Department for Work and Pensions: Communicating with customers

May 2009

Raraty, D., Dorrell, D., Dunleavy, P., Goldchluk, S., Khan, M. K., Tinkler J., Towers, E., Margetts, H., Escher, T., Reissfelder, S., & Hinds, L. (2009) Department for Work and Pensions: Communicating with customers. National Audit Office Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 421 Session 2008-2009, 7 May.

On 7 May 2009 the National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on information exchange in benefits delivery: Department for Work and Pensions: Communicating with Customers, produced by a joint OII-LSE research team led by Professors Helen Margetts (OII) and Patrick Dunleavy (LSE).

The report looks at the information exchanges between citizens and the Department that underpin applications for social security benefits and finds that the Department has placed a reducing emphasis on issuing leaflets and had a significant growth in telephone enquiries and in online information provision about benefits on the internet.

The report found that while the Department has significantly changed the way in which it provides information in recent years, with a growth in the use of telephone and the Internet, there is still progress to be made in moving services online. Some forms are still unnecessarily long and guidance notes are complicated and the Department's computer generated letters are overly long and confusing for customers. Professor Helen Margetts

Professor Helen Margetts said: "The Department could do more to capitalise on the potential of the Internet. It is not yet possible to apply for most benefits on-line and only 0.2 per cent of all citizen contacts are made electronically, even though 38 per cent of DWP customers are enthusiastic about online services. Benefits-related information is now provided via the Directgov website, but users taking part in experiments run at the Oxford Internet Institute found information in some areas difficult to find."


Jane Tinkler (LSE), Project Manager, LSE Public Policy Group 020 7955 6064 or j.tinkler [a t]

The research methods applied were:

  • Case studies of four benefits: Attendance Allowance, Pension Credit, Jobseekers Allowance and Maternity Allowance;
  • Detailed analysis of a sample of files from each of the case study benefits;
  • Focus groups with existing and potential benefit customers;
  • Experiments in OXlab to explore potential customers experiences of finding and using online information;
  • Interviews with DWP staff and visits to DWP offices along with interactions with stakeholder groups; and
  • Comparisons with governments from other countries and the private sector.

This research was led by Professors Professor Patrick Dunleavy (LSE) and Professor Helen Margetts (Oxford). Jane Tinkler (LSE) was Project Manager working with Sofia Goldchluk, Mohamed Khalid Khan and Ed Towers (all LSE) as well as Tobias Escher and Stephane Reissfelder (both Oxford). This research started in September 2008 and completed in March 2009.

Full Report438.09 KB
Executive Summary153.8 KB
NAO Press Release77.85 KB


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