HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc279-80W
Dr. Lynne Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what action is being taken to ensure that Benefits Agency offices meet their charter targets;

(2) if he will list those Benefits Agency offices that have not achieved their charter targets for (a) income support, (b) retirement pensions, (c) sickness and invalidity benefit and (d) social fund crisis loan claims.

Mr. Roger Evans

This is a matter for Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Dr. Lynne Jones, dated 23 November 1994: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about Charter targets. I should first of all clarify that the information I have provided for Income Support, Sickness and Invalidity Benefit and Crisis Loans is in respect of the Secretary of State's primary targets as set out in the Benefits Agency's (BA) Business Plan. For Retirement Pension I have provided information relating to the Management target for clearance of claims in District offices. It is these targets that underpin the Charter Standards for the benefits set out in the Agency's Customer Charter. I have enclosed the information you requested about the Benefits Agency offices that have not achieved these targets at year end 1993–94 and a copy has been placed in the Library. Since its inception, the Agency has engineered a significant overall improvement in service delivery from 159 District offices. Charter Standards for claims clearance represent only one part of the overall performance of the BA and have to be considered together with other wider aspects of delivering a quality service. Where there are problems in a particular area, every effort is made to provide support from the BA's Central Services. For example the complementing system, which allocates resources to business units within the Agency, takes account of external factors affecting a District's performance; and a recent initiative has seen an Area Directorate, with low performance, given extra money in the short term under a "contract" for specific improvements in performance in return. We carefully monitor the range of performance behind the national figures. The importance of steady improvement to attain convergence of performance geographically is one of the key messages in my Strategic Steer to staff this year. I am confident that we have effective monitoring procedures in this area. BA Districts provide reports of their performance on a monthly basis to Area Directors and to Central Services. Central Services provide a monitoring report to the BA Management which highlights any areas of concern and the action being taken to resolve them. Managers are required to account for the shortfall when targets have not been met and to provide details of action proposed to meet the targets in future. I hope you find this reply helpful.

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