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What’s the purpose of Benefit contact centres? are they a total waste of money

Comment 14th July 2010

I was given a telephone number of what is called a contact centre, where I was advised that advice to benefits available to me would be given. I telephoned the contact centre numerously, which in turn lead to to write to the chief executive of jobcentre plus.  In fact many letters to this day which still have not answered my query. 

Years ago we used to have decision makers based in local jobcentreplus offices, yet this is no more. Now we have telephone contact centres. Yet, people working in these centres are not benefit advisers, as they have told me numerously they are simply  ' information gatherers'.  They are unable to advise you on what benefits you can claim.  

Unless a person knows the benefits system inside out as many or rather most people don't, this leaves people who should be claiming certain benefits not being told of their entitlement to claim. Yet, very unfairly it is a persons responsibility to find out for themselves what benefits they are entitled to claim.  I ask how this is possible  to do, especially people who have no access to the internet to look at the gov uk website.  The only information they would be able to get is from a contact centre, who like I say are not benefit advisers.

The only people who can tell you what benefits you are entitled to claim are decision makers, yet claims have to be submitted for a decision maker to decide if a claim is possible.

Therefore without knowing what benefit to apply for, how is it possible to put in a claim?

This leaves Jobcentreplus's work left to the CAB, slightly unfair since the CAB have more knowledge than people working in contact centres. CAB is also not always accessible to some disabled people.

Also, it is clear when making a call to a contact centre that all information given is recorded. Also, it seems pretty clear to me that they have a yes or no button to use with their  'script' as I call it. If for example you have a person moving out shortly from your property, or make some small mistake , or they press the wrong button, you could then be accused of trying to commit benefit fraud.

 

 

Why does this matter?

I think that the people working in these contact centres should be well trained as ' benefit  advisers' . I feel that as it stands the contact centres are of little use to the public since they cannot advise on what benefits people can claim. 

Goodness knows how many people are being paid to work in these contact centres which is a total waste of money since they cannot advice members of the public especially if a person situation is at all complex.

If they have pressed the wrong button I suggest that before you are accused of benefit fraud as I nearly was since they had no button to press since my son was about to move out of our home address, and they had obviously pressed the button to say NO that he wasn't living here, when I had explained that he clearly was,  then you do have so comeback.

You are able to ask the contact centre to send you the recording of the conversation which by their own rules, ' I was told by the contact centre', is that they have to send you a copy of the coversation within three hours of your call.  This has to be done to prove your innocence for their mistake.

I suggest putting decision makers back in jobcentre plus offices to deal with complx cases of individuals. Or employing less people who ARE qualified or knowledgable in benefit entitlements of all kinds. Not simply employing people as information gatherers.

 

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