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Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) inspection report of compliance with the Race Relations Act of the Housing and Council Tax Benefit and counter-fraud services of 10 randomly selected local authorities was published today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.The BFI completed an inspection of the 10 authorities to establish how each met the requirements of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The Act demands that public bodies remove discrimination and proactively promote race equality. An overarching report that covers all 10 local authorities has been produced.The BFI found that seven of the 10 authorities had a race equality scheme in place by the deadline of 31 May 2002 and the remaining three had a scheme in place by October 2002.However, BFI considers that all local authorities will need to look closer at the housing benefit and council tax benefit services they provide their community to ensure equal treatment across all areas.The report notes that positive action to promote services and consult with users was more prominent in larger local authorities with a high black and minority ethnic population where residents were often supported through community groups. Additionally there was a notably higher standard in local authorities where there was clear evidence of strong commitment from senior officers and members.The report notes that local authorities recognised the need to monitor recruitment of staff through all the stages. There was less commitment to measure staff progression, development, training and performance of existing staff members. Delivery of staff training on the requirements of the Act was sporadic.The BFI has incorporated the requirements of the Race Relations Act into its inspection process. Future inspection reports will report on compliance with the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.