DWP complaints cost £11 million

Costs from complaints to the Department of Work and Pensions are costing taxpayers up to £11 million, a new report has found.

With a customer base of 22 million in 2007-08, Jobcentre Plus, The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service recorded 70,000 complaints.

The report from the National Audit Office (NAO), estimates more than 40 per cent of the complainants remain dissatisfied. The discontent generally occurred from the complaints process, response time, knowledge of staff and the actual outcome.

“Whilst there is general satisfaction with the services customers receive from the department and its agencies, there is scope to handle complaints better,” said Tim Burr, head of the NAO.

As a result of complaints, in 2007-08 the Department for Work and Pensions made compensation payments of £3.6 million. Cost data on complaints is limited, but the NAO estimates that the Agencies spent between £4.7 million and £6.2 million responding to their recorded complaints during 2007-08. This figure could be up to £11 million when both recorded and non-recorded complaints are considered.

Front-line staff handle a majority of the complaints, and those that are recorded account for about 20 per cent of what the three agencies receive. This indicates they may be missing “early warnings of poor service” or errors in the processes.

Improving this and other areas of customer discontent could prevent future complaints from escalating, the NAO report suggests.

“Complaints handled effectively by front-line staff can be up to 40 times cheaper than those escalated up to the final stage of the internal process,” the report says.