The Rt Hon David Gauke MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
House of Commons United Kingdom
Rt Hon David Gauke,
In September 2017 I moved to the UK to expand my business Piko Consulting, a communications and research company into the UK market. One of the first things I did was to get myself a National Insurance Number.
In late October when still trying to set up a bank account in the UK, the bank asked me for proof of address. It was suggested to me by the bank that I called the Department for Work and Pensions and get them to send a letter with my National Insurance number on it to my home address.
On 24 October 2017 I called the Department of Work and Pensions help line. Firstly I was told that this was not the correct number and that for National Insurance queries I should call a different number. I then called this number. I was given a series of options; eventually I was put through to a pre-recorded message and then hung up on. My issue still wasn’t resolved so I called back. Once again, I after selecting a series of options I was hung up on. The third time I was slightly more cunning. I called back the helpline, and manipulated the answers in a way that I thought may get me put through to an actual human being. I had been at it for 20 minutes by this stage. I was successful. I spoke to someone, explained that I needed my National Insurance number posted on letterhead to my home address. The person on the phone agreed and said it would be on its way.
A few days later I got an email from my accountant. A letter had been sent to my accountants address with my National Insurance number on it, not to my home address as requested.
Having wasted over an hour of my life on a fruitless quest to get what I wanted out of the Department of Work and Pensions I elected not to put myself through this again.
A few months earlier I had seen the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake. At the start of the film there is this guy who recently suffered a heart attack trying to get information about his benefit out of the Department of Work and Pensions. He becomes highly frustrated with the long waiting times, and the circular conversations where he can get no answers to his questions. When I first saw this film I thought this scene was exaggerated for artistic effect. I now realise that this is an accurate display of a typical call to the Department of Work and Pensions.
My case ended up ok. I found another letter which the bank accepted as proof of address. What I was appalled by was that a government department could show such contempt for the UK tax payer by hanging up on them when they were seeking advice or help. That a pensioner who has paid tax all their lives, possibly a veteran even, could be treated with such contempt was very saddening. I understand the desire for government departments to save money and rationalise resources. And I accept that call centres will often get any number of nuisance callers or people who have questions they could easily find out online. But for some people using the internet is a struggle. And sometimes, people have complicated requests, and need to talk to someone rather than listen to a robot. It shouldn’t be a struggle for tax payers to get the help they require.
The UK is a great country, and I really love that I have the opportunity to live work and contribute here. But I do think its citizens deserve their government and in particular its government departments’ to treat its citizens with greater respect than the Department of Work and Pensions help line currently does.