HC Deb 27 January 2000 vol 343 cc260-1W
Fiona Mactaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will publish the final report of the Chief Adjudication Officer; and if he will make a statement. [107723]

Angela Eagle

The report is published today and copies have been placed in the Library. The Chief Adjudication Officer's findings record that, in a difficult transitional period for the Agencies as they adopted the new decision making and appeals processes, standards have in general been maintained. He is, in particular, encouraged by the fact that the Agencies continued to look for ways to effect improvements across benefits. As this is his final report and with his staff moving on to new areas of work, the Chief Adjudication Officer has taken the opportunity to praise them for their work.

The Chief Adjudication Officer welcomes the changes to decision-making and appeals that were introduced last year. As he acknowledges, those changes lie at the very heart of Ministers' plans for modernising Social Security delivery and promise substantially improved standards of service for customers.

Chief Executives have taken on the Chief Adjudication Officer's responsibilities for guidance to decision makers and monitoring and reporting on standards. They are now accountable for the quality of decision making in their agencies. The changes help to get decisions right. If a mistake is made, it can be put right more easily. Notifications will be clearer and easier to understand.

Improvements have been made to the handling of appeals. The ending of the rigid requirement for three person tribunals means that expert resources can be better focused on the issues raised in each appeal. Appeal waiting times will be cut. A new agency is being set up to handle the administration of appeals and we will set demanding targets for clearing appeals.

These changes will deliver real improvements in service to clients. And we have preserved the essential elements of the current system: decisions continue to be made impartially by applying the law to the facts of each case, and clients still have the right of appeal to an independent tribunal.

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