‘Silo’ working, scripted calls and time-pressurisation – is this really DWP ‘best practice’?

I don’t know what happens when I send a claim off, so I can’t answer questions about what happens next [Image: David Sillitoe for the Guardian].

I don’t know what happens when I send a claim off, so I can’t answer questions about what happens next [Image: David Sillitoe for the Guardian].

This morning I spoke to a cancer patient, a woman with kidney failure, and a young man who had just lost the mother of his children. Each of them thought I was trying to help them. I wasn’t really though, because helping them would take longer than 23 minutes.

Twenty three minutes is how long it should take me to help you make a benefit claim, according to my bosses. I work in a Department for Work and Pensions contact centre and take calls from people who are at their lowest point.

These are people who need my help to navigate the complex claims system so that they can get a meagre payout. They’re often vulnerable and desperate by the time they reach me. My job is to fill in a new claim form for employment and support allowance based on the information people give me and then send that form off to the benefit centre where the claim is processed.

But for me, the only thing that’s really important is how long each call takes. We are measured on our average handling time (known as AHT) and if this slips beyond 23 minutes per call we face performance management, which is code for “you’ll get in trouble”. This involves anything from stern words and increased micro-management from your line manager right up to written warnings and dismissal.

I have a script I read from, over and over again, the same for every customer. Some of the questions are opaque at best: “has your doctor told you that special rules apply to your condition?” is one which flummoxed the woman this morning who has cancer; the script specifies that I should not offer an explanation of the term unless I’m asked. She did ask, so I read the follow-up line “special rules means your doctor has told you that your condition has a life expectancy of less than six months.” No, she said, not yet, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief that I wouldn’t need to ask another series of questions about this, pushing the call-handling time up further.

In the DWP’s modern-day version of a sweatshop, we staff are singularly ill-equipped to actually offer any help or support. I have had absolutely no training in how sickness benefits work. I don’t know what happens when I send a claim to be processed, so I can’t answer any questions about what will happen next or when somebody will get a payment.

Source: I’m a DWP call handler and have no time to care about your disability claim | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian

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4 thoughts on “‘Silo’ working, scripted calls and time-pressurisation – is this really DWP ‘best practice’?

  1. Jenny Hambidge

    Our local JCP no longer helps with enquiries or questions- you have to ring a call centre. The call took 55 minutes to be answered. It was an urgent request- Why has my money not gone in? I am destitute! Yes we received your sick note but you didn’t ask for a same day payment. You will have to wait for another 5 days. Are they instructed to treat people badly too?

  2. mohandeer

    This is sad. Not only for all the desperate people hoping for help to get through the minefield the DWP has laid down to ambush the many vulnerable people still clinging to hope, but for the author of this article also. Everyone these days is trying to hang on to their jobs, but this person works in a hopeless situation and obviously cares enough to write down their perspective. They shouldn’t be working in this way. I can’t imagine having to make the choice of living in poverty on JSA or continuing to work in a daily nightmare job. Pity both sides of this sad affair.

  3. Dez

    Good to hear what actually goes on behind the scenes in these Government sweatshops and how our public servants do not serve the public they serve the government or their outsourced contractors. Something DWP have left out as usual is the human touch and public service perhaps not helped by the Government constant cuts in staff and contracting out everything to robots. Very sorry state of affairs but totally typical of the uncaring Cons. I bet they found resources and staff to monitor everyones telephones and emails though.

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