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Departmental Telephone Services

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many telephone lines with the prefix (a) 0870, (b) 0845 and (c) 0800 her Department (i) operates and (ii) sponsors; how many calls were received to each number in the last 12 months; and whether alternative numbers charged at the BT local rate are available in each case. (305212)

The information is as follows:

(i) As at 7 December 2009, the Department for Work and Pensions operates the following lines.

Lines

(a) 0870

13

(b) 0845

6,060

(c) 0800

154

(ii) All lines are ‘operated’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); there are no ‘sponsored’ lines.

With reference to the number of calls received by each 08XX number, the complexity of the Department’s telephony network and our current billing arrangement with our service provider, BT, does not provide us with this data as the Department does not require it. To provide it, the Department would need to submit a formal request to BT to give us an estimate of the cost of supplying this data. This could not be done within the time scales of this question.

Alternative numbers are not available. 0800/0845 numbers are integral to the Department’s telephony strategy and underpin the delivery of good customer service. The 0800 and 0845 numbers are clearly signposted to customers for the services that they wish to access and the service is organised so that the customer is routed to the best agent to help with their call.

The Department’s telephony strategy is that calls to claim benefit should be free to customers so it uses 0800 free phone numbers for these calls. The great majority of the Department’s customers use landlines to contact the Department’s 0800 free phone lines where the calls are free. The Department uses 0845 telephone numbers where its customers call for other reasons, and these are calls typically that take less time to resolve. The charges that apply to these calls will be set by the customer’s telephone or mobile operator.

Where a customer calling our 0800 or 0845 services asks us, or raises concerns over the cost of the call, we offer to call them back.