Publication - Consultation paper

Social security fraud investigation regulations and code of practice: consultation

Published: 6 Aug 2018

Consultation paper on Investigation of Offences regulations and a Code of Practice for Investigations under Sections 75 and 76 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act.

Social security fraud investigation regulations and code of practice: consultation
Annex A: Draft Code of Practice for Investigations

Annex A: Draft Code of Practice for Investigations

Code of Practice for Investigations

Foreword

The delivery of devolved social security benefits is the largest programme of change in the Scottish Government since devolution. Social Security Scotland will eventually be making more payments in one week than the Scottish Government currently makes in one year. It will be important to ensure the right payments are made to the right people at the right time.

Social security is an investment in the people of Scotland, with the aim that the system should be efficient and deliver value for money. The Scottish Government is guided by the Scottish Public Finance Manual ( SPFM) and counter fraud strategy "Protecting Public Resources in Scotland" [2] on the proper handling of fraud and reporting of public funds which also underline the importance of a commitment to ethical standards in public life.

When suspicious activity is found during the processing of a claim for a benefit, or an allegation of fraudulent activity is made by a third party, an investigation may be launched. The principles underpinning the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, in combination with the Social Security Charter, will directly impact the front line delivery of services to improve the everyday experiences of individuals. Therefore, like all other aspects of Social Security in Scotland, this Code is designed to take a rights based approach and to ensure that people will be treated with dignity and respect throughout.

Investigations involve gathering information from a variety of sources and giving the person being investigated an opportunity to explain how the circumstances have arisen. The Code of Practice for Investigations ensures that, as well as meeting the legal requirements for an investigation, Social Security Scotland investigators follow best practice. It is designed to give assurances about training and accountability of staff carrying out investigations and the processes that they will be required to follow.

The Code of Practice for Investigations sets out the standards Social Security Scotland should meet in its procedures and practices when investigating an allegation or suspicion of an offence. It provides information on what people should expect if they or someone else they know, or represent, is under investigation and underlines that enforcement action will not be taken lightly. It will only happen when there is a reasonable suspicion fraud has actually occurred or has been attempted by an individual, group, or organisation. Genuine errors will not be criminalised.

In line with a rights based approach, the Code also sets out how a complaint can be raised where a person who has been investigated feels staff have fallen short of these standards. Social security tribunals, civil and criminal courts will also have regard to this Code when deciding any question to which it is relevant.

Introduction

1. Social security is an investment in the people of Scotland, and we start from the premise that everyone may be entitled to support. To ensure this public investment is maximised and spent appropriately, one of the key principles is that the Scottish social security system is efficient and delivers value for money.

2. The Scottish Public Finance Manual ( SPFM) [3] also sets out principles to guide the Scottish Government and other relevant bodies on the proper handling of fraud and reporting of public funds. It sets out legal, Parliamentary and administrative requirements and promotes good practice and high standards of behaviour.

3. Section 76 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (the Act) requires that Scottish Ministers publish and lay in Parliament a Code of Practice that explains how the powers of investigation will be used. This Code of Practice for Investigations fulfils that requirement and explains the professional standards expected in the investigation of social security fraud. It only applies to investigation of devolved benefits paid under the Act. Fraud investigations relating to benefits that the Department for Work and Pensions( DWP) will continue to deliver in Scotland are not covered by this Code. Further information can be found online at www.gov.uk/benefit-fraud.

4. Fraud investigators, social security tribunals and civil and criminal courts should take this Code into account when deciding questions to which it is relevant, but if the Code is breached this does not of itself give grounds for any legal action.

5. Stopping social security fraud from happening in the first place is extremely important and Social Security Scotland's systems and processes are being designed to reduce the risk of fraud and error. However, firm action is needed where deliberate attempts to defraud the social security system are made. Social Security Scotland has a duty to identify and manage risk, make sure there are whistle-blowing procedures, and effectively, professionally and sensitively investigate where there is a suspicion of fraud.

6. The Act provides the basis for claims and payments of devolved benefits and sets out the specific social security offences that may be committed. Where there is a suspicion that an offence may have been committed, thorough investigation to establish the facts will be needed. This is a key part of the Scottish Government's counter fraud strategy "Protecting Public Resources in Scotland" [4] .

7. There is also a duty to keep this Code under review. This is important, as it is recognised that this is the first version of a Code of Practice for Investigations to be published. We will seek to continuously improve and update the Code at appropriate times when we have the benefit of feedback and experience from a period of operations.

Chapter 1 Powers to Investigate and Safeguards

Social Security Offences

8. Sections 71 to 73 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act provide for three specific types of offences that may be committed – by both individuals and organisations.

  • trying to obtain assistance by deceit (through providing false or misleading information);
  • failing to notify a relevant change of circumstances without a reasonable excuse; and
  • causing another person to fail to notify a change of circumstances.

9. Section 74 of the Act provides that individuals within an organisation can be held responsible for an offence committed by the organisation, where there is active involvement or neglect by a senior member of the organisation. The offences covered here are those provided for by the Act, namely sections 71 – 73, and any that are introduced by regulations made under it.

10. Section 75 of the 2018 Act allows offences to be created by regulations. These are types of offences that may be committed, for example, where authorised investigating officers want to use the powers set out in Investigation of Offences regulations but a request is not complied with or an attempt is made to obstruct the investigation.

Investigations

11. The purpose of an investigation is to gather evidence to decide whether there are reasonable grounds to conclude that an offence has been committed. Where a suspicion has arisen, counter fraud officers will in most cases need to gather evidence from a range of people and organisations to establish the facts.

12. Any investigation will be based on the principle that everything counter fraud officers do must be proportionate. They will only carry out activities that are strictly necessary to collect enough information to help them decide whether an offence has been committed.

13. Counter fraud officers can only request information within the limits permitted by law. For example, they can only do so where it is necessary for the prevention and detection of crime and the request is linked directly to the investigation. They must also ensure all the information they receive is held securely and confidentially. Information can only be disclosed where it is lawful to do so and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation.

Evidence will be gathered in the in the least intrusive way appropriate:

Open Source

14. Depending on the type of information required, counter fraud officers may be able to get what they need from open or public sources of information such as the electoral roll, Registers of Scotland or sources on the internet. A record will be kept of all searches undertaken and these will always be carried out in a way that provides an audit trail.

Other Organisations

15. Schedule 2 paragraph 2 of the Data Protection Act 2018 allows counter fraud officers to make requests to Data Controllers of other organisations to ask them to disclose information they hold where it will be used in connection with the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders. The decision to release the information rests with the Data Controller and they do not have to release the information. However, if they do, they must satisfy themselves that the exemption from normal rules preventing the disclosure of information are valid.

16. Section 85 of the Act [5] and section 34 of the Scotland Act 2016 [6] also allow Scottish public authorities, as well as DWP, to share some types of data with Social Security Scotland to help carry out its functions, including the investigation of possible offences.

Information-Gathering Powers under the Social Security (Scotland) Act

17. Counter fraud officers will always aim to get the information they need quickly and discreetly with the least inconvenience to those that have it. However, in defined circumstances, where it is not possible to get the information from open sources or other organisations, Social Security Scotland will have regulatory powers to compel individuals and organisations to provide information.

18. Section 75 of the Act allows further provision in relation to investigation of offences under the Act to be made by regulations, including giving counter fraud officers powers to enter and search premises (other than dwelling-houses) and to seize material that is relevant to investigations. It also allows the creation of offences in relation to obstruction of investigations and failure to provide information required. The Investigation of Offences regulations [7] will set out a process for authorising certain counter fraud officers to use the regulatory powers requiring that information is provided by individuals and organisations, in defined circumstances. Only Social Security Scotland's counter fraud officers that are authorised for this purpose ('authorised officers') will be able to use these powers. This is an important safeguard against their misuse.

19. It is intended that authorised officers will use the powers only where they have grounds to suspect that the information held is relevant to the investigation of possible commission of an offence under section 71, 72, or 73 of the Act. Justification for requesting the information will have to be clearly documented.

20. In practice this means where an authorised officer suspects:

  • a person has committed or is committing, a benefit offence
  • a person has helped or is helping someone else to commit a benefit offence
  • a person is being misrepresented as part of a benefit claim in respect of them
  • a fraudulent act against Social Security Scotland has been committed

21. The types of information that may be required will vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the nature of the benefit. Examples may include bank statements, employment information, customer account information, household utility bills or electronic information. Where records are held electronically authorised officers may require that arrangements are made to provide access and they are entitled to make copies of, and to take extracts from records.

22. Where an authorised officer is considering obtaining information using the statutory information gathering powers, they will have to consider the circumstances of the case and whether use of these powers is necessary and proportionate. For example, that the officer will need to be able to show that the request is not speculative but is linked to the investigation of an offence, or that the type of information required cannot be obtained from anywhere else. This will provide further assurance that these powers are not open to abuse.

Duty on Information Providers

23. Written information may be requested from organisations or individuals. For example this could include service providers, charities, employers, businesses, mail delivery companies, utilities or sole traders.

24. It is intended that counter fraud officers should always approach information providers in writing, giving clear instructions about what they need, why they need it and what the law says, even where they have already spoken to them face-to-face.

25. Information must always be gathered with the right legal permissions, be relevant and be in proportion to the suspected offence. Officers should never ask for information unless it is needed and they should cause the least disruption possible, except where a particular course of action would put the investigation at risk.

26. Where a person or organisation has been asked by an authorised counter fraud officer to supply information in terms of regulations made under section 75 of the Act, it is intended that they will be required by law to comply with a request within a period specified in the request. If the person providing the information asks for more time the investigating officer may agree to an extension of the deadline. This will depend on the kind of information that has been asked for, the urgency and complexity of the investigation.

27. Information providers will be told about their legal obligation to provide information. They will always be given reasonable opportunity to hand over the information, but a failure to comply with a written request could be an offence under regulation [8(b)] of the Investigation of Offences regulations and a penalty may be imposed.

28. Requests will involve asking for information about a person whose name will be given, but if their full name is not known, as much information will be provided as possible to help the information provider identify who the request is about. Care will always be taken to avoid accidentally requesting information about innocent third parties who are not under investigation.

29. If the detail provided by the authorised counter fraud officer in their request for information is not specific enough to allow the information provider to confidently identify who the request is about, they will have a reasonable reason for failure to provide the requested information. Therefore, no offence should be committed in these circumstances. However, the request can be repeated, adding or changing the personal details where further specific information becomes available. Information about other people within a family can be requested only where their circumstances are directly relevant to the benefit claim being investigated.

30. Information providers will only be required to provide information that they can reasonably be expected to hold and that they keep as part of their normal business. If the information is not held or is no longer available, the person from whom it is requested cannot be committing an offence.

31. Where information is subject to confidentiality between a client and professional legal adviser it should not be requested, and a person cannot be committing an offence by failing to supply it. If communications are confidential and about seeking or giving legal advice, the person holding them has no obligation to provide them.

32. It is likely that much of the private information gathered by the methods described in this code will be personal data. Where this is the case, the Data Protection Act 2018 will apply to the processing of that data until it is securely destroyed.

Witnesses

33. In some cases, counter fraud officers may also need to interview witnesses. These could be employers, people who work with the person under investigation, family members, friends, neighbours, others in the local community or other public officials. Officers will be specially trained and understand that it can be worrying and difficult for a witness giving evidence about someone they know.

34. Investigations will always be handled discreetly, recognising that the key purpose is to gather the information necessary to indicate whether a fraud offence has occurred. A person will only be asked to provide assistance if it is believed they have information to progress that aim, but in a way that does not disclose sensitive information about the person being investigated. Where witnesses are questioned, the purpose will be made clear and that, in the event of the findings of the investigation being referred to the COPFS, the information they provide will be included. While witness statements are given voluntarily, if someone does give a statement they could be required to appear in Court as a witness if cited in a criminal prosecution at a later date.

Visiting Premises

35. In some circumstances, it may be necessary for a counter fraud officer to visit premises to make inquiries, question people or collect evidence. It is intended that the Investigation of Offences regulations [7] will give them the ability to enter a premises either alone or accompanied, but no power to require entry if the owner or occupier refuses to admit them. This will only happen at a reasonable time of day. The regulations will also allow officers to search premises (if allowed entry), but this should not be possible where the property is used solely as a person's dwelling. Only officers that have been authorised under regulation 3 of the Investigation of Offences regulations will be able to conduct visits to premises.

36. While in most cases prior notice will be given, there may be circumstances where this is not possible. If an un-notified visit is the most appropriate course of action, for example if there is a particular urgency with the investigation, the counter fraud officer will record their reasoning.

Covert Surveillance

37. Counter fraud officers may also seek an authorisation by the Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland to carry out directed surveillance in Scotland under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act ( RIP(S)A) 2000. However, there are a number of important safeguards to ensure a person is treated fairly, with dignity and respect, particularly because the nature of covert surveillance means a person will not know it is happening. RIP(S)A provides a regulatory framework which aims to ensure that the use of those powers is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights ( EHCR). Covert surveillance will only ever be carried out as a last resort and only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so. This must be clearly demonstrated in a robust business case, where authorisation will be sought from the Chief Executive of the agency. Another important safeguard is that Social Security Scotland will be subject to independent oversight and inspection by the judicially-led Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office.

38. RIP(S)A also sets out that authorised surveillance has to be part of a specific investigation or operation and all surveillance will be carried out in accordance with the RIP(S)A code of practice. It provides guidance on when an authorisation may be appropriate and the procedures that must be followed before activity takes place. It also gives guidance on how information from surveillance should be treated, how it should be examined, retained, destroyed and how and when it can disclosed.

39. An authorisation under RIP(S)A may also allow Scottish public authorities to conduct covert surveillance within the UK for a period up to three weeks at a time [7] . This may allow surveillance to continue if the person travels from Scotland to another part of the UK.

Joint Investigations

40. In more serious or complex cases of fraud, for example multiple benefits or organised crime, it may be appropriate to investigate with other law enforcement agencies or with other public bodies to prevent wider fraud or make sure that all of the offences are prosecuted together. These may include bodies such as DWP, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ( HMRC), Local Authorities, the Home Office or the Police. This may mean information gathered during an investigation will be shared between these organisations, but this will always be done in accordance with the relevant law.

41. All investigations will be undertaken in accordance with requirements set out in other relevant legislation. This includes the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (" RIP(S)A"), the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. All relevant Codes of Practice [8] including this one, should be followed. Investigations must also be carried out in a way which gives effect to the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 6 which is the right to a fair trial and Article 8 which is the right to respect for private and family life.

All relevant legislation is listed in the annex to this document.

Chapter 2 Standards for Counter Fraud Officers

42. Social Security Scotland counter fraud officers investigating social security offences in Scotland will be directly employed by the public sector. This provides assurance that they will be appropriately trained, accountable for the way they treat people they investigate, and that their use of intrusive powers is closely monitored and controlled.

43. The civil service code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of all civil servants when performing their duties. They are expected to carry out their role with integrity, honesty, objectivity, and impartiality. This expectation extends to all counter fraud officers of Social Security Scotland.

44. Counter fraud officers will have to show:

  • Integrity: putting the obligations of public service above personal interests
  • Honesty: being truthful and open
  • Objectivity: basing advice and decisions on thorough analysis of the evidence
  • Impartiality: acting only according to the merits of the case.

More information about the Civil Service Code can be found at the Scottish Government website /publications/civil-service-code/

45. All counter fraud officers will be specially trained members of staff who have the permission, expertise and skills to use their particular powers effectively and lawfully to gather the appropriate evidence. It is intended that some counter fraud officers will be specifically authorised by a certificate issued in accordance with regulation [3] of the draft Investigation of Offences regulations [7] to use the additional powers set out in those regulations. These will be referred to as 'authorised officers'. This authorisation may be revoked at any time and provides further assurance that checks will be in place on whether use of the powers is proportionate and necessary.

46. If a counter fraud officer identifies a need to obtain information using the powers in the Investigation of Offences regulations, they must make a case to another counter fraud officer who will consider the facts of the case objectively and decide whether it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

47. Counter fraud officers will be subject to civil or criminal proceedings as well as disciplinary action if they are found to be abusing these powers. In addition they will also be subject to Codes of Practice relating to the other relevant legislation listed in the annex to this document and will have regard to the principles of the Act and Social Security Charter.

48. As public sector employees, all Social Security Scotland staff will receive mandatory data protection, equality and diversity training. In addition, counter fraud officers will also be subject to internal disciplinary action for wrong-doing and any officer that unlawfully reveals information that they learned in the course of their work that relates to individuals under investigation may be prosecuted, whether they still work for Social Security Scotland or not.

49. The Information Commissioner is responsible for the promotion of good practice regarding the processing of personal data and for a breaches of the Data Protection Act 2018. Further information can be found on the Information Commissioner's Office website at www.ico.org.uk.

Chapter 3 What to expect if you are being investigated

50. By their nature, investigations are carried out discreetly. To avoid unnecessary worry and distress to those who are found to have no case to answer, Social Security Scotland will not normally tell a person that they are under investigation while the facts are still being established.

51. As much information as possible will be gathered before the individual under investigation is informed and, where there are reasons to suspect they may have committed an offence, they will always be given an opportunity to put their side of the story and offer a reasonable explanation at an interview.

Interview under caution

What is the interview for?

52. An interview under caution is a fact finding exercise that helps the counter fraud officer understand what has happened and decide what to do next. It does not necessarily mean the individual has done anything wrong or that they will be prosecuted.

53. The interview is voluntary and is a chance to provide a reasonable explanation or to dispute or clarify any of the evidence gathered during an investigation. A person can also provide any documents that may support their explanation. Social Security Scotland will be impartial and treat that person with dignity and respect and in accordance with the law.

What happens

54. A letter will be issued with an invitation to attend the interview. If another person such as an appointee, guardian or power of attorney is acting for the person who is receiving benefit, they will normally be dealt with directly. The agency will aim to ensure accessibility and be as flexible as possible about the time and place of the interview, working with the individual to assess their requirements. For example, it may be appropriate to conduct an interview in a person's home if they have restricted mobility, or somewhere local to their place of residence.

55. The person who received the benefit payment will usually be interviewed, but in some circumstances it may be another person if it is suspected they have helped someone else to claim benefits fraudulently.

56. The interview will be recorded and is carried out under caution – this means the suspect does not have to say anything, but that anything that is said may be used in evidence if there is a criminal prosecution. This will always be made clear to the person being interviewed before the interview begins. Recordings will be carefully stored with a clear audit trail to show how the evidence was obtained and handled until it is either produced in court or the investigation ends. If a case is passed to the COPFS, a person would be able to obtain a copy of interview recordings through their solicitor.

57. The person being questioned is entitled to have someone with them if they choose. This is a very important principle, which focuses on the need to treat people with dignity and respect. A person can be accompanied by, for example, a friend, relative, advocate, welfare rights or legal representative, but there is no requirement in law for another person to be present. However, in the interests of fairness, an interview of a person under 16 years of age should not take place without a parent or other responsible adult present. The agency will be very clear about the rights of the accompanying person in terms of what they can and cannot do during an interview, which will also be set out in a leaflet and made available in advance of the interview.

58. If the person being interviewed is an adult and because of a disability they appear to be unable to understand sufficiently what is happening or communicate effectively with the investigators, arrangements must be made to ensure that an appropriate adult is present at the interview.

59. The role of the parent, other responsible adult or appropriate adult is to provide support to the person being interviewed to help them understand what is happening and to facilitate effective communication between that person and the interviewer. They should not answer questions on behalf of the person being interviewed, but can help them or ask investigators to clarify questions during the interview. They will be given the opportunity to speak at appropriate times.

60. The person being interviewed is entitled to have a solicitor present during the interview or to consult with a solicitor at any time. Although a person may choose not to exercise their right to have a solicitor present during the interview, they may change their mind at any time. If necessary, the interview should be adjourned until the person is given the opportunity to seek legal advice.

61. It is the responsibility of the person to contact their own solicitor for the purposes of any private consultation or to arrange their attendance during the interview. They will be told about his in advance of the interview taking place.

62. A person should not be interviewed without a solicitor being present in the following situations:

  • if the person is under 16 years old;
  • if the person is aged 16 or 17 years old, unless there is agreement from a parent or other responsible adult that the interview may proceed without a solicitor being present; or
  • if the person is an adult and, owing to a disability, they appear to be unable to understand sufficiently what is happening or communicate effectively with interviewing officers.

63. The interview may be paused at any time for a break or to allow a person being interviewed to seek legal advice, and they are free to end it at any time.

64. The person being questioned can always refuse to answer a question or to say anything at all.

65. At least two counter fraud officers will always be present.

66. An interpreter will be provided where appropriate. In line with Section 4 of the Act, it will be ensured that individuals who have difficulty communicating (in relation to speech, language or otherwise) can understand questions and express themselves in ways that best meet their needs. This may be, for example, where English is not the first language, or the individual has a sensory impairment or communication difficulty. Account will also be taken of religious or cultural sensitivities where officers are aware of them.

Documents

67. If information or documents are needed from the person being interviewed to help with the investigation, the reason it is needed will be explained and they will be asked to provide them voluntarily. A reasonable amount of time will be given to provide it, but if the time given is not long enough, the person under investigation should contact Social Security Scotland to explain how much more time they need and why.

68. If the request is reasonable, more time will be allowed. But if it is not deemed to be reasonable, or more time cannot be given, this will be explained. If the person being investigated has any difficulty getting the information and documents requested, they should make contact immediately to discuss how they will get it.

Chapter 4 Outcome of an investigation

When an investigation is completed there are a number of possible outcomes:

No case to answer

69. Where there is no case to answer and the person under investigation was not aware that an investigation had been taking place, the investigation will be closed down with no further action. If the person was aware of the investigation, or had already been interviewed, this will always be confirmed in writing. The evidence gathered will be kept securely and destroyed according to Social Security Scotland's data retention policy. [9]

Evidence suggests a determination of entitlement is wrong

70. If the gathered evidence shows that a current or past determination of entitlement is likely to be wrong, the counter fraud officer will pass the information to a person trained to administer the specific benefit, or benefits, that have been paid. With the new information they have been given, that decision maker will decide whether it was paid incorrectly:

Benefit was paid correctly

71. If the decision maker decides that the benefit was paid correctly, no further action will be taken and the investigation will be closed. Social Security Scotland would then communicate with the person to confirm this.

Benefit was paid incorrectly

72. If benefit was paid incorrectly, the decision maker will also consider whether or not Social Security Scotland should ask for the money to be paid back, in accordance with the relevant overpayment liability provisions in the Social Security (Scotland) Act. The individual would then be notified in writing of the outcome.

73. If the decision maker confirms that the benefit was paid incorrectly and the facts of the case and evidence suggest an offence has been committed, the counter fraud team may also decide that it should be reported to the Procurator Fiscal ( PF). The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) is Scotland's independent prosecution service and is responsible for all prosecutions in Scotland. Part of their role is to consider whether the evidence presented in a report from the police or other reporting agency is sufficient and capable of proving beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed. If so, the PF will decide what action if any it is appropriate to take in the public interest. More information about the role of COPFS can be found here http://www.copfs.gov.uk.

74. If a decision is taken to report a case to the PF, Social Security Scotland would then write to the person to confirm this and to let them know that the investigation has concluded. The General Data Protection Regulation Article 5(1)e [10] requires that personal data is not kept longer than is necessary. When the investigation and all related action has ended the documents and evidence gathered will be retained and destroyed in line with Social Security Scotland's data retention policy which will be published separately [9] .

Chapter 5 Complaints

75. If a person is unhappy with the way they have been treated during an investigation or believe Social Security Scotland has fallen short of the standards set out, a complaint can be made by following the process published at [insert hyperlink] [11] .

76. Social Security Scotland processes have been designed to make sure that all feedback will be valued and acted on. Where possible, a complaint will be resolved quickly as soon as contact is made. Complaints will be independently and thoroughly investigated by a separate complaints team for Social Security Scotland without harming any other on-going claim to benefit a person may have.

77. Stage 1 – Contact can be made by phone, by letter or email. Social Security Scotland will try to resolve complaints within 5 working days if possible. A response may be made by phone or in person to try and resolve things. If the complaint is not resolved through this process, the complaint can be reconsidered at Stage 2.

78. Stage 2 - At stage 2 ,an acknowledgement will be sent of the complaint within 3 working days and a decision will be given as soon as possible. This should be after no more than 20 working days unless there is clearly a good reason for needing more time.

79. Stage 3 - If the complaint is not resolved through this procedure and the person remains unhappy with the response, the complaint can be raised with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

80. All feedback provided to Social Security Scotland will help to improve and learn as an agency, and make the service better.

Complaints about Surveillance

81. If a complaint is about Social Security Scotland's use of surveillance powers, information can be found about how to complain to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the RIP(S)A Code of Practice /publications/covert-surveillance-property-interference-code-practice/pages/10/ .

For more information about this publication, contact: Stephen Martin

Email: Stephen.Martin@gov.scot

Annex: Relevant Legislation


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