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Social Security Benefits

Volume 479: debated on Monday 29 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to reduce by at least half the time it takes benefits offices to deal with a reconsideration request; and if he will make a statement. (219537)

There are no plans to specifically reduce the time taken to deal with reconsideration requests. By their very nature, reconsiderations may take some time, particularly where further evidence requires investigation or corroboration. We believe the present arrangements strike a fair balance between speed and accuracy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many complaints his Department has received in respect of the Belfast benefit delivery centre in the last 12 months, broken down by category of complaint; (220603)

(2) what steps he is taking to improve communications between the Belfast benefit delivery centre and (a) members of the public and (b) local Jobcentre Plus branches.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 20 September 2008:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking how many complaints his department has received in respect of Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre in the last 12 months, broken down into category and what steps he is taking to improve communications between the Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre and (a) members of the public (b) local Jobcentre Plus branches. This is something that falls within responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

In total, 472 complaints were received in respect of Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre (BDC) in the last 12 months. They are broken down by category in the following table:

Type of complaint

Number received

General benefit queries

7

Customer service

9

Data protection

2

Incapacity benefit

73

Income support

172

Information and advice

8

Jobseeker's allowance

196

Maternity allowance

1

Telephony

4

Jobcentre Plus recognises the importance of good communications between the various parts of its business in providing a good service to its customers. Consequently we are always looking for new ways to improve communications, both internally and with members of the public.

For example, Belfast BDC has introduced the following improvements:

customers can now contact the centre by email via the Jobcentre Plus website;

an improved telephony system goes live on 19 August which it is hoped will improve communication with our customers;

post room procedures are being reviewed in an effort to speed up the process of post reaching its destination;

members of the public are informed of our services through our website, leaflets, telephone and by face to face contact; and

regular meetings are held between Belfast BDC and the jobcentres it serves to discuss ways in which to improve the service delivered to our customers.

Feedback from these meetings is cascaded to all staff to raise awareness of any issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children lived in households that had been in receipt of (a) jobseeker's allowance, (b) incapacity benefit and (c) income support for more than two years at the latest date for which figures are available. (221736)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of work-focused interviews which will be conducted in (a) 2009, (b) 2010, (c) 2011, (d) 2012 and (e) 2013, broken down by benefit sought. (221737)