Important to maintain high standard of accuracy in benefits decisions – Givan

Date published: 23 November 2016

Communities Minister Paul Givan MLA has welcomed the publication of the 17th annual report into benefit decision making and financial accuracy within the former Social Security Agency (the Agency).

The annual report, which measured staff accuracy in paying out benefits in 2015, has once again found that accuracy levels remain high for all benefits.

Minister Givan said: “It is of crucial importance that customers have confidence in the accuracy of decision making in relation to benefit claims and I am pleased to see the commitment of staff to deliver a high quality service is reflected in the findings of this report.  People are entitled to know they will receive the benefits they are entitled to promptly and accurately.  Not only does this ensure fairness for all but it also protects the public purse.

“This report covers the final year of delivery by the former Social Security Agency. Staff should be proud of their achievements during a period of significant change in the benefits system. I am confident that the Department for Communities will continue to maintain this good performance.”

The report shows that the decision making accuracy levels were:

  • Disability Living Allowance – 100%
  • State Pension – 100%
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance – 98%
  • Employment and Support Allowance - 97%
  • Income Support – 97% 
  • State Pension Credit – 93%

The report also confirms that the financial accuracy results were:

  • Disability Living Allowance – 99.8%, 
  • State Pension – 99.7%
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance - 99.1%
  • Employment and Support Allowance – 98.4%
  • Income Support – 98.3%
  • State Pension Credit – 97.6%

The report findings were independently quality assured by the Northern Ireland Standards Committee.  Committee Chair Professor Eileen Evason CBE said: “Once again I am pleased to note the high standard set out in the Report and Agency staff  are to be commended for focusing on delivering the service which produced these results.”

Five of the six benefits measured exceeded their benchmark target.

Financial accuracy results have also remained positive during 2015 with all of the six main benefits meeting their financial accuracy target either fully or within the upper confidence level.

This is the final Annual Report on behalf of the Agency. Following the change in Government structures in May 2016, the Agency was dissolved and its services were incorporated within the Department for Communities (DfC).  Future Annual Reports will continue to be published on behalf of DfC.

Notes to editors: 

  1. View the Annual Report on Decision Making and Financial Accuracy or on request from Standards Assurance Unit, telephone: (028) 90138128, email:
  2. The Report has been approved by the Northern Ireland Standards Committee which is chaired by Eileen Evason CBE, Emeritus Professor in Social Administration (Ulster University).  Ursula O’Hare, Assistant Director (Policy & Communications), Law Centre and Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI, also currently sit on the Committee which was established to provide independent assurance on the quality of decision making within the Agency and Child Maintenance Service.
  3. The standard of decision making is the percentage of cases where the decision awarding a claim to benefit is correct, when checked by the Agency’s internal Standards Assurance Unit (SAU). It reflects recent decisions made by Agency staff during the period January – December 2015.  The Agency’s decision makers must examine four main areas: evidence; determination of questions – ask all relevant questions; findings of fact – establish the correct facts from the evidence available and correctly interpret and apply statute law and case law relevant to the benefit concerned.
  4. Financial accuracy represents the estimate of the percentage of the benefit expenditure that is paid correctly.  Financial accuracy is measured by considering the monetary value of each error, either overpayment or underpayment, identified during the financial accuracy check.  The monetary value of each error identified is passed to statisticians, who are independent of the Agency, who extrapolate the figures to estimate the likely level of financial accuracy in the live load for the benefit concerned.
  5. SAU monitors and reports on the level of Decision Making and Financial Accuracy across social security benefits on an annual basis.
  6. During the year January – December 2015, 6,144 decisions were examined for financial accuracy of payment and 1,943 decisions were checked for the quality of decision making. 
  7. For media enquiries contact the DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3502 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383  and your call will be returned

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