(2) how many telephone calls were (a) made to and (b) answered by the Crisis Loans Direct helpline in each of the last 12 months.
[holding answer 26 March 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has asked me to respond to your questions on what the average waiting time for calls to the Crisis Loans Direct helpline to be answered was in each of the last 12 months and how many telephone calls were (a) made to and (b) answered by the Crisis Loans Direct helpline in each of the last 12 months. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus does not have a Crisis Loan Direct helpline. Crisis Loans operate from 20 of our Benefit Delivery Centres (BDC's) across the country, each with a dedicated telephone number. Currently these BDC's do not operate on the same telephony platform. The information requested is therefore not available in the format requested, as the data cannot be compared. The roll-out of the Internet Protocol Contact Centre telephony platform into BDC's will provide us with comparable data by the summer.
In the last two years Crisis Loan applications have more than doubled and since July 2008 averaged around 230,000 applications per month. Since January 2009 we have seen further increases in applications to 275,000 for January and 272,000 for February 2009. This increase in demand means customers in some areas may not get through first time. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that people fail to get through ultimately.