§ Mr. Hoyle
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why it is taking 13 weeks for supplementary benefit Girocheques to be issued by his Newcastle office; what steps are being taken to reduce this waiting time; if the applicant concerned makes no representation, what is the average length of time before the Girocheque is processed; and what steps are then taken to ensure its payment.
§ Mr. Newton
The Department and the Department of Employment issue well over 100 million Girocheques annually for the payment of a variety of social security benefits. After encashment these Girocheques are returned to Newcastle central office where reconciliation and counting processes are carried out.
From time to time losses occur in the transmission of payment to beneficiaries and when such a loss is reported, searches are instituted to find out whether the missing Girocheques have been received back in the Department through the normal machinery. Because of the volume handled, the time taken for the paid instruments to be returned by Post Offices and Banks, and for the machine processing of the Giros, searches for missing payments can not normally be entertained for at least three weeks following the date of issue.
Thereafter a stop note is inserted in the computer which ensures that, if the missing Giro is ever received, it will be identified and referred for investigation. Some, of course, are never received and local managers have authority to issue replacements either immediately or after an agreed interval if there is no trace of receipt, depending on the circumstances of individual cases.
The Girocheque reconciliation system was disrupted by the industrial action in the Civil Service last year and unfortunately has continued in arrears due in part to the vast scale of operations and problems which have been experienced with interdependent computers, not all of which are under the control of this Department. Every effort is being made to retrieve this situation. Currently, 442W missing Girocheques which had been encashed are being identified and referred to the local office for investigation some 10 weeks after issue.