§ Mr. Raymond S. Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will publish the ninth annual report of the Chief Adjudication Officer; and if he will make a statment.
§ Mr. Lilley
The report is being published today. The report's findings point to an improvement in some areas of adjudication, particularly on many of the benefits administered in Benefits Agency districts. Standards of adjudication within the child benefit centre, the Newcastle pensions directorate and the overseas benefit directorate remain high. The report also acknowledges the contribution that the Employment Service's quality control package has made to initiatives aimed at improving adjudication.
But in other areas standards are disappointing. I have accordingly sought assurances from the chief executives of the Employment Service Agency and the Benefits Agency that work is in hand urgently to address the weaknesses identified. I am pleased to note that numerous initiatives are already in place, including, in the Employment Service, a working group on the evidence needed to establish entitlement and, in the Benefits Agency, the requirement that district business plans are specific about adjudication standards.
I am satisfied that both the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency are committed to better standards of adjudication and the increased emphasis on quality in agency business plans for 1993–94 and I look forward to progress in coming years. The chief adjudication officer has commented in his report on the commitment of senior management to improving adjudication standards and welcomes all measures designed to effect such improvements.
Eleven recommendations to address certain of the problems identified in the report have been made by the chief adjudication officer. These recommendations are being considered and a formal response will be made in due course.