not the first time the department has faced accusations of scripted dialogue to defer claimants over the phone. In October, a former DWP employee told Sky News that senior managers told employees to direct callers to their online account, even if the issue could be solved on the phone.
"So there was there is something called the deflection script. It was a piece of paper that explains what to do when someone calls in," he told them.
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He added: "Even if a problem could be solved then and there on the phone we were encouraged to do everything in our power to get them to hang up the phone and do that online."
The DWP responded by reportedly saying a deflection script was completely false but that prompts could be used during a call to help cases.
Criticism against Universal Credit helpline Similarly, last year I reported more than a million calls to the Universal Credit helpline had been abandoned before people received an answer to their problem.
Labour MP Jim McMahon obtained the figures through a written parliamentary question, which showed around 1.3 million calls were abandoned between September 2016 and October 2017. The calls amount to around 12 per cent of those made to the helpline at the time.
Mr McMahon said the sheer number of abandoned calls could mean claimants are giving up on trying to get through to the helpline and not getting the support they needed as a result.
"Everything we hear about Universal Credit suggests that it is failing in its purpose to provide help and support to vulnerable and low income claimants," he said.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson said the claims are "disingenuous" and there were "a number of reasons why someone might end their call". The department said calls were answered on average within five minutes.
In October, Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee published a report saying Universal Credit is "causing unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many of the claimants". It went on to argue that the Department "persistently dismissed evidence" highlighting this.
Public Accounts Committee Chair Meg Millier MP said: "This report provides further damning evidence of a culture of indifference at DWP – a Department disturbingly adrift from the real-world problems of the people it is there to support.
"It’s apparent determination to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of claimants, frontline organisations and Parliament is of real concern. The culture needs to change. "DWP’s dismissive attitude points to a troubling pattern of behaviour in the Department – something highlighted by our recent report on errors in Employment and Support Allowance."
I has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions and is awaiting a response.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Recognition
About Department for Work and Pensions:
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the largest government department in the United Kingdom, and is responsible for welfare and pension policy.
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2019
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