Belfast Telegraph

Benefit processing accuracy remains high: McCausland

Stormont Executive press release - Department for Social Development

Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has welcomed the publication of a report into benefit decision making and financial accuracy within the Social Security Agency. 

The annual report on Decision Making and Financial Accuracy, which measures staff accuracy in paying out benefits in 2012, found that accuracy levels remain high for all benefits. 

Minister McCausland said: “I am pleased to see that the findings of the 2012 annual report on Decision Making and Financial Accuracy show the continued high level of customer service being delivered by the Social Security Agency. It is important that people get the benefits they are entitled to and importantly, that they are right first time. I am confident that the Social Security Agency will continue to endeavour to maintain its good performance in the coming year.” 

Decision Making accuracy levels were 100% for Disability Living Allowance; 99% for Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance; 98% for Income Support; 96% for State Pension; and 94% for State Pension Credit.

Financial Accuracy results were 99.9% for Disability Living Allowance; 99.8% for State Pension; 99.5% for Income Support; 99.0% for Jobseeker’s Allowance; 97.6% for Employment and Support Allowance; and 97.4% for State Pension Credit.

Eileen Evason (CBE), (Emeritus Professor in Social Administration, University of Ulster), is Chair of the Northern Ireland Standards Committee. She presents a positive foreword to the Report and provides assurance that the Agency’s processes in place for monitoring the quality of decision making are robust. She commends the Agency on the excellent set of financial accuracy results and the best performance, to date, by decision makers.

Tommy O’Reilly, Chief Executive of the Social Security Agency, added: "It is extremely pleasing to note that Decision Making standards have remained very high with 10 out of the 12 benefits meeting their decision making benchmarks. Financial accuracy results achieved also paint a positive picture with five out of the six main benefits meeting their targets. This year’s excellent results have been achieved during a period of mounting change and clearly demonstrate that staff in the Agency have the ability to deliver a great service while dealing with and preparing for a changing benefit landscape.” 

Notes to editors:

1. This is the Social Security Agency’s 14th Annual Report on Decision Making and Financial Accuracy

2. The Social Security Agency Annual Report on Decision Making and Financial Accuracy is available from Standards Assurance Unit, 43-45 Falls Rd, Belfast, BT12 4PD or on the Department for Social Development website:

3. The Report has been approved by the Northern Ireland Standards Committee which is chaired by Eileen Evason (CBE), Emeritus Professor in Social Administration (University of Ulster). Laura McPolin, Barrister, Civil and Family Law and Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI also sit on the Committee which was established to provide independent assurance on the quality of decision making within the Social Security Agency and Child Maintenance Service.

4. Decision making: The Standard of decision making is the percentage of cases where the decision awarding a claim to benefit is correct, when checked by Standards Assurance Unit. It reflects recent decisions made by Social Security Agency staff during the period January – December 2012. The Agency’s decision makers must examine four main areas: evidence; determination of questions – ask all relevant questions; findings of fact – establish the correct facts from the evidence available and, correctly interpret and apply statute law and case law relevant to the benefit concerned.

5. Financial accuracy represents the estimate of the percentage of the benefit expenditure that is paid correctly. Financial accuracy is measured by considering the monetary value of each error, either overpayment or underpayment, identified during the official error check. The monetary value of each error identified is passed to Analytical Services Unit statisticians who extrapolate the figures to estimate the likely level of financial accuracy in the live load for the benefit concerned.

6. Standards Assurance Unit monitors and reports on the level of Decision Making and Financial Accuracy across social security benefits on an annual basis.

7. During the year January – December 2012, 7,681 decisions were examined for financial accuracy of payment and 1,036 decisions were checked for the quality of decision. 

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