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Two star rating for council benefit service

February 24, 2010 2:57 PM

Councillor Liz ThirskRochdale Borough Council's benefits service has been rated as "good" with "promising prospects for improvement" according to an independent report released by the Audit Commission.

The service was rated as a 'two star' service on a scale of zero to three. The report outlined that the time taken to process claims has been reduced regardless of an increase in caseload during the recession. More people have been made aware of the benefits they are entitled to, which raises them out of poverty and also benefits the Rochdale economy, fraudulent claims and processing errors are being tackled effectively, and the cost of providing the service compares well with other councils.

The inspectors also commented on the strength of leadership within the service, major improvements to the time it takes to process benefits claims and the high level of customer satisfaction.

Over the last two years, the service has undergone a major transformation programme of its systems, processes and staffing. Customers are central to this and their feedback is used to change how things are done.

Cabinet member with responsibility for benefits, Councillor Liz Thirsk said: "I'm delighted with the inspection result, our staff and partners have worked really hard over the past couple of years to consistently put our customers first. This doesn't mean we're perfect and there are still things we can improve, but it's a really positive result - and something we intend to build on."

Head of Revenues and Benefits, Simon Bailey said: "I'm really pleased with the result. While it's true we're one of the top performers under the new inspection regime, for me, the greater satisfaction comes from the feedback we get from our customers. Our work ensures that people can access vital financial support. It's great we've been recognised as having delivered a good service, but it's more important that we're not complacent - and that we continue to listen to our customers and to improve."