§ Mr. Cartwright
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consideration his Department undertook before deciding to transfer responsibility for all benefit claimants in Abbey Wood SE12 and Thamesmead SE28 from the Woolwich to the Bexley office.
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
The transfer of responsibility for all benefit claimants to our Bexley office forms part of a larger scheme to improve service to the public in the Lewisham/Eltham, Woolwich/Bexley area.
Before taking the decision a survey was carried out into the population distribution of the area and into lines of communication to the relevant offices. Another factor taken into account was that the postal districts in question were already dealt with by two separate offices. It has been our policy for some time in the London area to avoid unnecessary confusion by arranging for complete postal districts to be dealt with by a single local office.
We are very much aware of the need for the local community to have easy access to advice and information. We believe that by drawing together all benefits for a particular area into a single office we shall improve the overall standard of service to the public. Anyone who does not wish to visit an office and who needs general advice may use the DSS freeline service on 0800 666555. In addition, we are always ready to arrange a home visit if one is needed.