Feeds

DWP computers 'unreliable'

55 different telephone numbers

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Seven Steps to Software Security

Staff performance at Department for Work and Pensions' contact centres is being damaged by problems with computer systems, says the Delivering effective services through contact centres report from MPs on the public accounts committee, published last week.

Contact centre employees have to use a number of different systems containing client information. These systems are not properly joined up, so that people applying for benefits or pensions have to give the same information on a number of occasions - when much of it is already held on a system in the department.

Cost data and management information is incomplete, concludes the report. The department does not know how much money it has saved as a direct result of introducing contact centres. And it is unable to forecast client demand for its contact centres because it does not have enough historic data to make a calculation.

Edward Leigh, Tory MP and chair of the committee, said: "Calls to a contact centre will in some cases be lengthy, but no one will tell you how much the call costs. The staff in contact centres are often drafted in from other parts of the DWP.

"This can undermine the efficient running of the centres, especially where the staff's existing flexi-time contracts do not match up to contact centre hours.

"And - stop me if you heard this before - the underlying IT system is complex and unreliable."

The department delivers benefits, pensions and job services to 28m people and is making increasing use of contact centres to deal with clients, usually by telephone. But in 2004-05 only 56% of calls were answered. Although the rate had improved to 84% by the first half of 2005-06, the MPs believe there is still scope for improvement and they are not clear whether recent improvements are sustainable.

"Calling contact centres can be very frustrating," warned Leigh.

"There are at least 55 different telephone numbers for contacting the DWP and, quite incredibly, if you contact the wrong service, the department's technology will not enable your call to be transferred to the right service."

The department could set up a single number to act as a sign post to other numbers, but has no plans to reduce its telephone numbers overall.

Key recommendations in the report are that Jobcentre Plus should introduce a single national number and the Pension Service should cut the number of telephone numbers for pensions by a third.

Implementation of a customer management system within Jobcentre Plus in 2005 was "seriously flawed". The report says that the department – and government more widely – should learn from the troubled roll out of the system and only introduce systems that are fully tested and have staff who are fully trained to use them.

The committee's report examined the performance of 62 contact centres operated by Jobcentre Plus, the Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.