Complaints about Social Security Benefits, Pensions and Customer Service
The Department believes that everyone should have equal access to our services. One of the most important ways we can work towards this is by listening to you, our customers, and by responding to what you say.
We will treat all of our customers fairly and equally. Your race, ethnic origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or any disability you have will not affect how we treat you.
We will train and support our staff to treat you in a fair and courteous way by following our equal opportunities policy. If you make a complaint because you believe you have not been treated fairly, we will make every effort to correct and improve our service.
You can help us by being considerate when you are dealing with our staff and other customers in our waiting areas. This will help us to work together with you and to give everyone in the community fair and equal treatment.
We guarantee that any complaint or comment will not affect the services we provide or your claims for benefits.
If you have a question which is not answered in the leaflet, or if you just want more advice, please contact a Social Security Office / Jobs & Benefits office.
What can you expect from us?
When you contact us by phone or face to face, other than for general information, you must give us all the information you can about your enquiry or claim. You can expect that:
- we will ask questions to make sure of who you are and why you have called
- we will ask you about all the benefits you are receiving or have claimed
- we will check information you give us
- we will explain what happens next
- we will tell you how long it will take to deal with your enquiry or claim, if appropriate
- we will tell you where to get more information if you want it
- we will pass information to the right part of the Agency within two working days, or we will tell you what you have to do next
Not satisfied with your benefit?
Do you think:
- a decision made on your claim or application for benefit is wrong?
- you are not getting the right amount of benefit?
- you are not getting a benefit you are entitled to?
If you have answered yes to any of these, you can ask us to look at our decision or your claim again.
Contact the office that sent you the decision or is handling your claim. If you want us to look at a particular decision again, it is important that you contact the office that sent you the decision within one month of the date of the letter giving you the decision.
If you do this and we can change the decision, the change will take place from the date of your original decision.
If you contact us after one month and we can change the decision, the change will usually take place from the date you contact us.
You may be able to appeal. If so, the letter telling you about the decision will inform you of this. If you still think our decision is wrong and want to appeal it, you must use the form at the back of leaflet, GL24. This leaflet also gives you more information about disputing a decision.
Not satisfied with our service?
We welcome suggestions to help us improve the service we give you.
- had to wait too long?
- been treated unfairly because of your race, ethnic origin or any other reason?
- been treated impolitely?
- been given incorrect advice or information?
- received bad service for some other reason?
If your answer to any of these is yes, tell us about it. Please write or contact the manager of the office dealing with your claim.
How to complain
If you want to complain, we hope that we can put things right locally.
- you can ask to speak to the person you dealt with.
- if they cannot help, or you want to speak to someone else, you can speak to the supervisor.
- you can contact the Manager at the office that is handling your claim, or you can send them a letter.
- the name and phone number of the Office Manager will be given to you by our staff if you ask for it. The Manager will then respond within 10 working days.
- you can write for the personal attention of the Regional Manager. Staff will give you the name of this manager if you ask for it.
We also welcome and value any opinions or suggestions you have that could improve the service we give.
You can also:
- Ask for an independent review of your complaint. All our offices have an independent review system
- Contact the Customer Service Team by mail or email
- Write a letter for the personal attention of the Deputy Secretary responsible for the Service.
In the case of social security benefits for people between the age of 16-64, you should write to;
Mr Thomas O’Reilly, Deputy Secretary, 9th Floor, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7EG
In the case of social security benefits for people who are disabled, carers, pensioners or have had a bereavement you should write to:
Mr Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary, 9th Floor, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7EG
- if you are not satisfied with the response from the Deputy Secretary, you can then write or telephone the Independent Case Examiner or look at the Independent Case Examiner's website. The Independent Case Examiner is not part of the Department and their services are free
Visit the Independent Case examiners website
- ask for the opinion of a local organisation like the Citizens Advice Bureau , the Association of Independent Advice Centres
Visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website
- contact the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman and ask them to look at your case
Visit the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman website
- contact the Commission for Racial Equality and your Race Relations Council. They will give you advice and support
- contact your local Law Centre. They will give you advice on the law. They can also tell you who to contact about civil rights, disability rights, housing and immigration
Visit the Law centre website
Special payments are compensation if we have caused you financial loss. They are completely discretionary - there is no legal right, entitlement or liability for them.
Have you suffered actual financial loss because:
- we have made a mistake dealing with your case?
- we gave you the wrong information?
Or was your benefit:
- unacceptably delayed because of a mistake by us?
- incorrectly stopped for more than three months because of a mistake by us?
If you can answer yes to any of these, you may be able to get a special payment.
- we make every effort to pay you the right amount of benefit at the right time
- we aim to pay you within the standards set out in our Customer Charter and which are displayed in our offices
- occasionally we make mistakes. If we do, there are some times when you may be able to get a special payment
- your case will be looked at on its own merits and payment in one case does not mean a similar case will get a special payment
- to get a special payment, the delay must have been longer than the maximum period for dealing with your benefit
- to get a special payment, the amount we owe you must be at least £100 and the amount of compensation must be at least £10
- the Financial Redress for Maladministration Guide gives more information about the arrangements for special payments. Your social security office can arrange for you to see a copy
- if you think you may be able to get a special payment, you should get in touch with the Manager of the local Social Security Office / Jobs & Benefits Office that is making your payment. They will advise you what you need to do
A consolatory award may be paid;
- in very exceptional circumstances
- if you feel we have made mistakes which had a damaging effect on your life
- if we did not act reasonably in the circumstances
Do you think you have suffered:
- severe inconvenience resulting from a repeated error or errors?
- severe embarrassment, humiliation or unnecessary personal intrusion?
- severe distress?
If you can answer yes to any of these, you may be able to get a consolatory award.
If you think you may be able to get a consolatory award, you should get in touch with the Manager of the office that made the decision or provided the service. They will advise you what you need to do.