HC Deb 26 June 1997 vol 296 cc643-4W
Mr. Heppell

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action her Department is taking to reduce the backlog of claims for family credit. [3947]

Mr. Keith Bradley

The efficient administration of family credit is central to the Department's measures to help people move from welfare into work. We will streamline services to provide better, simpler and more efficient services to clients. The administration of family credit is a matter for Peter Mathison, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. John Heppell, dated 25 June 1997: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what action the Department is taking to reduce the backlog of claims for Family Credit (FC). The workload forecast for 1997/98 is that 1.7 million FC claims will be received, which equates to an average of over 32,000 claims weekly. Additionally, renewal claims peak in April and October so it is not unusual for the FC Unit to have approximately 65,000 claims at various stages of assessment at any given date. FC Unit Managers prepare for such peak periods by implementing various short term measures, which include the redeployment of staff and the use of overtime. These measures were used to ensure less than 46,000 claims were awaiting processing at the end of March. The FC Unit were therefore in a position to handle the higher number of claims expected in April. The total number of claims received in April was 174,686. The Unit's effective management of the workload ensured that the temporary backlog in April was reduced to less than 57,000 claims outstanding, as at 16 June. The Benefits Agency aims to clear all claims accurately and on time. Details of the clearance targets for claims, the actual achievement to the end of 1996/97 and the achievement to the end of May 1997 are shown in the attached Annex. I hope that this reply assures you of the efforts being made by staff and Management within the FC Unit to ensure that any claims awaiting a decision are kept to a minimum at all times.

Family credit targets
Target Secetary of State clearance 90 per cent. of Faster Claims in 5 days Management primary clearance 60 per cent. of claims in 13 days Management secondary clearance 95 per cent. of claims in 42 days
achievement 91.9 76.3 98.9
achievement to end of May 89.7 72.0 99.1

Figures are provisional and subject to change.

The Faster Claims target relates to newly employed and first time applicants, many of whom have been in receipt of income support or job seekers allowance.

The Management targets relate to all claims.