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Benefits Caller Office, Darwen

Volume 227: debated on Friday 2 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) when he expects a benefits caller office to be established in Darwen, Lancashire;(2) what representations he has received about the establishment of a benefits caller office in Darwen, Lancashire.

The administration of the benefits system is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member and a copy will be placed in the Library.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Ms Janet Anderson, dated 1 July 1993:

As Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, it is my responsibility to answer questions about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security, asking when he expects a benefits caller office to be established in Darwen, Lancashire, and what representations he has received on this matter.

In line with the Benefits Agency's core value of customer service great importance is placed on the Agency being accessible to all its customers. The manager of the Agency's Blackburn and Accrington District, which covers the area of Darwen, has decided, following a number of representations from customers and welfare organisations, that a caller office in Darwen would improve the service to his customers.

You will be aware from my earlier correspondence to you about this matter ( Official Report, Vol. 214, columns 253–54, dated 18 November 1992) that there was a favourable indication earlier this year that space for a caller outlet could be made available by the Employment Service Agency (ESA) in their premises in Darwen. Unfortunately this provisional offer has been withdrawn because the ESA are considering

using the space for their own needs. The District are now experiencing considerable difficulty in identifying other suitable premises in the area.

Although it is far from an ideal solution, the District Manager has put in place three benefit advice surgeries in the Darwen area, to ensure benefits information is available in the area while the search for suitable accommodation continues.

I hope you find this answer helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will also be placed in the Library.