DWP complaints climb

Customer grievances submitted about department's businesses rise for second year in a row, figures show
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Complaints about the Department for Work and Pensions have risen for a second year in a row.

There were 23,748 recorded complaints about DWP businesses in the year leading up to 31 March – up from 22,101 in 2022-23 and 19,186 the year before.

Just under a quarter of those complaints – 5,634 – were submitted to the Independent Case Examiner’s Office, to which customers can turn once they have exhausted DWP’s internal complaints procedure.

ICE accepted 1,756, or just under a third, of those complaints for investigation.

The quarterly statistics show complaints submitted about any of DWP's businesses, which include Jobcentre Plus, the the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service.

They do not give any detail on the nature of the complaints, but ICE deals with complaints about maladministration or service failures, including excessive delays and poor customer service.

The DWP-funded body does not handle benefit entitlement decisions or other legal matters.

DWP has been grappling with a high volume of complaints for several years, with figures released in 2020 showing that the average time it took for complaints to be resolved by ICE standing at 82 weeks.

In 2020, the department said it would overhaul its complaints procedure based on the findings of a review and lessons learned from the Covid crisis.

Instead of a two-tier system in which cases were handled first by a complaints resolution manager, before being passed to a senior manager for review if the customer was still dissatisfied, complaints that frontline staff are unable to resolve are passed onto a national complaints team.

Complaints are then sorted according to priority, with those concerning payment issues and those from vulnerable or at-risk people dealt with first.

According to DWP’s 2022-23 annual report, that year the department developed a new quality framework for complaint resolution that it said would “create consistency across the service”.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We provide a safety net for some of society’s most vulnerable, ensuring they get the help they are entitled to.

“The number of complaints remains the same proportionately and represents less than 1% of our customer base.”

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