Headlines: January 31st, 2000

Benefits agency staff have been praised for managing to maintain ‘business as usual’ during the introduction of complex new modernisation in their decision-making processes.The annual report of the Chief Adjudication Officer assesses the quality of decisions made about individual benefit claims. The report covers a crucial period last year when both the Benefits Agency and Employment Service were working together to adopt new decision making and appeals processes.

Not only have standards been maintained during that period, but those involved continued to look for improvements which would deliver real improvements for customers.

The new system will deliver clearer notifications of decision and a new disputes process which will facilitate easy correction of errors. The aim is to change the culture from one of ‘decision made, appeal if you’re not happy with it’ to ‘decision made, can I explain to you why it has been made’ and ‘I’ll put it right if it is wrong’.

However, the report also highlights substantial room for improvement, and too many decisions taken with insufficient evidence.

This is the final report of its kind. Future assessment of progress will be by agency chief executives and DSS HQ.

The Report is available on the Internet. Link: http://www.dss.gov.uk/hq/pubs/caorep99/index.htm