Complaints made about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have rocketed by more than a fifth in just a year, official figures have shown.
The figures will raise questions about the performance of the work and pensions secretary, Mel Stride, who took over the position in October last year.
In recent months, Disability News Service (DNS) has reported a series of concerns about the department and the service it provides to disabled people.
In September, a Conservative MP, Elliot Colburn, told MPs that trust in the disability benefits assessment process was “severely lacking”.
The previous month, DNS described how DWP was continuing to send an access consultant inaccessible letters about his disability benefits, despite the high court ruling that this was unlawful discrimination.
In July, DWP’s latest Digital Accessibility Compliance report showed that less than half of its websites and other digital services complied with public sector regulations on accessibility.
Also in July, new figures showed there were still more than 23,000 disabled people waiting for their Access to Work claim to be dealt with by DWP, with an average waiting-time of 41 days.
The previous month, DWP admitted to the public spending watchdog that its system of disability benefits assessments was too slow, too expensive and too inaccurate, and that too many claimants did not trust how it makes decisions.
The same month, in June, Tom Pursglove, the minister for disabled people, admitted that disabled people were waiting an average of 41 minutes for their call to the personal independence payment telephone enquiry line to be answered.
Despite the increase in complaints, the latest figures still appear to be far lower than the number of complaints recorded in the austerity years of the 2010 coalition government, when more than 54,000 were recorded in 2014-15 (PDF) (an average of more than 13,000 a quarter) with more than 94,000 in 2012-13 (PDF).
Asked this week whether Stride was happy with the increase in complaints so far this year and whether he thought his policies and reforms were responsible, a DWP spokesperson said: “We support millions of people each year to get the help and support they are entitled to, and complaints represent less than one per cent of our customer base.
“We always strive to deliver the best possible experience for all customers and use feedback to inform improvements to our services.”
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