Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex C

Compensation Agency, Northern Ireland Office: Applicants' Opinion Survey


  The Survey has its origins in the Compensation Agency, Northern Ireland's Framework Document which has as one of its objectives:

    "To achieve continual improvement in the standard of service provided to applicants and conform to the principles of the Citizen's Charter."

  The associated Key Performance Indicator is:

    "Reponses by applicants and legal representatives to regular applicants' opinion surveys. The extent to which continuing reductions are achieved in the time taken to decide claims, against the backcloth of the goals set out in the Agency's Charter Standard Statement."

  This is translated into a Key Performance Target in the current Business Plan as:

    "To achieve an improvement in the level of satisfaction with the Agency's service as evidenced by a further survey, to be conducted by December 1999, of a representative sample of applicants and their legal advisers."

  The surveys are carried out on a two-year cycle, the last having been conducted in 1997-98. In order to maintain independence, they are handled by the Department's Statistics Branch and conducted by a private survey company under contract to the Northern Ireland Office. The company sends out personalised letters of introduction to approximately 3,300 randomly selected applicants and solicitors, inviting them to take part on a confidential basis. Each of the selected applicants and solicitors then receive a questionnaire and pre-paid return envelope. After a cut-off date, 65 applicants and 55 solicitors who returned questionnaires are randomly selected by the company for an in-depth interview. It is from the postal returns and the interviews that the company prepares its report.


  Upon receipt of the report, the Agency looks at the levels of satisfaction in respect to:

    (i)  The Information Guides produced by the Agency.

    (ii)  Personal contact with the Agency.

    (iii)  How any complaint was handled.

    (iv)  Courtesy of staff.

    (v)  Speed, clarity and information provided in any reply.

    (vi)  Ease of completion of claim forms.

    (vii)  Overall Quality of Service/Areas of Dissatisfaction.

    (viii)  Suggestions about Improvement to the Quality of Service.

  From analysis of the information available, measures are put into the next Business Plan to address any shortcomings. For example, there is normally a full section in the Business Plan on Quality of Service with clearly defined targets formed in keeping with the principles of Service First—the new Charter programme. And another on Training and Development of staff aimed at ensuring that the Agency has a properly trained and highly motivated workforce capable of consistently providing a high quality service. All very much focused on continuous improvement.

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