Q. What is your preferred way of getting in touch with DWP and what is important to you when you get in touch with them?
This is actually an interesting question. And it is not as simplistic as it would first appear. In terms of contacting the DWP which I have had numerous opportunities to do so over the past 16 years, I much prefer to contact them in writing because that leaves a paper trail that is irrefutable. Even though the DWP supplies prepaid envelopes in order to send your responses e.g. sending back a PIP medical form and evidence, I am so fearful that my form will be lost (it is not unheard of!) that I always send mine by registered post. In terms of contacting the DWP by telephone, thankfully this is a lot less expensive than it was before with the introduction of the freephone telephone number back in 2017 thereabouts. In terms of wait times when contacting the DWP by telephone, wait times of 20 to 30 minutes pre-pandemic are not uncommon. There simply doesn't seem to be sufficient operatives to take the calls and obviously Covid-19 will have exacerbated the situation. There is also the issue of operatives having to deal with very distressed claimants who are fearful of their future survival which will take a toll on their own mental health when and if claimants take their frustrations out on the operatives. In addition, what can be said on the telephone can be misconstrued and taken out of context. One would think the introduction of Universal Credit online would solve such issues. However this assumes that people have the equipment and data packages sufficient to access their journal online. The digital divide remains a real problem still for people living in poverty. It also assumes that people are computer literate and tech savvy enough to know what to do. It also assumes that people are proficient in reading and writing English. It does not seem to consider that people may be dyslexic or that they speak English as a second language if they can speak it at all. Whilst mobile phone use is more or less ubiquitous nowadays, as someone with a neurological disability that affects their manual dexterity, it is nigh on impossible for me to navigate complex forms or websites on a mobile phone. Indeed as I type this response to your question I am sat in an ergonomic chair at an ergonomic desk using Dragon voice recognition software with an ergonomic laptop setup all of which I wouldn't have had I not qualified for a disabled students allowance back in 2012. Ways to communicate with the DWP need to take into consideration the impact of all forms of disability not just those with hearing impairments or loss. And you need to remember that not everyone is in receipt of Universal Credit yet. I myself am in receipt of legacy benefits and therefore and therefore do not have access to an online journal, which would be useful tome, but may not be right for everyone especially those in less fortunate circumstances. I am an old-fashioned soul. I really miss the days when on calling a big organisation like the DWP you got through in the first instance to someone with a human voice. Automated phone systems have their place but they are complex to navigate particularly if your accent isn't easily recognised and the myriad of options on offer is confusing. What I will say though is that in my experience when I have made it through the automatic phone system, the person on the other end of the line has always been polite, kind and respectful. It's important that operatives remember that many people reliant on Social Security have found themselves in that situation have been swept away by life events and circumstances beyond their control and are in acutely vulnerable situations needing support not censure. We are all human beings at the end of the day. So in short, I prefer to write to DWP rather than telephone and when the opportunity to advise you of my circumstances online presents itself, I will take full advantage. However in an ideal world, that, in conjunction with an option to speak with an operative face-to-face, whether that be in person, on the telephone or via a Zoom meeting would also be welcomed. Certainly an online meeting via Zoom would potentially solve the current issues we with disabilities have with being able to record our medical assessments as both parties would have access to the Zoom recording for their records.