Posting wait times, resolving multiple issues and hiring more staff are among the recommendations made to the province to improve slow telephone service for people on income and disability assistance.
B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke released a report Tuesday on an investigation into the impact of the ministry of social development and poverty reduction’s centralized telephone system on applicants and recipients.
The findings began in July last year in response to complaints about wait times, disconnected calls, call time limits and other challenges people faced when trying to communicate with the ministry by phone.
“The ministry’s telephone-based service has been chronically slow for a number of years,” Chalke said.
“Income and disability assistance applicants and recipients include some of the most vulnerable people in the province. The ministry needs to ensure its services are timely and meet the needs of the people it serves.”
The ombudsperson’s office says the ministry has accepted six of nine recommendations, including reporting the daily average speed of answer and daily longest call wait time on its website for each day in the previous month by the end of May.
Three recommendations have been partially accepted, including hiring 220 full-time staff to answer calls on the centralized line by October 31 and other timing service standards.
The added staffing is not to be taken from elsewhere within the ministry’s income and disability assistance programs.
Other recommendations accepted by the ministry include phasing out the practice of taking one issue per call and taking multiple requests by April 2020 and phasing out call-sweeping strategies intended to reduce call times but resulted in dropping the quality of service.
The ombudsperson will monitor the progress of the ministry implementing the report’s recommendations.