Loan helpline is ‘in crisis’ - 12,000 calls go unanswered

Photo Lorcan Doherty Presseye.com
Photo Lorcan Doherty Presseye.com

A helpline set up to help those in Derry in need of a crisis loan is itself “in crisis” a local MLA has said.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said the fact 12,000 plus calls to the Crisis Loan helpline at the Social Security Agency’s (SSA) Foyle office in 2012/13 went unanswered was “neglect of the highest order.”

Mr Eastwood has now called for an urgent review into the telephone service.

Official figures, obtained by the SDLP MLA, reveal that a total of 15,187 calls were made to the the Crisis Loan helpline at the Social Security Agency’s (SSA) Foyle office in 2012/13 - but four out of every five calls (a total of 12,306) met with no response.

“The Crisis Loan helpline is in crisis,” Mr Eastwood told the ‘Journal.’

“Less than 20% of calls made to the helpline were answered, this is neglect of the highest order.

“Unemployment is soaring in Derry thanks to Tory austerity and the failed economic policies of the Executive. As a result, we have massive demand for Crisis Loans.

“The Social Security Agency boasted in April, after closing the Shantallow Community Benefits Office, that the new improved telephony service would ensure that claimants would receive a service fit for the 21st century.

“This is clearly not the case in Derry,” Mr Eastwood said yesterday,

The ‘Journal’ has contacted the SSA but the Agency has yet to respond.

SSA Crisis loans are available to help anyone in short term financial crisis.

Across the north, almost 100,000 calls to the 17 SSA office’s helplines went unanswered in 2012/13.