HC Deb 17 February 1994 vol 237 cc977-8W
Mr. Channon

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the practice in the Benefits Agency about destroying case papers; and if he will issue guidance requiring that case papers should not be destroyed while active inquiries into a case are going on.

Mr. Burt

The administration of income support is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my right hon. Friend.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Paul Channon, dated 16 February 1994: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking about the practice within the Benefits Agency (BA) for destroying casepapers. The BA policy on destruction of documents requires all Incoms Support (IS) cases to be examined at certain times and unnecessary documents to be destroyed. This policy represents an attempt to balance the needs of customers against the administrative expense of keeping all the documents indefinitely. There is no legal basis to the policy as the Agency, like other public bodies, is only legally required to retain samples of cases to conform with the Public Records Act. New working methods, particularly computerisation, led to the need to review the Benefits Agency's document retention policy and a study was commissioned to consider the retention and storage of documents; the outcome of this study was to issue new guidance to all BA District Offices at the end of January 1994. This guidance reaffirms that IS casepapers are retained, as before, for a minimum of 18 months after the claim becomes dormant. It also provides clear and specific instructions to staff that casepapers should not be destroyed while active enquiries into the case are ongoing. I hope you find this reply helpful.