asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the length of time taken by the Department of Health and Social Security to answer letters from members of the public, they will acknowledge all letters immediately they are received, giving the name and telephone number of the officer who is to deal with the letter, as a standard procedure to reassure the writers that their letters have not been lost in the post.
The Department of Health and Social Security Code of Office Practice issued to social security local offices instructs staff to answer all letters as soon as possible, and if it is anticipated that a reply cannot be given within seven days staff are instructed to send an acknowledgment. If, at the outset, a delay of more than 14 days is expected, staff are instructed to send an interim reply explaining the reasons for delay. These arrangements have been made to reassure people writing to the department that their letters are received and are receiving attention. In parallel, we are seeking to improve the handling of correspondence addressed by members of the public to the Department of Health and Social Security headquarters and will take into account the views expressed by the noble Countess.