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The social services provided by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) are the welfare state's last social safety net. It is therefore especially important that these services are readily accessible to users. NAV’s Call and Service Centre is the first point of contact for users who contact NAV by phone and acts as a link between users and NAV’s offices. The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision has looked at how the telephone service affects the accessibility of NAV’s social services.

The survey shows that users are served by employees at NAV’s Call and Service Centre who possess good communication skills. At the same time, we see barriers in the telephone service which can make the organisation’s social services less accessible to users. As a result, users do not always get the help they need at the right time. The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision considers these findings to be serious.

Users who contact social services often need information and guidance outside the remit of the call and service centre, and have to be put in contact with the relevant NAV office in the local municipality in order to get answers to their questions. Query calls from NAV’s Call and Service Centre are only answered occasionally by NAV’s offices, and the Call and Service Centre is forced to send a message stating that the user wishes to contact the office. As a result, users have to wait in another queue and it can take too long before they get the help they need.

Social services must be provided on the basis of individual assessments, so that users receive help according to their own particular needs. High-quality social work is a prerequisite for making such assessments, and it is therefore the NAV offices that must assess what constitutes the right guidance for each individual user.

The telephone service for social services is poorly anchored, both in legislation and in agreements. This makes it difficult for those responsible for the services to obtain a holistic picture of how it all works in practice for users, and to implement appropriate improvements which result in faster and better access to services over the telephone.

The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision recommends that the competent authorities and municipalities implement measures to ensure good accessibility to the services by telephone, so that users are provided with the right services at the right time.