We recently highlighted the importance of face to face help for the most vulnerable in response to HMRC’s proposals to scale back Enquiry Centre services. A further HMRC consultation reviews the impact on those same customers of changing helpline opening hours, including closing all lines on Sundays.
Cost cutting and HMRC’s equality duties
We are of course aware that HMRC face the difficult task of doing more (or at the very least, the same) for less. But when it comes to equality duties, the law generally requires that they do ‘go the extra mile’ for minority groups.
Yet the consultation:
- fails to take account of pertinent recommendations from the National Audit Office’s recent report
- shows no vision for providing a more versatile, diverse and improved service to meet disadvantaged groups’ needs;
- contains errors, contradictions and unsupported assertions;
- does not publish all supporting ‘evidence’; and
- does not attempt to understand whether the type of people currently ringing HMRC on a Sunday is different to weekdays.
Conclusion and recommendation
HMRC’s long-term strategy is to grow online services. But to make this transition, many people will need tailored help at a time of their choosing. Scaling back helpline opening hours therefore sends out the wrong message as low-income workers may only be able to sort out financial matters during unsociable hours or the weekend.
HMRC should consider the alternative strategy of promoting Sunday opening and the ease of access of online services, thereby spreading the load more evenly.
As it is, shortened helpline hours will merely be a frontline service reduction, contrary to the principles of Your Charter and discriminatory against those in greatest need of support. HMRC must now produce a proper impact assessment and we hope that they will engage with us to achieve this.
To read our full response to the consultation, follow the link…
Kelly Sizer (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)
Contact centres EQIA - LITRG response