HB Staffing – parliamentary answers 7 December 2011

Mr Jim Cunningham:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will announce what will happen to staff currently administering housing benefit when it is replaced by universal credit. [85331]

Chris Grayling:Universal credit is a national benefit. It will be delivered largely through an online service, with its core administration most efficiently run by a centralised system. As DWP start to build the organisation to deliver universal credit, and we have yet to settle on the precise detail, and select the right people with the right capability it is likely some of those skills will exist within local authorities. We will therefore always look to include local authority staff in our thinking.

In relation to the longer term delivery of universal credit, we will continue to work with colleagues in HM Revenue and Customs and local authorities to test new ways of working and impact ongoing delivery model design at both a national and local level. Our aim is to work collaboratively to enable the decision making process and deliver optimal value. This includes the decision making around any redundancies, for which we have small amount in our business case (whether they are in DWP, HMRC or local authorities). However, we will work to reduce the number of redundancies as far as possible, given the time available to us to plan and complete the transition to universal credit by 2017. I expect survey results to be available from local authorities by the end of the year and hope to be able to provide more details of the transition plan in the new year.

Mr Jim Cunningham:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how he will ensure that the expertise of local authority benefit fraud staff is not lost when the Single Fraud Investigation Service is established. [85328]

Chris Grayling:The new Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) will be formed by consolidating the benefit and tax credit fraud investigation teams across DWP, local authorities and HMRC, which will enable them to undertake a single investigation for the first time. This will be a much better service and a much more efficient way of using investigative resources, and ensure the expertise that currently exists across all these areas is not lost.

We recently ran a consultation exercise with local authorities (LAs) to consider four options for local authority staff to become part of SFIS. Of the 285 responses received 76% of LAs agreed with our assessment that the option for local authority staff to remain employed by LAs, but operate under SFIS powers, policies, processes and priorities, was the most suitable option at this time. This will effectively bring local authority investigation staff into SFIS.

Local authorities were informed of the decision to proceed with this option on 1 December. We will continue to work collaboratively with them to co-design an operational structure for SFIS from 2013.

Mr Jim Cunningham:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Director of Public Prosecutions will be funded to carry out fraud work with the new Single Fraud Investigation Service. [85330]

Chris Grayling:The DWP has agreed that resources will be transferred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to undertake fraud prosecutions in the future, including those cases investigated by the Single Fraud Investigation Service.

The transfer of prosecution work from DWP to the CPS is currently in a transition phase, during which details are being worked out. A funding transfer is being discussed as part of that transition.