§ Mr. Battle
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps his Department has taken to involve consumer views in the development of performance indicators.
§ Mr. Jack
This Department has a long-standing commitment to maintaining good relations with our customers and their representative bodies and have sought their views on the service we provide. Sampling of customer opinion has been carried out annually since 1984 in local offices. Results are analysed and, since the 1989–90 exercise, have been fed into the target setting process. An external survey was commissioned in 1990 to provide a nationally representative picutre which in effect validates the national results of our own customer opinion sampling.
The launch of the benefits and contributions agencies this year, in addition to our two existing agencies, has given us a springboard to improve further working 471W relationships with these groups. Managers will have more freedom to respond to the needs of their area and there will be many local initiatives. Nationally, external surveys will in future be undertaken annually and, in addition to specific quality of service targets, the Benefits Agency now has a customer satisfaction target. Their success in attaining this target will be measured by the results of these surveys. The contributions unit, now the Contributions Agency, commissioned a broad-based survey of contributions customers in February 1991 to establish their requirements and priorities; this will report in July 1991. A regular series of contributions conferences was also established in July 1990. Both of these will be used in the development of targets and performance indicators.
Further details of Benefits Agency and Contributions Agency programmes for this year can be found in their published annual business plans which are available in the Library.