asked the Minister for the Environment the reason for the delay in receiving a reply from the special telephone number in the house improvement grant section of his Department; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that it can take up to three hours to get through for one inquiry; the reason there is not a special number to deal with TDs' queries set up similar to that within the Department of Social Welfare thus avoiding valuable loss of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Written Answers. - Telephone Delays.
I am aware that it is very difficult for grant applicants to contact housing grants section. This has been the position for the past 1½ years now and is due to the very exceptional increase in the number of callers trying to contact the section. The position generally, however, has improved since I took up office in that it is now easier to contact those sections of my Department on the main number (793377) while the provision of a separate number (793200) for housing grants has reduced the size of the queues waiting to get through to housing grants section. I expect further substantial improvements in telephone access to the section over the next few months as the major effort to clear the backlog of applications begin to have effect.
I am having the Deputy's suggestion regarding the provision of a special number for TDs examined and I will be in touch with him shortly in the matter.