Daft, Wasteful and Profligate

Hanging on the Telephone

The only people to truly appreciate this will be those puir sowels who, like me, have had encounters with the DWP, aka the Dwpartment of Work and Pensions. Everyone else will think I’ve been reading too much Kafka. The closest contact I’ve had with Kafka was many years ago; when foreign films were shown on the telly and I could still read their subtitles. One evening, I settled down to watch a film in which a European chappie woke up to discover he’d turned into a big beastie. A big, creepie crawlie one. That’s it! I can’t even recall whether I then switched off, all those shots of long, jointed legs proving just too much.

Sorting out an infestation of big beasties would be a dawdle, compared with dealings with the DWP. I wouldn’t be able to see them, but Miss Pupkin could lick their feathery antennae. Dealing with the DWP, however, is more like dealing with an amorphous blob; sliddery, slithery, changing its shape, and always just out of reach.

Try contacting this lot. A range of phone numbers; none of which has ever taken me straight to another human being. It’s either tackling ineffective voice recognition software, a system totally bamboozled by a Scottish accent or listening to Vivaldi for a very, very, long time. Has anyone researched the effect long term exposure to Vivaldi has on the brain? No matter the original number, Job Centre Plus or DWP, I’m landed somewhere in the same maze.

When I do, eventually, reach a person, the standard of service ranges from the helpful and considerate through all shades of condescension to outright bullying. I appreciate every one has their bad days; bunions throbbing or working during a heat wave but dealing with the public, especially when that public is paying the wages, demands a standard.

Take today. Beginning just after 9.00, it took until 3.18 before I’d an answer to a simple query. I hadn’t requested the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. I know that’s 42. I hadn’t even asked for a solution to the Euro Crisis. Nor which noise annoys an oyster. I just wanted verification that a letter I’d posted a fortnight ago had reached its destination. Instead of being able to phone the relevant DWP office I’d to make three calls to a switchboard located goodness knows where. Always, I was assured someone would phone back withing a specific time. It took six hours before this happened! Then it happened again an hour later!

What’s wrong with phoning a specific office; speaking to a person; and, if they can’t answer the question immediately, they phone back when the problem is solved. As it was, on each occasion, I was on hold, listening to deed um deed um diddle dum until my lugs were numb and my arm gone into rigor. Explaining my situation to three separate people; two of whom were pleasant, the third best described as a trifle condescending but I wasn’t giving him the satisfaction of blubbering down the phone. By its very nature, the majority of those contacting the DWP will be disabled, or ill, probably experiencing a crisis of some kind. Yet this is a system deliberately designed to be as inaccessibly awkward as possible, demanding a high degree of essertness to persevere through its Byzantine confusion to reach any goal.

Thankfully, my letter was where it ought to be. Except, I’d replied to a letter sent out from the DWP office in Kilmarnock. My reply had to go to their office in Coatbridge. And, now, I’ve been told, twice; each time by most polite folk, it has been forwarded to Kilmarnock. Why? Why is the DWP shuffling its correspondence around the motorways of central Scotland?

I know many people don’t care about this. In fact, they’re positively delighted. After all, someone voted the current lot into Westminster. Well, perhaps they should consider just how much of public money, or rather money provided by those who contribute their taxes, is wasted by this lot. Since August, when I first came to the attention of these new checks, I’ve had more encounters with the DWP than in all my previous sixteen years of disability. I’ve highlighted only one of these here. Five phone calls to answer one question! Never mind a letter being posted to Coatbridge, only to be forwarded to Kilmarnock! For the benefit of readers living in Toryshire, these towns are in separate counties, on either side of a city called Glasgow. I don’t care whether my letter was transferred through cyber space or by a kilted runner bearing it aloft in a cleft stick, this is daft, wasteful and profligate.

P.S. Since writing this, I’ve discovered the Kilmarnock DWP office is actually in Glasgow! Illogical, but not quite so far for that kilted runner!

© Charlotte Bennie 2011