DWP trumpets 98% satisfaction - but not with unemployment services

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 12:38 -- nick

The Department for Work and Pensions is at it again.

The beleaguered government department has today publicised a rare piece of good news: a 98% satisfaction rating with one of its services.

So which flagship section has received the full press release treatment?

The online births, deaths and marriages service 'Tell Us Once'.

Hardly a key part of the DWP offer.

Minister for Employment Esther McVey has taken the opportunity to put her stamp on her new department, saying:

"When there’s been a birth or death in the family you need to know there is a single, effective, service that supports you at that emotional time. With 98% of customers saying they would recommend the service to others, this report is a ringing endorsement for ‘Tell Us Once’!"

Whoever thought that jaunty exclamation mark at the end was a good idea when speaking of a service which deals with reporting deaths is a question for the troubled consciences of those who work at the DWP, and further scandal comes with the final paragraph of the release.

"‘Tell Us Once’, which has been used by over 500,000 people since it was launched nationally in September 2011 is a service run by the Department for Work and Pensions and administered through local authorities – 365 out of 407 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales offer the service."

The DWP appears to be taking credit for someone else's work here; the human face of the service is provided by local authorities, not civil service.

But there is a bigger point here for unemployed people.

User satisfaction ratings are vital to improving services - that's why our charter calls for their wider publication and use - and we want the DWP to take them seriously.

This means publishing ratings for jobcentres and work programme providers, and saying how they will use them to make improvements in the services.

Publishing high ratings for one service opens the department up to the accusation that they only do so when it suits them.

A more transparent government must publish all the statistics it gathers rather than focusing only on those that show it in a good light.

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