Skip to main content

Departmental Coordination

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcomes were of the proof of concept trials undertaken by HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and 12 local authorities as referred to in the report on service transformation by Sir David Varney. (313940)

The pilot exercise referred to formed part of the “In and Out of Work” project, designed to encourage those who frequently move in and out of work and who claim benefits and/or tax credits to take up employment. It was also designed to improve customers’ experience of dealing with government by reducing the number of times they have to engage with Government services and the amount of information they have to provide.

The pilot exercise showed that collaborative work between HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and local authorities resulted in:

a 15 per cent. reduction in the average time taken to make payments of benefits to customers; and

evidence that the process prevented overpayments of tax credits by ensuring that payments were adjusted quickly when a customer left employment and that housing benefit payments were adjusted more quickly in response to changes in employment.

This improvement for housing benefit processing times was coupled with a significant reduction in the resource required to process these claims, as local authorities no longer have to contact customers for details of their circumstances.

Customer research following the exercise indicated that:

84 per cent. of customers who went through the process now understood the information that was needed to adjust their housing benefit and council tax benefit payments;

48 per cent. of customers with previous experience of claiming benefits stated that the pilot process improved the service that they received; and

77 per cent. of customers rated the way the organisations worked together as good.

The improved customer perception of the service also reduces customers’ concerns around how their benefit claims will be handled. This in turn encourages them to take up work, particularly short-term work, confident that they will receive the right support from government when they most need it.

Following this successful pilot exercise, on 16 October 2008 the Government announced the phased national roll out of the service, which was completed in December 2009.