Claimants who complain to the Independent Complaints Examiner (ICE) about the DWP are having to wait on average over a year before their case is even looked at, it was revealed last week.
ICE is an independent body which looks at complaints where a claimant is not happy with the response they have received when complaining directly to the DWP or one of the organisations that work for it, such as health assessment providers.
ICE has the power to award small amounts of compensation, usually up to £200, as well as make recommendations about how the DWP should deal with similar matters in the future.
However, in response to a parliamentary question last week, it was revealed that:
“In the first six months of 2019 (January to June 2019) it took the Independent Case Examiner’s Office an average of: 59 weeks to commence an investigation (from the point at which the complaint was accepted for examination); and 23 weeks to complete an investigation (from the point at which it was allocated to an investigation case manager).”
That means that on average, if a claimant managed to get ICE to take up their complaint, it took an average of 82 weeks, well over a year and a half, to get a decision.
Yet, according to performance data published by ICE today and covering the period up to December 2019, its service is improving.
The number of complainants contacted within 10 working days to discuss next steps is now at 93.9%
And the number of complaints resolved within 8 weeks of accepting them for examination is at 76%.
But the number of investigations cleared within the target of 20 weeks from the start of the investigation is only at 35%. This is still an improvement on the 30% it stood at six months earlier.
Tellingly, there does not appear top be any target at all for how long it takes between accepting a complaint for investigation and actually beginning the investigation. Which is why ICE can keep claimants waiting over a year before even starting work.