Social security: independent analyst's report on consultation on the investigation of offences regulations

Independent analysis of the consultation responses received in relation to the nvestigation of offences regulations and the code of practice for investigations.

Chapter 5 - Complaints

Chapter 5 of the draft Code of Practice sets out the process for individuals and organisations wishing to make complaints in relation to fraud investigations, including being able to express dissatisfaction about Social Security Scotland's action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by it. The process set out covers complaints in relation to both direct interaction with Social Security Scotland and authorised surveillance. It also sets out that complaints would be handled independently by a separate complaints team for Social Security Scotland and would not impact negatively on benefits received by the complainant. At the time of the consultation, the agency's full complaint process was not finalised but the intention is that it would be complete at the time that a final published version of the Code was available. This can be found on the Social Security Scotland website.

Approach to Complaints

Respondents were invited to express agreement or disagreement with the complaints process as set out.

Q13. Do you agree with our approach to complaints in Chapter 5 of the Code of Practice for Investigations? If not, please tell us what else you would like to see included.

  Number of Respondents % of Respondents
Yes 7 39%
No 7 39%
Agree in part 1 6%
No response 3 16%
Total 18 100%

This question generated an equal split in the number of respondents who agreed and disagreed.

Of the seven who did not agree, two did so on the basis that the Code should give individuals the right to request a copy of interview recordings in all cases. This would be in the interests of upholding transparency as well as dignity, fairness and respect. Another organisation suggested that Chapter 5 should either be embedded within Chapter 4 (given the direct link between the complaints procedure and the principles of dignity and respect), or more explicit reference be made in Chapter 5 to dignity and respect that will underpin the complaints procedure.

One organisation suggested that within the Code, greater recognition was needed of barriers to making complaints and specifically, people not making complaints for fear of being penalised, sanctioned or losing benefits as a result. Providing details of the complaints process in all communications from the agency may help to remove this barrier, it was suggested, as well as signposting people to relevant support which would assist them in raising a complaint. Having a "visibly independent feedback/complaints team" was welcomed as giving confidence to potential claimants.

One organisation questioned how people subject to covert surveillance would ever be made aware of that surveillance and therefore how they would, in turn, be able to complain about it. The same organisation suggested that there should be some way of complaining to the Agency and having a complaint about surveillance resolved prior to it having to go to an Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

A different organisation commented that a means of compensating individuals whose complaints are upheld may be appropriate[9]:

"compensation should be made available when it is found that people have not been treated with dignity and respect by Social Security Agency staff. Even a token amount such as £50 - £100 would encourage staff to be respectful in their dealings with claimants and make Agency staff more accountable when they failed in their statutory duty."

It was felt that such compensation would help the agency be more accountable and encourage both compliance with the Code and upholding of the principles of Social Security Scotland.

Finally, two respondents commented that there was insufficient detail in the Code, as presented, to allow considered responses to be made. Both welcomed a chance to comment on the full complaints process once finalised.



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