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Departmental Complaints

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 30 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department has taken to address the issues of maladministration raised in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report, Putting Things Right: complaints and learning from DWP of 30 March 2009; and if he will make a statement. (270067)

DWP is the biggest delivery department in the UK, serving over 20 million customers at any one time and, as the Public Accounts Committee recently noted, the overall level of complaints which the Department receives is small compared with the number of customers it serves and the number of contacts which it has every working day with those customers. Every opportunity is taken to ensure that the Department’s customers receive excellent service but, as the ombudsman has said, an organisation of the size and complexity of DWP will always receive complaints. Where mistakes happen, the Department seeks to ensure that these are handled and resolved as quickly and as satisfactorily as possible.

The ombudsman’s reports, together with those from the independent case examiner, are used as an important source of information on where systems improvements are required. The content of these reports is shared both within the Agencies and, where appropriate, more widely within the Department to ensure that lessons are learned and that changes are made where necessary.

The ‘learning for the future’ section of the ombudsman’s report outlines a number of the actions already taken to address the specific issues raised in her investigations, and how the Department has taken a number of steps that go beyond simply implementing the recommendations made. For example, the Department has reviewed its guidance to staff about making redress for the consequences of maladministration and discussed this with the ombudsman and her staff. As a result, a new guide is being developed which will reflect more closely the ombudsman’s principles for remedy.

The Department will continue to work constructively with the ombudsman in seeking to improve the service it provides to customers and in ensuring that changes are made to policies, procedures, systems or staff training as necessary to ensure that where maladministration is identified it is not repeated and that lessons learnt are put into practice.