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INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER

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INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER Powered By Docstoc
					      INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER
            For the Department for Work and Pensions




                    ANNUAL REPORT
                1 APRIL 2009 – 31 MARCH 2010




                    Judging the issues without taking sides




July 2010
The Independent Case Examiner’s Office

Our Mission

Judging the issues without taking sides

Our Business Purpose

We have two primary business objectives: to act as an independent
referee if customers of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
consider that the Department or one of its Businesses has not treated
them fairly or has not dealt with complaints in a satisfactory manner; and
to support the Department in improving the service it delivers by
providing constructive comment and meaningful recommendations

Our Aim

To provide a free, effective and impartial complaints review and
resolution service for DWP customers that makes a difference to
the way in which the Department discharges its public responsibilities

Our Vision

To be a first rate service provided by professional staff




July 2010                            2
CONTENTS
1.      Independent Case Examiner’s foreword ............................................................. 4
2.      Executive Summary ............................................................................................ 6
3.      Casework ............................................................................................................ 7
     Recording customer contacts ................................................................................. 7
     Ease of access ....................................................................................................... 9
4.      Working With Dwp............................................................................................. 11
     Customer Charter ................................................................................................. 11
     The Learning Loop................................................................................................ 11
     Managing Complaint Resolution ........................................................................... 15
     Collaborative Working........................................................................................... 15
5.      The ICE Office................................................................................................... 16
     Standards of Service ............................................................................................ 16
     Complaints about our service and the outcome of my investigations ................... 17
     Findings of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) ............. 17
     Continuous Improvement...................................................................................... 17
     Listening to what people say about our service .................................................... 17
Appendix – Casework statistics................................................................................ 19
        Supporting Information: Jobcentre Plus ............................................................ 20
        Supporting Information: Pension, Disability and Carers Service ...................... 24
        Supporting Information: Debt Management ...................................................... 31
        Supporting Evidence: The Financial Assistance Scheme ................................. 35




July 2010                                                      3
1.   Independent Case Examiner’s foreword
1.1. I am pleased to present my third Annual Report as Independent Case Examiner
     (ICE) for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This report describes
     the work of the ICE Office in the year ending 31 March 2010, and focuses on
     our experience of the DWP businesses’ approach to complaint resolution. It
     specifically covers Jobcentre Plus, Pension, Disability and Carers Service, Debt
     Management and the Financial Assistance Scheme.

1.2. DWP is the largest delivery department of Government in the UK, with a high
     volume of transactions undertaken each day. In particular, the volume of
     customers Jobcentre Plus has dealt with during this financial year, as a result of
     the economic climate, has increased. Against this backdrop, the number of
     complaints accepted by my office remains low, and the majority of DWP
     complaints I investigate and report on are not upheld.

1.3. When things do go wrong, the way in which the businesses respond to
     complaints and interact with complainants is critical in re-building relationships
     with their customers and restoring trust. I am firmly of the view that resolution
     of complaints at the earliest opportunity is the best possible outcome for all
     parties. Picking up the telephone and talking to complainants is often the best
     route to that. Gareth Jones, Director of the Special Ombudsman Response
     Team at the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, Canada, whom I had the
     pleasure of meeting in June 2009, put it very well in his book Conducting
     Administrative Oversight and Ombudsman Investigation: “The goal … is to
     provide information to educate, to assist with options, to get matters resolved
     internally with minimum fuss and muss wherever possible”.

1.4. Not only do I subscribe wholeheartedly to this approach, its implementation is
     the cornerstone to what the ICE office tries to achieve in the majority of cases
     that are brought to us. I believe with all my heart and soul, that where it is
     possible to conciliate or mediate a solution to a complaint, acceptable to all
     parties, that is the right course to adopt.

1.5. A critical part of my role is to ensure that, where maladministration by the
     businesses has had a significant impact on one of its customers, that person
     receives appropriate redress, including the making good of any actual financial
     loss if it is proven. Redress can range from apology to consolatory payments,
     which are intended to provide a tangible acknowledgement of inconvenience
     caused: they are not intended as compensation and are not generally large
     amounts of money. That is right and proper. Compensation claims are and
     should be subject to the rigours of the court system, including testing by cross-
     examination. Without such testing, individuals should not expect to receive
     large sums from the public purse.

1.6. In summary, my report provides a flavour of the complaints received by my
     office, and highlights key themes and issues identified during the reporting year.
     I hope that it will be received by the businesses in the spirit in which it is offered.
     I see my role very much as that of critical friend, offering constructive criticism,
     supported by evidence, that may assist the businesses to improve the service
     they provide to their customers. I want to help Departmental agencies and


July 2010                                    4
     businesses to improve their services to the citizen and I value the constructive
     dialogue the businesses have with my office which I have worked hard to
     introduce.

1.7. Finally, and most importantly, I once again pay my sincere tribute to the staff at
     the ICE office for their mediation and investigative skills, their dedication to
     providing an excellent service, and their ongoing and unfailing support to me in
     achieving our shared goal of complaint resolution, and the proper investigation
     of complaints. I am very proud of ICE Office and its people.




John Hanlon

14 July 2010

Independent Case Examiner




July 2010                                  5
2.       Executive Summary

Key messages 2009/10
     •    The majority of complaints about DWP businesses are not upheld following
          investigation.
     •    More than one third of complaints to ICE from DWP customers are resolved
          by agreement between the parties.
     •    This reporting period has seen a major focus on complaint resolution within
          the Department, with the introduction of a number of initiatives geared towards
          enabling staff to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity, including the
          DWP Customer Charter and internal complaint forums.
     •    Relationships between the Department and the ICE office are cordial and
          constructive.
     •    DWP is very receptive to the suggestions I make and has worked closely with
          my office in implementing systemic improvement. I am pleased at the
          response from all the Agencies to the systemic issues I have raised with them
          following from the investigation of cases.




Summary of Business Performance
DWP as a whole
Business Performance                       2008/09                     2009/10
Received                                     1287                        1214
Accepted                                     342                         386
Total case clearances (of                    410                         343
which):
Resolved                                     152*                        130*
Investigated                                 206                         187
% of investigated cases                      33%                         47%
partially/fully upheld
Withdrawn                                     52                          26

*This includes 66 cases resolved with evidence (settled) for 2008/2009 and 15 cases
for 2009/2010




July 2010                                    6
3.   Casework
3.1. Complaints received by my office have reduced slightly this year, while the
number accepted has increased, indicating that efforts by the businesses to improve
their signposting may be having an effect in reducing premature approaches to ICE.
34% of those cases we have accepted have been resolved by agreement between
the parties, which I consider to be the optimum outcome.

3.2. Of the remaining complaints, which we investigated and in which I reached
findings and conclusions, I partially or fully upheld almost 47%.

3.3. The complaints received by my office are categorised under the same headings
used by DWP to record its internal complaints. This year, the categories generating
most complaints to this office have been: getting it wrong; providing unsuitable
information; and taking too long. More in-depth analysis reveals that individuals
complain when they believe that procedures have not been properly followed, though
the outcome of my investigations indicates that this is often a matter of perception
rather than fact, leading me to conclude that such dissatisfaction may arise as much
from disappointment about outcomes, such as adverse benefit decisions, as from
poor service in some cases. With regard to complaints about inadequate information
and delay, my experience is that these are more likely to be justified, and that the
Department has some way to go in improving the standard of its communications
and in meeting its published response times. All of this applies particularly to the
way in which it deals with complaints: in that area it is not uncommon for me to see
response times and deadlines missed or to see inaccurate and sometimes
contradictory information given to complainants even at the higher levels of
departmental response.

3.4. The range of business covered by DWP Agencies is very broad, and the
volume of complaints we receive, though small, spans the entire spectrum of that
business, making it difficult to identify common themes: complaints are often about
individual incidents and very specific sets of circumstances relating to the individual
complainant.

3.5. Such themes as we have identified are outlined below, together with the
suggestions I have made to departmental agencies for improvement.

Recording customer contacts
3.6. The availability and quality of transaction recording is increasingly an issue for
my office in resolving or determining complaints. Transactions between DWP and its
customers are often perceived very differently by officials and members of the public.
When records are absent or cursory, it can severely inhibit our ability to reach sound
and convincing conclusions; where they are known to have been available but have
been subsequently destroyed when they should not have been, that fuels
complainant’s suspicions of manipulation and collusion. In investigating these sorts
of complaint, I have found it to be error, not conspiracy, that lies behind the
premature destruction of such records.




July 2010                                  7
Telephone recordings

3.7. Disputes between businesses and their customers about the specifics of
conversations and advice given is a regular feature of my caseload. It is not unusual
for me to see complaints about misunderstanding or misinterpretation of something
that has been said by one party or another, which in some cases has led to
inappropriate action by a complainant. These types of cases are particularly difficult
to investigate in the absence of supporting evidence, and, in particular, of
comprehensive records. Too often, although a business may record that a contact
has been made, it does not appropriately record what has been said.

3.8. When businesses are able to supply my office with an audio recording, that
constitutes definitive proof of what was said, allowing me to reach a fully informed
view of the reasonableness of subsequent action. Where that is not available
contemporaneous written records of conversations are the next best thing. Real
issues arise when neither are available to my office.

3.9. The outcome in individual cases may be, dependent on what evidence there is,
that I have to reach conclusions on a complaint based on the balance of probability
rather than on fact supported by contemporary records, and such decisions, even
though carefully weighed and fully explained, are inevitably unpalatable to the party
whose version of events I do not support.

CCTV footage

3.10. Where CCTV footage is available for me to view, it can help my understanding
of what has happened and help me explain my conclusions to the parties involved.
Sometimes, it provides clear support to one version of events; more often it does not.
However, the clarity provided is almost of secondary importance. Customers of
Jobcentre Plus, or of other DWP businesses who attend Jobcentre Plus offices, are
invariably aware of the presence of CCTV cameras. When their actions and
behaviours during visits are called into question, they have a reasonable expectation
that footage will be available to support allegations of unacceptable behaviour made
against them. If it is not available, it can encourage individuals to put forward
alternative versions of events and to escalate complaints which might otherwise
have not arisen or been quickly defused.

3.11. Responsibility for security of access to Jobcentre Plus offices is contracted out
to a private sector partner, including responsibility for CCTV installations, and the
relationship between Jobcentre Plus and its partner is defined locally by a Local
Incident Management Plan. All CCTV cameras are registered under the Data
Protection Act for the purposes of security, crime prevention and the investigation of
crime, and CCTV images may be viewed by police, DWP staff and members of the
public on request. A local plan stipulates how many days CCTV footage should be
retained before being destroyed (usually 28).

3.12. The cases I see have highlighted discrepancies in how long footage is retained
in different offices. In addition to this, complainants are not usually aware that
requests to view CCTV footage must be submitted within a prescribed timescale. I
have seen complaints where a DWP customer has requested a copy of the footage,
only to be told that it has been destroyed because the timescale for retention has


July 2010                                  8
expired. I raised this matter with Jobcentre Plus; it has since advised that although
the majority of its offices retain footage for 28 days, there are still some offices where
footage can only be retained for 7 days. In view of this, Jobcentre Plus has
amended its customer standards leaflet to explain that should a customer’s
complaint involve CCTV evidence, they should submit their complaint within 7
working days or request access to CCTV footage within 7 days of an incident. I
welcome this development.

3.13. Whilst I appreciate that there are contractual issues to be negotiated, I would,
based on the cases I have seen, urge that the retention of CCTV evidence be
brought into line with the Department’s policy for retaining documentary evidence. I
have therefore suggested that Jobcentre Plus consider reviewing the procedures
which govern the retention of CCTV footage, or any other audio or visual evidence.
In particular I have asked Jobcentre Plus to consider reviewing its process so that
CCTV footage is retained for a suitable period after any letter is issued to a customer
restricting his access to a particular building or notifying him that he has been found
to pose a potential threat to staff. I have suggested that such letters should make
reference to CCTV footage, where relevant, and provide details of how the customer
can access it, including timescales for making a request.

3.14. Dialogue with the Department with regard to this matter is ongoing.

Ease of access
3.15. I am still seeing evidence of access problems within the businesses, which
largely stems from their established practices of working in “chimneys”. This
approach may be helpful in building specialist expertise, but it can, in cases that go
wrong and lead to complaints, paint a picture of a fragmented and disjointed
approach. This is evident across several areas of DWP, especially in the areas
managing day to day administration or attempting to resolve complaints: the left
hand not knowing what the right hand is doing in some cases. Communication
across the “chimneys” can be patchy, making it difficult for me – and, much more
importantly, difficult for DWP customers – to get a comprehensive picture of action
being taken to progress their cases.

3.16. When this happens and things go wrong, it can impact in a significant fashion.
It can and does, in some cases, result in errors and misunderstandings and in
enormous frustration for DWP customers, as the following example demonstrates:

Ms B initially made an online claim for Jobseekers Allowance in May 2008.
Following this she requested several times that her claim should commence from 28
April 2008, when she first became unemployed. In order for a decision maker to
consider whether her claim met the criteria for backdating to 28 April 2008, she
should have been advised to complete form JSA5, yet despite Ms B’s numerous
requests in her correspondence that her claim should be considered from 28 April
2008, Jobcentre Plus failed to take the appropriate action and a decision on whether
Ms B was entitled to benefit from this date had never been made.

In her letter to Jobcentre Plus dated 20 May 2008, Ms B had asked for an
appointment at Jobcentre X, where she had previously claimed benefit in October
2007. She was told that she had to go to Jobcentre Y and her application could be



July 2010                                   9
affected if she did not attend the appointment. Ms B was unable to attend the
arranged interview, as she could not find Jobcentre Y and they did not answer her
telephone calls. She visited Jobcentre X that same afternoon, to attempt to register a
claim, but she was told to register at Jobcentre Z and was given an 0800 number to
call. Ms B expressed her frustration with the claim process and hoped her
application would not be damaged by the problems encountered.

Jobcentre Plus procedures allow customers to attend a Jobcentre of their choice.
There is no evidence that the Contact Centre operator, in May 2008, considered Ms
B’s request for an appointment at Jobcentre X. Furthermore, Jobcentre X incorrectly
advised Ms B that she could not register there and had to attend Jobcentre Y. I
noted that as Ms B had claimed at Jobcentre X the previous October, and was not
familiar with Jobcentre Y, her request was not unreasonable. The poor customer
service Ms B received both from the Contact Centre and the Jobcentre Plus office
contributed to the problems that she subsequently encountered.

Ms B’s claim was processed, and on 18 June 2008 she telephoned the Jobcentre to
explain that she could not sign on that day as she was doing a week’s work.
Jobcentre Plus did not record any other details of this conversation, such as the date
the temporary work started, but it explained that the exclusion reason “found work”
from 11 June was put onto Ms B’s computer records.

Jobcentre Plus explained that because the termination code “found work” from 11
June 2008 had already been put onto the JSA computer system, her claim was
closed from this date when it was processed on 7 July 2008. The next day a
computer generated letter was issued to Ms B confirming JSA had been paid up to
10 June 2008 and was taxable. This letter did not make clear that her claim had
been closed and Jobcentre Plus failed to send Ms B a formal closure decision.

Ms B completed and signed declarations, on 20 June and 2 July 2008, relating to the
temporary work she did on 12, 13, 16-19 and 26 June 2008. Jobcentre Plus’ Benefit
Delivery Centre (BDC), which is managed separately from the Jobcentre and is
responsible for processing benefit claims, was not aware that Ms B’s claim had been
closed with an incorrect date (11 June 2008) and it agreed to issue Ms B with a
payment for 11 June 2008. A further error occurred because although Ms B’s
declarations clearly showed that she had worked in excess of 16 hours, meaning her
claim would close, the Jobcentre failed to advise her to complete a Rapid Reclaim
form until 14 August 2008. This service failure was compounded by the failure to
send entitlement and closure notifications when Ms B’s claim was processed on 7
July 2008. The impact of the combined service failure was that Ms B was unaware,
despite continuing to register and sign on as unemployed, that her JSA claim had
closed.

I highlighted service failures in Ms B’s case, including failing to consider awarding
benefit for a later period, delay of six months in reaching a decision in respect of
backdating, and failing to issue a formal decision notice, therefore denying Ms B her
review and appeal rights. I also noted that Jobcentre Plus had failed to follow its
complaints procedure, had delayed in issuing responses and had provided incorrect
information.




July 2010                                10
4.       Working With Dwp
Customer Charter
4.1. DWP has this year, for the first time, published a Customer Charter. Having
undertaken reasearch to establish the things that are most important to its
customers, it has used that insight to develop its commitment to them,
encompassing four promises:

•    Right Treatment

•    Right Result

•    On Time

•    Easy access

The Charter also articulates the responsibilities of customers in their dealings with
the Department.

4.2. I welcome explicit recognition of customers’ responsibility to behave reasonably
and to co-operate with the Department.

4.3. I will consider with interest during the coming year the extent to which the
Charter has influenced DWP’s dealings with its customer base and whether
discernable customer service improvement can be identified as a result of its
introduction.

The Learning Loop
4.4. I have a dual role as the Independent Case Examiner in that, in addition to
examining complaints about the agencies and businesses within my jurisdiction and
securing appropriate redress for individuals, I also provide insight to the businesses
from the complaints that come to my office, with a view to helping them improve the
service they provide.

4.5. With this aim in mind, it has been my practice from the outset to make
recommendations and suggestions to the businesses, arising from my casework, for
improving their systems or processes: generally for improvements that could impact
on multiple DWP customers. I am happy to acknowledge that the DWP businesses
have been very willing to take on board my suggestions. I do believe this willingness
by the DWP to learn from complaints can make a positive difference to DWP
customers.

Jobcentre Plus

4.6. The following are examples of systemic suggestions I have made to JCP
during this reporting period:

     •    In April 2009 I asked Jobcentre Plus to consider changing its procedures to
          include clear instructions about the handling of complaints about Customer
          Care Officers (CCOs) and to take steps to improve the information provided


July 2010                                   11
        by the contracted provider to the complainant to confirm that an investigation
        has been carried out properly and professionally. I also asked Jobcentre Plus
        to ensure that third party suppliers give complainants the opportunity to
        provide any evidence, including any possible witnesses to an event, prior to
        determination on a complaint being given. In response, Jobcentre Plus has
        revised its complaint handling process and reached an agreement with the
        third party supplier to include the gathering of written statements and
        evidence rather than verbal statements only.

    •   In April 2009 I suggested Jobcentre Plus may wish to consider a formal
        arrangement for complaints about its medical services provider to be
        appropriately re-directed. Jobcentre Plus has now introduced this change.

    •   In May 2009, I suggested Jobcentre Plus look at the liaison arrangements
        between its Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance teams to ensure that
        appropriate information is shared and that, when an individual transfers from
        one benefit to another, decision makers have the information necessary to
        reach informed decisions. Jobcentre Plus has agreed to re-word its guidance
        accordingly.

4.7. I am also pleased to acknowledge instances when DWP has used the feedback
provided by ICE proactively to improve service to customers. I am aware that
Jobcentre Plus has recently conducted an analysis of complaints resolved by my
office, to determine how it might improve its internal process to avoid unnecessary
escalation of complaints in future.

4.8. Jobcentre Plus has acknowledged that resolving complaints at the first tier of its
complaints process is the most effective way forward. This piece of work by them is
designed to support complaint handlers within its organisation by illustrating how
effective intervention might bring about improvement to complaint resolution at an
earlier stage.

4.9. Jobcentre Plus analysis identified that its own responses had not always fully
addressed the customer’s concerns or offered appropriate remedy and were
therefore incomplete. In addition, Jobcentre Plus identified three further areas for
improvement in its internal complaint processes:

•   Ownership – the importance of taking responsibility for dealing with a complaint
    and providing appropriate redress in appropriate cases.
•   Proactive Intervention – designing a process to support early contact with a
    complainant, seeking resolution, with an audit trail and tracking agreed actions.
•   Remedy – proper consideration of appropriate remedy including special
    payments, taking due account of any impact of maladministration on the
    customer.

I welcome this initiative by Jobcentre Plus.

4.10. In last year’s annual report I highlighted a problem with Jobcentre Plus
customers approaching ICE too soon, which I attributed to the fact that Jobcentre
Plus literature did not provide appropriate internal contact details for complainants. I


July 2010                                  12
am pleased to report that Jobcentre Plus has now amended its literature to include
appropriate signposting, and has issued reminders to staff about correct procedures
for dealing with complaints.

Pension, Disability and Carers Service (PDCS)

4.11.The following are examples of systemic suggestions I have made to PDCS
during this reporting period:

   •   In June 2009 I highlighted that the standard letter requesting evidence in
       winter fuel cases provided contradictory information and did not reflect the
       information given over the telephone. PDCS has agreed to amend the letter
       accordingly, though that could not be done in time for this year’s bulk mail
       shot as claim packs were already in the process of being issued.

   •   In June 2009 I also asked PDCS to annotate the winter fuel application form
       to alert customers to contact PDCS to obtain details of other evidence that
       can be provided if they do not have a birth certificate. PDCS has inserted a
       reference in the claim form notes to that effect.

   •   In August 2009 I alerted PDCS to an omission from Disability Living
       Allowance and Attendance Allowance guidance, which did not instruct staff to
       send a copy of the BD8 form to the Bereavement Benefits office. I also
       highlighted that these forms are normally filed away without referral to
       Jobcentre Plus, which could potentially cause a loss of statutory entitlement to
       bereavement benefits. PDCS has taken steps to revise its procedural
       guidance and, in the interim, has issued an urgent information bulletin to all
       relevant staff.

   •   In October 2009 I highlighted that computer error meant pension forecasts
       were incorrect. This error related to the treatment of the contracted out
       deduction from the maximum additional state pension that would otherwise be
       paid. I asked PDCS to clarify what steps are being taken to identify how
       many customers have been affected. PDCS responded that it had conducted
       a scan to identify possible customers affected by a system fault relating to
       additional state pension, and that a total of 669 customers had been
       contacted by letter, inviting them to obtain a new state pension forecast.

4.12. PDCS has also taken steps to put into practice learning from ICE casework. It
has advised that it has benefited significantly from learning about my office’s
approach to complaint resolution; in particular, it advised that the contribution my
staff made to its learning and training needs analysis for complaint handlers was
very useful.




July 2010                                 13
Debt Management

4.13. I have not had cause to highlight any suggestions for service improvements to
Debt Management during this financial year.

4.14. Debt Management has taken positive steps to apply learning from ICE, as
detailed below:

   •   It has adopted a new approach of attempting to resolve complaints at the
       earliest opportunity, by contacting the complainant at the outset to agree the
       complaint, and understand their required resolutions. Debt Management now
       encourages staff to contact the customer by telephone in the first instance, to
       gain an understanding of how the complaint may be resolved, prior to
       providing a written response. It is also capturing complaint data to help it
       identify root causes of complaint. This approach has now been embedded
       across all Debt Management’s contact centres.

   •   It has liaised with the Upper Tribunal to establish a more robust line of
       communication following an ICE case where it became apparent that Debt
       Management was not being given timely information about the outcome of
       appeals.

   •   It has noted my concerns in last year’s annual report about financial redress
       not being considered at the earliest opportunity. From April 2010 Debt
       Management has responsibility for administering its own Special Payments.
       One of its key aims is to identify maladministration as soon as it arises and to
       provide fair and proportionate remedy for customers to prevent escalation of
       complaint. Guidance to staff makes it clear that a Special Payment should be
       considered at all tiers of the complaints process.

   •   Debt Management anticipate that its application for Customer Contact
       Association accreditation, by the end of 2010, will provide added assurance of
       a robust complaint handling process, underpinned by plans to achieve and
       maintain its targets.

Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS)

4.15. FAS has taken positive steps to improve complaint resolution by:

   •   Re-wording customer communications to ensure the correct output for the
       customer, and that they are in plain English.

   •   Gathering feedback from its welcome packs, issued when customers are
       transferred over to FAS, with a view to improving its service and shape
       communications and future web developments.

   •   The recently launched FASonline service allows members to send and
       receive secure messages, obtain payment statements online (formerly paper
       based) and features an updated “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) section




July 2010                                 14
       about regulation changes. FAS has advised that this is in its infancy and it is
       scheduled for development over 2010 and beyond.

Managing Complaint Resolution
Complaint Forum

4.16. In March 2010, the Department organised a forum for its staff, to promote
excellence in complaint resolution. I was invited to attend to talk about my
experience and to give my view on best practice. The forum gave key
representatives from across the DWP businesses the opportunity to learn more
about the progress DWP is making in improving its approach to complaints
resolution, including presentations from a number of guest speakers. It also marked
the launch of a new network of DWP Complaints Champions – individuals with a
range of roles and responsibilities from across the business who can help determine
how DWP makes real improvements in complaints resolution. I applaud and very
much welcome the Department’s efforts in this key area.

Complaints about staff

4.17. In last year’s annual report I highlighted that it was evident from the cases
received at my office that there was a lack of clear DWP guidance for handling
complaints from members of the public about DWP staff. I raised this with the
Department as a suggestion for improvement, and I am very pleased to report that it
took my suggestion seriously, and took immediate and appropriate action to review
and update its guidance for dealing with complaints about staff. The guidance has
now been issued to all the DWP businesses. I welcome this important improvement
and the speed with which it was achieved.

Collaborative Working
4.18. My office continues to work with the DWP businesses, to share best practice
and to find solution to problems. For example:

   •   Staff from my office spent two days in Jobcentre Plus South East region
       delivering awareness training to approximately 50 staff. Feedback received
       from this was extremely positive.

   •   Staff from my office have visited the businesses to gain an overview of their
       role.

   •   My office continues to attend quarterly working group meetings with business
       focal points and holds monthly practitioner forums with some operational
       areas to facilitate problem solving and mutually supportive ways of working.
       My senior managers have attended meetings with ATOS medical services
       during the year looking at the cross over with my office.

4.19. I want the ICE Office to have a cordial relationship with all the businesses
whose complaints I adjudicate upon. This is important to ensure that the Department
does learn from the cases I investigate where things have gone wrong for the citizen.




July 2010                                 15
4.20. Talking to the Department on these issues is no threat to my independence,
which I guard dearly (and that independence from the Department has been
confirmed by the courts). It is plain common sense to have such a dialogue.

5.   The ICE Office
5.1. I am grateful to the management and staff of the ICE office, whose passion and
enthusiasm I am proud to acknowledge in this report. They continue to put
complainants and justice at the heart of what we do.

Standards of Service
5.2. When we acknowledge receipt of a complaint, we send the complainant a copy
of “Our Service and Standards” leaflet, which explains how we deal with complaints
and includes information about how long it should take us to do so.

5.3. We keep our service standards under review, and this year have introduced
some changes to our key targets to bring them more closely into line with those of
the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. For example, we have moved
away from average clearance times to reporting the percentage of investigations
completed within 6 and 12 months, which we believe will give complainants and
potential complainants a more meaningful indication of what to expect.

5.4. Our level of service for this reporting year and the last is detailed below:

Target                                               Performance       Performance
                                                     2008/9            2009/10
Acknowledge complaints within 2 working days         96.2%             95.4%
Respond to correspondence within 10 working          97.1%             98.8%
days
Decide within 20 working days whether we can         85.4%             N/A
accept a complaint for consideration
Decide within 25 working days whether we can         N/A               81.1%
accept a complaint for consideration*
Remind complainants at case closure of their         100%              100%
right to approach the Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman
Clear cases accepted for action on average           27.94             N/A
within 30 weeks*
To clear 55% of complaints within 6 months*          N/A               56.0%
To clear 85% of complaints within 12 months*         N/A               91.7%
To acknowledge complaints about us within 2          N/A               96.2%
working days*
To respond to complaints about us within 20          N/A               98.1%
working days*
*changes made to service standard


July 2010                                  16
Complaints about our service and the outcome of my investigations
5.5. In accordance with best practice articulated by the British Standards Institute
(BSI), we record as a complaint any expression of dissatisfaction by a complainant,
about the service provided by my office, or the outcome of my investigation.

5.6. During the reporting year we received 170 complaints relating to our DWP
caseload, 105 regarding the service provided by my office, 53 about the outcome of
my investigation and 12 combined complaints about service and outcome. The
majority of complaints received by my office are not upheld.

5.7. However, complaints can provide a valuable insight into the expectations and
experiences of people who use our service and we routinely consider this feedback
in the context of service improvements.

Findings of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
5.8. Individuals who are dissatisfied with ICE investigations can ask Members of
Parliament to progress their complaints to the Ombudsman. I remind every
complainant of this right. This year, the Ombudsman found that I could have done
more in 3 DWP cases investigated by her office, and in each of those cases I have
agreed to meet the Ombudsman’s recommendations. It is right and proper that an
organisation such as ICE, which prides itself on the excellence of its processes,
should be open to scrutiny by the Ombudsman and should welcome constructive
criticism and learn from it, as I encourage bodies within jurisdiction to do.

Continuous Improvement
5.9. The office has continued to pursue a number of initiatives which reflect its
commitment to improving the service it provides. As well as British Standards
Institute (BSI) accreditation for our internal complaints processes, we hold Investors
in People (IiP) accreditation at gold standard (less than 1% of organisations achieve
this standard): an accolade we are keen to retain and towards which we will work for
this year’s internal review. The ICE office is also in the process of gathering
evidence for accreditation in Customer Service Excellence, which has replaced
Charter Mark, an accreditation which we have held for over six years.

5.10. My office is an associate member of the British and Irish Ombudsman
Association (BIOA) and staff attend various BIOA working group meetings to share
best practice and discuss common themes. We also provide a venue for some of
these meetings.

Listening to what people say about our service
5.11. We want to know what people think about our service, both internally and
externally, so that we can make improvements whenever possible. The table below
details changes we have made in response to feedback from those who use our
service:




July 2010                                 17
Feedback received….                          Changes made….

A number of people told us that a            We have since extended the timescale to
timescale of five working days allowed to    allow complainants ten working days to
them to agree our clarification of their     respond.
complaint(s), was not long enough.

Some people told us that they did not        We have reviewed our internal
feel they had been given ample               processes to include, at appropriate
opportunity to provide their evidence to     stages, a specific invitation to
inform our examination of their              complainants to provide any evidence to
complaint.                                   assist my office in examining their
                                             complaint.


5.12. My office is committed to providing a quality service. Complainants continue to
tell us of high levels of satisfaction with the ICE service. Complainants have also
told us of the difference our service has made to their lives, as the following quotes
demonstrate:

All of my points of complaint were answered. For carrying out a thorough
investigation of a “customer’s complaint”, you are the most impressive
organisation I’ve ever been involved with.


The service was clear and courteous. ICE was the only service that I felt
actually listened to me.


Excellent service which always produces changes within DWP.




July 2010                                   18
Appendix – Casework statistics

      INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER
            For the Department for Work and Pensions




                    ANNUAL REPORT
                 1 APRIL 2009 – 31 MARCH 2010


                  SUPPORTING INFORMATION


                         Jobcentre Plus




                    Judging the issues without taking sides




July 2010                        19
Supporting Information: Jobcentre Plus

I am advised by Jobcentre Plus that during this financial year it processed the
following number of benefit claims:

   •   Jobseeker’s Allowance       3,625,353
   •   Income Support                463,172
   •   Incapacity Benefit             24,977

The number of complaints to the ICE office should be viewed within this context.

1 Casework Statistics
The data and figures that follow are based on casework carried out in the twelve
month period between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010. Comparisons are made
with the twelve months from 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009.

2 Complaints Received
2.1 Complaints received and accepted for action during the period are outlined
below:
                        1/4/08 – 31/3/09         1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Received                935                      884
Accepted                206                      248

3 Case clearances
Details of clearances are outlined below:
                  Resolved        Investigated          Withdrawn      Total
1/4/08- 31/3/09   89*             134                   35             258
1/4/09- 31/3/10   80*             115                   20             215
*includes 47 cases resolved with evidence (settled) for 2008/2009 and 10 resolved
with evidence in 2009/2010.

3.1 Withdrawn cases
Complaints may be withdrawn for several reasons. For example, some
complainants decide to withdraw their complaint when we explain to them the need
to appeal against legislative decisions Jobcentre Plus has made, or they choose to
take another route to redress. From time to time people also withdraw their
complaint because our explanations satisfy them that what has happened is
appropriate. Other cases are withdrawn because Jobcentre Plus has acted to
address people’s concerns.




July 2010                                   20
3.2 Resolved cases
We try to resolve complaints by agreement between Jobcentre Plus and the
complainant, as this generally represents a quicker and more satisfactory result for
both. It is a positive that we are able to resolve a high percentage of Jobcentre Plus
complaints, illustrating its willingness to work with us. However, it does also indicate,
as acknowledged by Jobcentre Plus, that there is scope for it to do more to address
complaints in-house at the earliest opportunity, in order to prevent them coming to
ICE.

4 Outcomes
4.1 My findings in respect of cases we could not resolve are detailed below. In
cases where I find that the business has failed to provide an acceptable standard of
service, I consider what action the business has subsequently taken to try to put
things right. If the business has fully addressed the complaint and appropriate
redress has been provided, offered or instigated prior to referral to ICE, I do not
uphold the complaint.

4.2 The number of complaints that are not upheld is usually a good measure of the
quality of the businesses’ own response to the issues raised. It is positive that I have
“not upheld” the majority of cases investigated about Jobcentre Plus.

                    Fully Upheld     Partially Upheld     Not Upheld
1/4/08 – 31/3/09    14               31                   89
1/4/09 – 31/3/10    15               43                   57

5 Subject of Complaint
We recorded details of the subject of complaint for each element of complaint
whether resolved or investigated. This has shown:

Subject                   Upheld            Not upheld         Resolved
1/4/08 – 31/3/09
Delay                     45                20                 24
Error                     123               76                 24
No action taken           31                21                 8
Other                     26                10                 3

Subject                   Upheld            Not upheld         Resolved
1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Delay                     13                26                 34
Error                     47                100                60
No action taken           19                44                 21
Other                     6                 19                 7



July 2010                                  21
6 Caseload

Cases outstanding 1/4/08 – 31/3/09      134
Cases outstanding 1/4/09 – 31/3/10      212

7 Service Level Agreement
7.1 We have a service level agreement with Jobcentre Plus with agreed timescales
for provision of information to ICE. As the table shows, Jobcentre Plus is still
experiencing problems with providing ICE with requested information within these
timescales.

JCP Service Level Agreement Activity 1/4/09-31/03/10
Resolution plans issued                               142
Resolution plans returned                             135
Returned within SLA (10 days)                         83
Returned later than SLA                               52


SOEs requested                                        159
SOEs returned                                         154
Returned within SLA (28 days)                         76
Returned later than SLA                               78


Draft reports issued                                  125
Draft reports returned                                126
Returned within SLA (10 days)                         71
Returned later than SLA (10 days)                     55




July 2010                              22
      INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER
            For the Department for Work and Pensions




                    ANNUAL REPORT
                 1 APRIL 2009 – 31 MARCH 2010


                  SUPPORTING INFORMATION

                Pension, Disability and Carers Service




                    Judging the issues without taking sides




July 2010                         23
Supporting Information: Pension, Disability and Carers Service

I am advised by Pension, Disability and Carers Service that every month on average
it:
    • processes over 28,000 claims for Attendance Allowance;
    • processes over 20,000 claims for Carer’s Allowance;
    • processes over 38,000 claims for Disability Living Allowance;
    • processes over 18,000 claims for Pension Credit;
    • processes over 42,000 claims for State Pension;
    • answers over 1.6 million telephone calls;
    • sees over 57,000 customers face to face in their home or in a place
      convenient to them; and,
    • expects to issue over 70,000 pension forecasts on request.

The number of complaints to the ICE office should be viewed within this context.

Although The Pension Service and Disability and Carers Service have merged to
form Pension, Disability and Carers Service, for the purposes of this report, statistics
have been provided separately for each specific area of business.

a. The Pension Service:

1 Casework Statistics
The data and figures that follow are based on casework carried out in the twelve-
month period between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010. Comparisons are made
with the twelve months from 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009.

2 Complaints Received
Complaints received and accepted for action during the period are outlined below:

                        1/4/08 – 31/3/09         1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Received                218                      179
Accepted                92                       75

3 Case clearances
Details of clearances are outlined below:

                  Resolved         Investigated         Withdrawn       Total
1/4/08- 31/3/09   49*              43                   11              103
1/4/09- 31/3/10   30*              39                   4               73

*includes 13 resolved with evidence (settled) for 2008/2009 and 2 cases for
2009/2010.



July 2010                                   24
3.1 Withdrawn cases
Complaints may be withdrawn for several reasons. For example, some
complainants decide to withdraw their complaint when we explain to them the need
to appeal against legislative decisions The Pension Service has made, or they
choose to take another route to redress. From time to time people also withdraw
their complaint because our explanations satisfy them that what has happened is
appropriate. Other cases are withdrawn because The Pension Service has acted to
address people’s concerns.

3.2 Resolved cases
We try to resolve complaints by agreement between The Pension Service and the
complainant, as this generally represents a quicker and more satisfactory result for
both. It is a positive that we are able to resolve the majority of Pension Service
complaints, illustrating its willingness to work with us. However, it does also indicate,
that there is scope for it to do more to address complaints in-house at the earliest
opportunity, in order to prevent them coming to ICE.

4 Outcomes
4.1 My findings in respect of cases we could not resolve are detailed below. In
cases where I find that the business has failed to provide an acceptable standard of
service, I consider what action the business has taken to try to put things right. If the
business has fully addressed the complaint and appropriate redress has been
provided, offered or instigated prior to referral to my office, I do not uphold the
complaint.

4.2 The number of complaints that are not upheld is usually a good measure of the
quality of the businesses’ own response to the issues raised. It is extremely positive
that I have”not upheld” a high percentage of The Pension Service cases.

                    Fully Upheld     Partially Upheld      Not Upheld
1/4/08 – 31/3/09    11               6                     26
1/4/09 – 31/3/10    8                9                     22

5 Subject of Complaint
We recorded details of the subject of complaint for each element of complaint
whether resolved or investigated. This has shown:

Subject of complaint          Upheld            Not upheld      Resolved
1/4/08 – 31/03/09
Delay                         11                16              7
Error                         29                35              17
No action taken               10                13              1
Other                         6                 1               0




July 2010                                  25
Subject of complaint        Upheld          Not upheld        Resolved
1/4/09 – 31/03/10
Delay                       12              6                 18
Error                       16              39                15
No action taken             1               10                9
Other                       0               2                 1


6 Cases outstanding

Cases outstanding 1/4/08 – 31/3/09     42
Cases outstanding 1/4/09 – 31/3/10     61

7. Service Level Agreement
7.1 We have a service level agreement with The Pension Service with agreed
timescales for provision of information to ICE.

TPS Service Level Agreement Activity 1/4/09-31/03/10
Resolution plans issued                                  45
Resolution plans returned                                44
Returned within SLA (10 days)                            38
Returned later than SLA                                  6


ROEs requested                                           50
ROEs returned                                            46
Returned within SLA (28 days)                            41
Returned later than SLA                                  5


Draft reports issued                                     40
Draft reports returned                                   39
Returned within SLA (10 days)                            38
Returned later than SLA (10 days)                        1




July 2010                              26
b. Disability and Carers Service:

1 Casework statistics
The data and figures that follow are based on casework carried out in the period
between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010. Comparisons are made with the twelve
months from 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009.

2 Complaints Received
Complaints received and accepted for action during the period are outlined below:

                        1/4/08 – 31/3/09         1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Received                85                       111
Accepted                32                       50

3 Case clearances
Details of clearances are outlined below:

                  Resolved        Investigated          Withdrawn     Total
1/4/08- 31/3/09   8*              17                    5             30
1/4/09- 31/3/10   16*             25                    1             42

*includes 5 resolved with evidence (settled) for 2008/2009 and 3 cases for
2009/2010

3.1 Withdrawn cases
Complaints may be withdrawn for several reasons. For example, some
complainants decide to withdraw their complaint when we explain to them the need
to appeal against legislative decisions Disability and Carers Service has made, or
they choose to take another route to redress. From time to time people also
withdraw their complaint because our explanations satisfy them that what has
happened is appropriate. Other cases are withdrawn because Disability and Carers
Service has acted to address people’s concerns.

3.2 Resolved cases
We try to resolve complaints by agreement between the business and the
complainant, as this generally represents a quicker and more satisfactory result for
both. Our experience remains that there is limited scope for resolution of Disability
and Carers Service cases, which are generally complex, because the business itself
has commonly already explored all avenues for resolution before the complaint
reaches ICE.

4 Outcomes
4.1 My findings in respect of cases we could not resolve are detailed below. In
cases where I find that the business has failed to provide an acceptable standard of


July 2010                                   27
service, I consider what action the business has subsequently taken to try to put
things right. If the business has fully addressed the complaint and appropriate
redress has been provided, offered or instigated prior to referral to ICE, I do not
uphold the complaint.

4.2 The majority of Disability and Carers Service cases I have investigated, I have
not upheld.

                    Fully Upheld       Partially Upheld    Not Upheld


1/4/08 – 31/3/09    2                  1                   14
1/4/09 – 31/3/10    1                  7                   17


5 Subject of Complaint
We recorded details of the subject of complaint for each element of complaint
whether resolved or investigated. This has shown:

Subject of complaint         Upheld           Not upheld        Resolved
1/4/08-31/03/09
Delay                              5               2                1
Error                              12              9                5
No action taken                    5               2                0
Other                              3               1                0

Subject of complaint         Upheld           Not upheld        Resolved
1/4/09-31/3/10
Delay                              3               6                7
Error                              6               18               16
No action taken                    1               8                5
Other                              0               0                0

6 Cases outstanding

Cases outstanding 1/4/08 –        21
31/3/09
Cases outstanding 1/4/09 –        30
31/3/10




July 2010                                   28
7 Service Level Agreement
7.1 We have a service level agreement with Disability and Carers Service with
agreed timescales for provision of information to ICE. I note that Disability and
Carers Service have met all SLA agreements during this financial year.

DCS Service Level Agreement Activity 1/4/09-31/03/10
Resolution plans issued                              21
Resolution plans returned                            20
Returned within SLA (10 days)                        20
Returned later than SLA                              0


ROEs requested                                       37
ROEs returned                                        37
Returned within SLA (28 days)                        37
Returned later than SLA                              0


Draft reports issued                                 25
Draft reports returned                               27
Returned within SLA (10 days)                        27
Returned later than SLA (10 days)                    0




July 2010                                 29
      INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER
            For the Department for Work and Pensions




                    ANNUAL REPORT
                 1 APRIL 2009 – 31 MARCH 2010


                  SUPPORTING INFORMATION


                       Debt Management




                    Judging the issues without taking sides




July 2010                      30
Supporting Information: Debt Management

I am advised by Debt Management that it has 1.4m customers and in 2009/2010
recovered debt owed to the department totalling £294m. The number of complaints
to the ICE office should be viewed within this context.

1 Casework Statistics
The data and figures that follow are based on casework carried out in the period
between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010. Comparisons are made with the twelve
months from 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009.

2 Complaints Received
Complaints received and accepted for action during the period are outlined below:

                       1/4/08 – 31/3/09          1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Received               38                        39
Accepted               9                         12

3 Case clearances
Details of clearances are outlined below:

                  Resolved        Investigated          Withdrawn      Total
1/4/08-31/3/09    6*              8                     0              14
1/4/09- 31/3/10 4                 7                  1                 12
*includes 1 review of evidence (settlement) for 2008/2009.

3.1 Withdrawn cases
Complaints may be withdrawn for several reasons. For example, some
complainants decide to withdraw their complaint when we explain to them the need
to appeal against legislative decisions Debt Management has made, or they choose
to take another route to redress. From time to time people also withdraw their
complaint because our explanations satisfy them that what has happened is
appropriate. Other cases are withdrawn because Debt Management has acted to
address people’s concerns.

3.2 Resolved cases
We try to resolve complaints by agreement between the business and the
complainant, as this generally represents a quicker and more satisfactory result for
both.

4 Outcomes
4.1 My findings in respect of cases we could not resolve are detailed below. In
cases where I find that the business has failed to provide an acceptable standard of


July 2010                                   31
service, I consider what action the business has subsequently taken to try to put
things right. If the business has fully addressed the complaint and appropriate
redress has been provided, offered or instigated prior to referral to ICE, I do not
uphold the complaint.

4.2 The number of Debt Management cases I have investigated is small and most of
them I have not upheld.

                    Fully Upheld      Partially Upheld      Not Upheld
1/4/08 – 31/3/09    1                 1                     6
1/4/09 – 31/3/10    1                 3                     3



5 Subject of Complaint
We recorded details of the subject of complaint for each element of complaint
whether resolved or investigated. This has shown:

Subject of complaint       Upheld            Not upheld         Resolved
1/4/08-31/3/09
Delay                      1                 6                  0
Error                      4                 2                  3
No action taken            3                 0                  0
Other                      2                 0                  0

Subject of complaint       Upheld           Not upheld          Resolved
1/4/09- 31/3/10
Delay                      3                6                   2
Error                      2                2                   4
No action taken            1                2                   1
Other                      0                1                   0

6 Cases outstanding

Cases outstanding 1/4/08 –        8
31/3/09
Cases outstanding 1/4/09 –        6
31/3/10




July 2010                                  32
7 Service Level Agreement
7.1 We have a service level agreement with Debt Management with agreed
timescales for provision of information to ICE.

DM Service Level Agreement Activity 1/4/09-31/03/10
Resolution plans issued                               5
Resolution plans returned                             4
Returned within SLA (10 days)                         3
Returned later than SLA                               1


ROEs requested                                        8
ROEs returned                                         9
Returned within SLA (28 days)                         9
Returned later than SLA                               0


Draft reports issued                                  10
Draft reports returned                                10
Returned within SLA (10 days)                         8
Returned later than SLA (10 days)                     2




July 2010                             33
      INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER
            For the Department for Work and Pensions




                    ANNUAL REPORT
                 1 APRIL 2009 – 31 MARCH 2010


                  SUPPORTING INFORMATION


                The Financial Assistance Scheme




                    Judging the issues without taking sides




July 2010                      34
Supporting Evidence: The Financial Assistance Scheme

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has been responsible for administering the
Financial Assistance Scheme since 9 July 2009.

1 Casework Statistics
The data and figures that follow are based on casework carried out in the period
between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010.

2 Complaints Received
Complaints received and accepted for action during the period are outlined below:

                       1/4/09 – 31/3/10
Received               2
Accepted               2

3 Case clearances
Details of clearances are outlined below:
                   Resolved          Investigated     Withdrawn           Total
Clearances         0                  1               0                   1
1/4/09 – 31/3/10

3.1 Withdrawn cases
Complaints may be withdrawn for several reasons. For example, some
complainants decide to withdraw their complaint when we explain to them the need
to appeal against legislative decisions FAS has made, or they choose to take
another route to redress. From time to time people also withdraw their complaint
because our explanations satisfy them that what has happened is appropriate.
Other cases are withdrawn because FAS has acted to address people’s concerns.

4 Outcomes
4.1 My findings in respect of cases we could not resolve are detailed below. In
cases where I find that the business has failed to provide an acceptable standard of
service, I consider what action the business has subsequently taken to try to put
things right. If the business has fully addressed the complaint and appropriate
redress has been provided, offered or instigated prior to referral to ICE, I do not
uphold the complaint.

                       Fully upheld       Partially Upheld   Not upheld
Outcome of             0                  0                  1
investigation
1/4/09 – 31/3/10



July 2010                                 35
5 Subject of Complaint
We recorded details of the subject of complaint for each element of complaint
whether resolved or investigated. This has shown:

Subject 1/4/09-          Upheld        Not upheld      Resolved
31/3/10
Delay                    0             0               0
Error                    0             0               0
No action taken          0             0               0
Other                    0             1               0

6 Cases outstanding

Cases outstanding 1/4/09 – 31/3/10              1

7 Service Level Agreement
7.1 We have a service level agreement with FAS with agreed timescales for
provision of information to ICE.

FAS Service Level Agreement Activity 1/4/09-31/03/10
Resolution plans issued                                    0
Resolution plans returned                                  0
Returned within SLA (10 days)                              0
Returned later than SLA                                    0


ROEs requested                                             2
ROEs returned                                              1
Returned within SLA (28 days)                              0
Returned later than SLA                                    1


Draft reports issued                                       1
Draft reports returned                                     1
Returned within SLA (10 days)                              1
Returned later than SLA (10 days)                          0




July 2010                                  36

				
DOCUMENT INFO