Technical problems with a new Benefits and Employment Service IT system have left some Jobcentres able to answer just 8% of calls from clients, according to the Public and Commercial Services union.
The CMS2 system is used by both contact centre staff and Jobcentre Plus staff to manage benefits cases. Claimants first call the contact centre to give their details and are then called back by a member of staff to get more information about their claim. This allows the claimant to have a more detailed interview at a Jobcentre.
"What seems to be emerging is problems with the robustness of the system. Once staff get behind because of the computer system, it is tough to catch up. Once you get arrears they build up very quickly," said Dave Alston, Public and Commercial Services union officer at Jobcentre Plus.
The Department for Work and Pensions, which is responsible for Jobcentres, said it would recruit additional staff in areas where there is the greatest need in order to improve service. The CMS system is performing to the required service level agreements, a DWP representative said.