Work and Pensions Committee

Session 2002-3     11 July 2003

Inquiry Update

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has announced an inquiry "to examine the standards of service delivery to people from black and minority ethnic communities within the benefits system and the systems in place within the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure equal treatment and the elimination of discrimination".

The Committee has put back the deadline date for submissions to 15th September 2003 as there will be no oral evidence sessions scheduled until then.  The Committee welcomes more submissions  in accordance with the guidelines on the back of this notice.

The issue of ethnicity, in relation to the quality of service delivered by the DWP, has been touched upon in a large number of the Committee's inquiries, for example access to the phone service offered by the Pension Service.  The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires Government departments to: "have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination; and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups." The Department announced a consultation exercise concerning the provisions of the Act last May with a closing date of September 2002.  The Government has not so far announced its conclusions, but it is expected that these will be available in the summer.

Issues which are expected to be included in the Committee's inquiry are:

  • standards of service towards claimants from black and minority ethnic communities, and systems for monitoring;

  • the ethnic make-up of customers and staff, and systems for monitoring;

  • the information needs of minority ethnic claimants;

  • cultural issues affecting delivery;

  • systems for obtaining feedback from black and minority ethnic customers;

  • how complaints of unfair treatment are dealt with; and

  • employment of people from black and minority ethnic communities by the DWP.

Evidence submitted should:

  • be on A4 paper, including letterhead with full postal address and contact details;

  • begin with a one page summary;

  • have numbered paragraphs;

  • avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;

  • be in a form which is easy to photocopy; and

  • be accompanied, if possible, by a disk (with the document in WordPerfect or Word).

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.