HC Deb 02 April 1998 vol 309 cc674-8W
Mr. Leslie

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what performance targets she has set the Department's agencies for 1998–99; and if she will make a statement. [37890]

Ms Harman

The targets we have set the Department's Executive Agencies for 1998/99 are given.

Social Security customers have a right to expect good quality, responsive services. The eighth principle set out in the Welfare Reform Green Paper states that the system of delivering modern welfare should be flexible, efficient and easy for people to use. In line with this, we have set targets that focus effort on building an active modern service, which helps as many people as possible fulfil their potential and achieve independence.

Further information on the Agencies' plans for 1998/99 is contained in their individual business plans which have been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The targets for 1998/99 are:


Active Services

By October 1998 the Benefits Agency (BA) will have worked with the Employment Service to implement nationally the New Deal for Lone Parents.

From April 1998 BA will provide ongoing support by means of advising Employment Service colleagues of changes in legislation and procedures, by help with customer queries and by handling fast path claims to Family Credit.

Customer focused services

During April to September 1998 the Agency will undertake trials to test methods for encouraging pensioners to take advantage of the benefits to which they are entitled. The Agency will provide information on the outcome of these trials in October 1998 to enable Ministers to decide the way forward.

From April 1998 the Agency will provide a more integrated BA and Child Support Agency service to lone parents when BA visiting staff will discuss child support issues at their New Claim Visit, and assist with completion of the Maintenance Application Form, where appropriate.

By March 1999 the Agency will have worked towards supporting future implementation of the Social Security Bill, currently scheduled for Autumn 1999, including arrangements to produce new guidance and develop new monitoring arrangements to measure the standard of decision making.

Transforming services

By March 1999 the Agency will have worked with local authorities, following evaluation of pilots, to implement improvements in the way information is shared using automated links. This will include, as and when practicable, the use of Remote Access Terminals which will allow local authorities access to BA information.

Integrity, through secure and accurate services

By 31 August 1998 all mainframe computer systems used by BA will be ready to cope with the Year 2000 issue, with the exception of the Jobseeker's Allowance Payment System, which will comply by 30 November 1998. All other BA systems, including desk top devices, will be made Year 2000 compliant by 31 March 1999.

In order to protect public expenditure, the Agency is committed to reducing the number of payments made on fraudulent claims. In addition to this, the Agency will recover benefits which have been overpaid. In 1998/99 the Agency aims to save £2.3 billion in weekly benefit savings terms from activity against fraudulent claims and to recover £135 million from claims where benefit has been overpaid.

Accurate payment of benefit is of key importance to Ministers. The targets for 1998/99 are to achieve the following levels of payment accuracy:

  • 87 per cent. of Income Support claims
  • 87 per cent. of Jobseeker's Allowance claims (in partnership with Employment Service)
  • 91 per cent. of Family Credit claims
  • 94 per cent. of Incapacity Benefit claims
  • 96 per cent. of Disability Living Allowance claims

Our aim is to continue to improve the accuracy of benefit payments year on year.

Valuing and developing staff

The Agency will achieve Investors in People status for the BA as a whole by April 1999.

The Agency will continue to make the BA a more family friendly organisation by setting up, by March 1999, a further 10 holiday playschemes. A further 40 playschemes will be in place by March 2001.

Efficient services

The Agency will, during 1998, develop proposals for improving the measurement of Agency performance these will be introduced from April 1999.


Note: The level of accuracy for all targets is 98 per cent.

1 Records Maintenance

To set up and maintain accurate National Insurance (NI) accounts by delivering:

New accounts properly registered for:

  • 95 per cent. of juveniles in advance of their 16th birthday.
  • 90 per cent. of adults without NI accounts within 8 days of receipt of correctly completed application forms.

Unsolicited customer generated changes to personal details properly recorded, completing 92 per cent. of cases within 15 days.

NI contributions properly recorded for:

  • 98 per cent. of appropriate notifications from employers in respect of Class 1 contributors by 31 December 1998, or within 30 days if not completed by 31 December or received after this date.
  • 90 per cent. of Class 2/3 contributors following investigation within 5 days of receipt of payment.

NI details properly recorded following investigation for:

  • 90 per cent. of cases by 31 March 1999, where there are inaccurate submissions by employers.
  • 85 per cent. of cases in 90 days, where contributors/others identify an inaccuracy.

The speedy investigation and resolution of 25,000 cases involving discrepancies, and arising out of data integrity process exercises, by 31 March 1999.

2 Information Provision

To provide NI related information to Agency customers by replying fully and accurately to:

95 per cent. of requests from Government Agencies and Departments within:

  • 3 days where there is no clerical involvement.
  • 10 days where there is clerical involvement.
  • 45 days with detailed investigation.

92 per cent. of requests from pension providers and scheme administrators within 25 days.

95 per cent. of customer inquiries and complaints within 20 days.

3 Conformance

To ensure conformance with NI related legislation to secure timeous collection of contributions to the NI Fund by delivering:

  • £3.581 billion collected for the NI Fund.
  • £176 million of arrears identified and reference made to the Inland Revenue for collection.

To deliver the system of contracting-out of State Earnings Related Pensions Scheme ensuring conformance with legislation, to ensure proper use of contracting-out rebates.

  • National Insurance rebates accurately paid to Pension Providers, with 98 per cent. of cases completed within one calendar month after the recording of an accurate End of Year return.
  • Contracting-out certificates properly issued, clearing 99 per cent. within 5 days.
  • Variation and surrender action properly completed, clearing 96 per cent. within 10 days.
  • Initiative investigation action within 5 days, where schemes are in breach of contracting-out conditions.

4 Milestones

Customer satisfaction

To improve its service to complainants the Agency will:

  1. (i) introduce the first management check of complaints by the end of July 1998 (covering the first quarter of 1998/99)
  2. (ii) reduce "upheld" cases by the Adjudicator's office to 50 per cent by April 1999 (currently 80 per cent-1997 report). Measure to be the Adjudicator's Report 1999.

New National Insurance Recording System (NIRS2)

To complete the replacement of the NIRS1 IT system and decommission it. To plan, monitor and support implementation of the replacement NIRS2 system in a way which gives customers and staff confidence, minimises impact on DSS and external stakeholders, and maintains the business and contractual relationship with the PH supplier. To plan and prepare for Releases 2 and 3 by April 1999, with a pre-implementation review of readiness completed by January 1999.

Joint Working

To work closely with the Department's policy and Inland Revenue colleagues in order to implement successfully changes announced in the Budget and the smooth transfer of the Contributions Agency to the Inland Revenue in April 1999.

Employer's Helpline

To improve the service provided by the Employer's Helpline by March 1999 ensuring that 80 per cent. of callers are connected and answered at the first attempt (currently 73 per cent.).

To complete a review by October 1998 into the Employer's Helpline service with the aim of establishing the percentage of UK employers who are assisted annually by the Helpline and to make recommendations for extending the scope of this service.

Carrying out business by electronic means

The Agency will continue to participate in the Cabinet Office led public and private sector partnership which is investigating the potential of the Internet as a means of doing business with customers. Our eventual aim is that we meet the Prime Minister's target that 25 per cent. of our business will be capable of being transacted through electronic means by the year 2002. We will extend the electronic form "CWF1" pilot in June 1998 to include Barclay's Bank SMART card holders and will also identify additional suitable candidates for this pilot that month.

The Agency will complete a review of its Internet web site by July 1998 with the aim of extending the information services it provides and developing the means of accepting information direct from customers.


Child maintenance collected and arranged

£750 million of child maintenance to be collected or arranged for direct payment from the absent parent to the parent with care.

Maintenance assessments

65 per cent. of new maintenance applications to be cleared within 22 weeks and on 31 March 1999 there are to be no applications over 52 weeks old.


Where a client is dissatisfied with a Child Support Officer's decision and requests a review; or a change of circumstances requires a review; 80 per cent. to be cleared within 13 weeks.


97 per cent. of payments made to the parent with care to be made within 10 working days of receipt from the absent parent.


The cash value of all assessments checked in the year to be correct in at least 75 per cent. of cases.

Milestone targets

Review the first six months of closer working with the Benefits Agency, taking into account the views of stakeholders and produce a report by 31 December 1998.

By 30 June 1998 formalise national and local consultation arrangements with stakeholders with a view to improving customer service.


Assessment and payment of war pensions

  • To clear 75 per cent. of war disablement claims in 145 days.
  • To clear 90 per cent. of war widows' claims within 65 days.
  • As at 31 March 1999, to have no more than 23 per cent. of outstanding appeals more than 260 days old.
  • To clear 6,000 appeals during 1998/99.
  • For 90 per cent. of all claims to meet the quality criteria.
  • By 28 February 1999, to introduce an independent element to the complaints procedure.

Provision of welfare support to war disablement pensioners and war widows through the War Pensioners' Welfare Service

To visit recently bereaved widows within 15 days of a request being made.

Management of the Ilford Park Polish Home

To achieve an average occupancy rate of 95 per cent. during the year.


Delivering Active Modern Service

(i) Take a leading role in the development and support of the key Information System/Information Technology (IT) products and services necessary to achieve the implementation of Active Modern Services including:

  • delivery of the agreed IT work programme to support Modern Service Programme projects in prototyping more efficient customer focused service delivery approaches.
  • the progression of the ACCORD project meeting agreed milestones relating to budget, timescales and quality.
  • co-ordination of the Department's contribution to electronic government with the Central IT Unit (CITU) and other government departments.

(ii) Deliver agreed IT work programme for support of existing systems to budget, time and quality to the satisfaction of customers, including progression of the programme for Customer Accounting Payments Strategy, and meeting agreed milestones on the implementation of major releases of Jobseeker's Allowance Release 5 and Social Fund Release 9.

(iii) Lead the Year 2000 Programme within the Department to ensure that all business critical DSS products, services and estates are Year 2000 compliant to agreed timetable.

Customer Service Targets

(iv) Measure Customer Satisfaction using the Business Excellence Model (BEM), an industry wide standard, and achieve a 10 per cent. improvement on the 1997/98 ITSA BEM score for customer satisfaction.

(v) Support and enable the timely and accurate delivery of Social Security administration by delivering 95 per cent. of IT services to the level of service agreed with our Departmental and external customers.

Financial Targets

(vi) Manage the Agency's income and expenditure (derived from normal trading activities), as presented on audited accruals accounts, so that the Agency recovers its full economic costs through receipts from customers within a tolerance of plus or minus 2 per cent.

(vii) Manage the ITS Gross Vote so that the Agency's expenditure outturn is in line with allocations and estimates.

(viii) Reduce unit costs and prices to deliver an overall business efficiency improvement of 5 per cent.