HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc344-5W
Mr. Wyatt

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) when(a) the Department and (b) the National Audit Office last audited the working practices of the benefits office in Chatham; and if he will make a statement; [121503]

(2) how many complaints have been received by his Department about delays and working practices at the benefits office in Chatham. [121504]

Mr. Browne

[holding answer 24 June 2003]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Mark Grimshaw to Mr. Derek Wyatt, dated 2 July 2003:

As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the benefits office in Chatham. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.

Over the last year Chatham Social Security Office received 23 complaints about Incapacity Benefit processing and 5 complaints about Social Fund processing.

The working practices of the Chatham Social Security Office have not been audited by either the Department or the National Audit Office. However Jobcentre Plus has effective management systems in place to monitor each offices performance against targets. These systems identify where problems are occurring and ensure that action is taken to rectify problem areas.

These systems successfully identified signs decreasing performance in Incapacity Benefit claims processing at Chatham Social Security Office. This was believed to be due to high staff turnover in the last two years resulting in a shortage of experienced staff in the office. Some work was temporarily transferred to Broadstairs office in June 2002 and to Ashford office from November 2002 to enable new staff at Chatham to receive further training. In addition some of the workload has been redistributed across the Kent District. As a result of these changes performance is improving but local managers are continuing to monitor the situation.

All Jobcentre Plus sites are also monitored quarterly to check levels of customer service. Independent consultants assess the speed with which telephone enquiries are answered, the length of time personal callers have to wait in caller offices and the speed with which written enquiries receive a reply.