Select Committee on Social Security Sixth Report


1. The staff of the War Pensions Agency should be congratulated for their professionalism and dedication (paragraph 4).

2. We expect the independent review to result in changes to the decision making and appeals process which bring about significant improvements in the service provided by the Agency and we expect the Agency to take note of the concerns raised in this Report (paragraph 6).

3. Though we acknowledge that the Agency's overall performance is good, we are concerned that there may be a significant number of claimants who experience unacceptable delays (paragraph 7).

4. We recommend that there should be separate targets for old and new appeals, that these targets should be challenging and should be improved year-on-year, and that reducing the time taken to clear appeals should be considered a high priority (paragraph 9).

5. It is clear to us that significant improvements in the Agency's written communication need to be made if the Agency is to achieve the target of delivering a first class service to war pensioners and war widows (paragraph 10).

6. We recommend that calls to the telephone Helpline should be charged at the local rate and that urgent consideration should be given to the introduction of a Freephone number (paragraph 11).

7. We are concerned at the lack of public awareness of war pensions and are surprised that increasing public awareness is not a high priority for the Agency. We recommend that the issue of take-up should be addressed. We recommend that, as a first step, details of how to claim a war pension should be included in the notification of state pension entitlement sent by the Department to people approaching retirement age (paragraph 13).

8. It is clear to us that the current review of the work of the War Pensions Agency should take into consideration the high value which is placed on the work of the Welfare Service. In addition, we recommend that the Agency should seek to draw on the experience of the fire and police services in the continued development of the War Pensioners' Welfare Service (paragraph 15).

9. We believe that the War Pensions Agency should be retained as a 'stand alone' body for at least the next five years. Moreover, we consider it to be very important that ex-service organisations should be consulted fully in the course of the Prior Options Review (paragraph 17).

10. We recommend that consideration should be given to hiving off the administration of the Ilford Park Polish Home, while continuing to place priority on providing a high level of service to the residents of the Home and the community that it serves (paragraph 18).

11. We consider it unfortunate that significant expertise was lost by the War Pensions Agency in 1997-98 through the introduction of an early retirement scheme. There are lessons to be learned form the experience of the Agency by other parts of the public sector about the importance of retaining experienced staff during periods of change (paragraph 20).

12. In areas of medical controversy, consideration might be given to the commissioning of medical evidence jointly with the ex-service community so as to develop common ground and avoid the divisions that we have seen in recent years (paragraph 24).

13. We consider it to be very important that the experience of the War Pensions Agency should inform both the current review and the consultation which follows (paragraph 25).

14. We were surprised to hear of the anachronistic treatment of officers and other ranks. We believe that the current review provides an opportunity to modernise the arrangements (paragraph 26).

15. We fully support the Government's aim of devising a modern, fair and simplified compensation scheme. We welcome the fact that the current review of compensation arrangements will result in the publication of a consultation document and trust that the consultation will be conducted thoroughly (paragraph 27).

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