02/19/2015 09:09 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT

Wait times at B.C.'s social assistance phone line triple

Average wait times have tripled in the last year for people on social assistance waiting to get their calls answered by the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the average wait times have increased from under nine minutes in January 2014 to 34 minutes in December. 

The statistics back up what many anti-poverty activists say they already knew anecdotally. 

"I can't tell you the number of people who've told me that they've been on hold for 40 minutes and then get cut off ... It's so disrespectful," said one veteran Vancouver activist Jean Swanson.

He said the automated phone line has become known as "1-800-You-Lose."

Trish Garner, an organizer with B.C. Poverty Reduction, said that's consistent with what she's hearing on the street.

"More and more frustration with people not being able to access the services they need," she said. 

The Ministry of Social Development said it gets about 1.5 million calls a year and high volumes can cause delays. 

But it added it has consistently been completing phone requests and call backs within service standards.