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One million calls to UC helpline abandoned

By Alan McGuinness, Political Reporter
More than one million calls to a helpline set up to help recipients of Universal Credit were abandoned in a 12-month period, figures show.
Labour MP Jim McMahon, who obtained the figures, said the high number of calls going unanswered could mean people are giving up without getting the support they need.
But the Department of Work and Pensions hit back, saying such a claim was "disingenuous" and calls were answered on average within five minutes in December.There were many reasons why someone would end a call, a spokeswoman said.:: Universal Credit changes revealed in Budget 'do not go far enough'
:: Labour in bid to force release of reports to expose Universal Credit 'flaws'Universal Credit combines six benefits into one payment and aims to simplify the welfare system, but critics say it is causing people financial hardship and leaving some needing to rely on food banks.Mr McMahon got hold of the figures through a written parliamentary question. It showed that about 1.3 million calls were abandoned between September 2016 and October 2017.This represents around 12% of all calls made to the helpline during that period.More than 120,000 calls were abandoned in each month in August, September and October, the highest single total for any month.Commenting on the figures, Mr McMahon cited reports staff were struggling to cope with the volume of calls and that both applicants and claimants were being forced to wait for too long before receiving help.
One million calls to UC helpline abandoned

Image:
The figures were obtained by Labour MP Jim McMahon, seen here with Jeremy Corbyn
"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."I worry that at this busy time of year, people needing help to make ends meet - many of whom are hardworking people - won't get the support they need from the Government."Controversial charges to call the helpline were scrapped in November amid anger at the revelation that callers could be paying up to 55p a minute.The DWP said the overwhelming majority (95%) of people now claim online, with more than 80% also using the internet to report any changes to their claim.The calls per claim ratio for the Universal Credit full service has dropped from 2.7 in April 2016 to 1.0 by the end of October 2017, the department added.But Mr McMahon said there was nothing to suggest that those ditching their calls were moving online instead.
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"Not only is the minister's original answer entirely misleading, it raises a big question about how much of a handle the DWP have on the experience of their customers," he said.A DWP spokeswoman said: "These claims are disingenuous - there are a number of reasons why someone might end their call, and calls to our UC service lines are being answered within five minutes."
news.sky.com
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