Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Central Freedom of Information Team
firstname.lastname@example.org Our reference:
6 November 2015
Dear Mr Paulley,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 20th October
2015. You asked:
Please supply the following.
1) The function(s) of the Customer Compliance Department
2) The structure of that department
3) Copies of formal guidance to Customer Compliance Officers on conducting
investigations and interviews
4) Information on the responsibilities, powers and rights of Customer
5) Information on the responsibilities, powers and rights of "customers" when
being interviewed by CCOs
6) The typical conditions and structure of CCO / customer interviews, both in
customers homes and at DWP offices
7) Any materials as to why information relating to the Customer Compliance
department and its operations is apparently not available to the public in DWP
/ Jobcentre Plus publications or websites.
When I submitted the same request five years ago, I was able to determine
the following facts. Please ensure that your response includes relevant
recorded information on the same topics.
1) it's not a criminal investigation and won't be done under caution
2) the interview is to be "robust and challenging", such that the officer doesn't
have to accept initial answers as being the truth
3) they gather information from you and any documents you supply, which
then goes to a Decision Maker, who makes a decision about any action to
4) they impress on you that you have to comply from now on
5) they have to give you at least 3 working days notice, and they have to
arrange this within 15 working days of them receiving a referral (5 days for
"prepayment cases" whatever they are). They can get special circumstances
for an unannounced visit ONLY where they suspect you're in a couple, you're
a "prepayment case" and a financial assessor has warned you you will be
visited at some point.
6) The most common "triggers" for their involvement are:
:- suspicion that you might be living together as a husband and wife or as in a
:- you're recently separated
:- you have been self-employed
:- you have sanctions on your benefits
:- they think you've been working without declaring it.
7) Where they think you're not declaring your work, they specifically are not
allowed to contact the employer before interviewing you, and must obtain
permission to do so at the interview. If you refuse permission they must not
contact your employer, as they say it breaches human rights to do so.
Similarly, if you deny working for the employer, they must not contact them.
8) "1. The aim of the Customer Compliance interview is to:
• discuss the case having regard to the reason for the referral; • obtain
accurate information from the customer; • conduct a full review of the
customer’s circumstances; and • reinforce customer responsibilities."
9) they take a signed statement from you at the interview, either that you write
or that they write and you sign (or, if you refuse, that they write and they sign)
10) for "living together as..." cases you can request the interview stops for you
to consult with your "other half", then a second date will be set
11) you can have somebody with you for the interview
12) you can request to record the interview and they MUST accept your
13) if you don't provide relevant documents at the time they can insist you
provide them within 10 working days
14) you can refuse to say anything in the interview, in which case they will just
15) if the interview is in your home you can ask the interviewer to leave at any
point and they have to do so
16) if you don't turn up for an interview, they must automatically offer you
another one; if there's good reason for your inability to attend the second one
(with or without notice) they have to offer another.
17) Where an allegation is malicious they can abandon the investigation
18) the Decision Maker makes any decisions (a tautology I know), not the
person who comes out who just gathers info
19) 5% of cases are selected for "process checks" to ensure that the
Compliance people have done what they should have
20) The Compliance Officer will normally undertake the interview on their own;
but for their supervision, they will occasionally be accompanied by their
The Fraud and Error Service (FES), part of the Department for Work and
Pensions (DWP) is responsible for the prevention, detection and where
appropriate, investigation of Fraud and Error against all benefits administered
Please see the response to your questions below:-
1) The function(s) of the Customer Compliance Department.
The function of Local Service Compliance is to take action to ensure a
benefit claimant gives the correct information and reports all relevant
changes at the right time during the life of the benefit claim. It is not a
criminal investigation and Local Service Compliance interviews are not
performed under caution. 2) The structure of that department.
Customer Compliance and Fraud Teams have now been brought together
under a single Fraud and Error service structure.
*The responses for questions 3 to 6 are extracts taken from the current
Jobcentre Plus guidance*
3) Copies of formal guidance to Customer Compliance Officers on
conducting investigations and interviews
Local Service Compliance is the term for the action taken to ensure a benefit
claimant gives the correct information and reports all relevant changes at the
right time during the life of the benefit claim.
It is not a criminal investigation and Local Service Compliance interviews are
not performed under caution.
In the vast majority of Local Service Compliance cases a robust and
challenging, face-to-face interview takes place with the claimant to ensure:
• correct benefit entitlement
• all information is obtained to enable an overpayment or underpayment
to be calculated
• the causes of the overpayment or underpayment
• how to stop it happening again
• the claimant understands the possible consequences of not complying
in the future
Telephone interviews can be undertaken only when either:
• the Fraud and Error Service Strategic, Operational and Campaigns
Centre (FES SOCC) has agreed with the relevant Group Manager that
Tactical Telephony Intervention action can be undertaken
• the claimant is identified as vulnerable and the most appropriate
method of intervention would be telephone, rather than office or home
Definition of robust and challenging
A robust and challenging interview must reinforce the claimant’s
responsibilities. The Local Service Compliance Officer (LSCO) is not bound to
accept the claimant’s first response and should continue questioning until they
are satisfied that the claimant has given a correct account of their
The LSCO must ensure the claimant is aware of the seriousness of their
actions. They must also clearly state the possible consequences of any future
4) Information on the responsibilities, powers and rights of
Customer Compliance Officers
Conducting the interview
Conduct a robust and challenging interview with the claimant in either a
private interview room, or a screened area by:
• asking questions in order to establish the truth, checking the claimant’s
understanding of their claim to benefit
• establishing the current circumstances of the claimant to enable a
Decision Maker (DM) to make a decision on entitlement to benefit
which may include an overpayment/underpayment of benefit
• presenting the details of the FRF or potential incorrectness, without
revealing the source, or disclosing material marked or deemed
• inviting and listening carefully to the response from the claimant
• questioning further to establish the facts around benefit entitlement, for
• when did the alleged fraud or error start?
• how long has it been going on for?
• how often?
• why was the correct information not provided?
• why was the change in circumstances not reported?
• not being bound to accept the first answer given
• completing the CP2 Living Together (L/T) where appropriate
• warning the claimant about their conduct and that any future failure to
declare a change in circumstances may lead to more serious action
being taken by the department
• asking the claimant for relevant documentary evidence and tell the
claimant that failing to provide the evidence will result in their benefit
being suspended, followed by closure of their benefit claim if the
information is not supplied within the subsequent 4 weeks
5) Information on the responsibilities, powers and rights of
"customers" when being interviewed by CCOs
Action required for specific circumstances
Interpreters required at the interview
The claimant has the right to request an interpreter at the interview. The Local
Service Compliance Officer (LSCO) should also arrange an interpreter if they
feel there is a communication difficulty with the claimant and the interview
For more information about the process for using Interpreters, see Interpreting
Service guidance, sub-heading Interpreting services procedures. Other person present at the interview
The LSCO should have regard to the needs of the claimant if they think they
may not understand what is happening at the interview.
This may include claimants who have a mental health condition or learning
difficulty who are incapable of understanding the significance of questions put
to them or their replies. These claimants may require the presence of an
appropriate adult at the interview. Inform the appropriate adult that they are
not expected to act simply as an observer.
The role of the appropriate adult is to:
• advise the person being interviewed
• observe whether the interview is being conducted properly and fairly
• facilitate communication with the person being interviewed
The definition of an appropriate adult is:
• a relative, guardian or other person responsible for their care or
• someone who has experience of dealing with mentally disordered or
mentally handicapped people who is not employed by the organisation
• failing either of the above, some other responsible adult aged eighteen
or over who is not employed by the organisation
• If required, the LSCO should ask the claimant if they would like the
interview re-arranging to an alternative date to enable the attendance
of the appropriate adult. If the person says that they do not want the
interview re-arranging or to be accompanied by an appropriate adult,
the interview should proceed. Note the fact that the person declined the
presence of an appropriate adult on the Fraud Referral and
Intervention Management System (FRAIMS) activity.
Persons at risk identified at the interview
If at the interview there are indications that a child or vulnerable person is at
risk of injury, ill treatment or neglect, take appropriate action as outlined in
guidance available on the Vulnerable Customer hub. Domestic violence
If during the course of an interview with the claimant or partner they indicate
that they have any concerns or that they are victims of domestic violence, the
LSCO must always signpost them to the most appropriate help available and
agree with them how they would like to receive information about the help
If the claimant has access to the internet, signpost them to gov.uk to enable
them to get the expert help and advice they need or details can be printed
from the site and issued to the claimant.
If it is not appropriate for the claimant to use gov.uk advise them to access
other available help through the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), their family
doctor or other local organisation or domestic abuse help lines.
When preparing for a visit, LSCO will need to be aware of the information
contained within this website. It is not necessary to carry these details at all
times, but if required the LSCO should agree how the claimant would like to
receive this information. Recording of interviews
The claimant may ask to record the interview. Requests to do so must be
accepted. The same principles apply in Scotland.
For more information, see Recordings by claimants during interviews,
telephone calls. Review of the claimant’s current circumstances
Where the claimant declares a change of circumstance, a review form should
not be routinely completed as most of the information may not have changed.
Completion of the review form (A2 / ESA2 / JSA2) is at the discretion of the
Local Service Compliance Officer (LSCO) and record the reason on FRAIMS
and the MF47Comp statement.
When reviewing a claimant’s current circumstances, it is essential that details
of a claimant’s phone number(s) mobile and/or landline are confirmed. Report
any changes at the earliest opportunity, to:
• Benefit Delivery Centre (BDC) for legacy purposes
• Jobcentre for Labour Market System purposes
Doubts regarding identity
If there is any doubt regarding the identity of the claimant continue with the
interview. Do not discuss with the claimant your suspicions concerning the
Following the interview providing full details of the doubt and submit the Fraud
Referral Form (FRF) to FRAIMS for consideration of an investigation, see
FRAIMS guidance - Manager Agrees New Referral Required - Interview
Taken Place. Request for the Local Service Compliance Officer to leave the claimant’s
The claimant can request the Local Service Compliance Officer (LSCO) to
leave their home at any point during the interview. The LSCO must do so
immediately if asked by the claimant.
Inform the Local Service Compliance Team Leader (LSCTL) and record the
details on the FRAIMS activity.
Claimant refuses to comment
If the claimant refuses to comment, after you have asked initial questions,
take the following action:
• terminate the interview
• update the interview or visit activity on FRAIMS along with anything the
claimant said prior to asking questions, see FRAIMS guidance:
• Recording the Interview Outcome – Claimant attends
• Recording the Visit Outcome – Claimant seen
• refer the case to the LSCTL
• The LSCTL should consider referring the case to the Decision Maker
(DM) for a decision to be made on future benefit entitlement, see
Obtaining benefit and/or overpayment decisions.
If a referral to the DM is being made, ensure that all sensitive material has
been removed from the file and the RM7 has been updated before referring
the case to the DM.
6) The typical conditions and structure of CCO / customer
interviews, both in customers homes and at DWP offices
The Local Service Compliance interview
The aim of the Local Service Compliance interview is to:
• discuss the case having regard to the reason for the referral
• obtain accurate information from the claimant
• conduct a full review of the claimant’s circumstances
• reinforce claimant responsibilities
• At the interview, the Local Service Compliance Officer (LSCO) must
introduce themselves using their identity card for home visits, or their
identity card or appropriate name badge for office visits.
Confirm the claimant’s identity. Suitable documents to confirm identity are the
following that state the claimant’s name and address:
• driving licence
• utility bill
• rent agreements
• bank statements
• identity card
See Common Standards for Identity Verification for more details regarding
Departmental guidance and standards when questioning claimants about their
If the claimant cannot provide evidence of their identity, crosscheck the most
up to date personal information held on Departmental records with the
claimant and record details of the checks on the file. This must also be done if
the interview is conducted over the telephone. See also Doubts regarding
If it is an office interview, you must offer to reimburse the claimant’s travel
expenses. For Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants, this will only apply if it
is not their normal day of attendance. For more information, see
Reimbursement of customers travelling expenses.
State the purpose of the interview. In cases where there is information
suggesting the case is or has been paid incorrectly inform the claimant that
this specific aspect may lead to further action being taken against them and
the benefit that has been overpaid may be repayable.
Contacting the employer
Local Service Compliance Officers (LSCO) must not contact an employer:
• before interviewing the claimant, or
• issuing the CCEL1, or
• where it appears the case is suitable for referral to Local Service
Investigations for investigation
The LSCO may contact an employer without consent, where during the
interview or following taking CCEL1 action, the:
• earnings are admitted and the employer named
• claimant denies they are/have been working for the named
• claimant refuses to provide the information requested
• claimant states they are unable to provide the information, for
example, they do not have pay slips
• claimant fails to respond to the CCEL1 letter
• employer is named in the GMS earning cases referral sent directly
to Local Service Compliance (ISPX010 / ISPX012 / JSPX005,
JSPX006, JSPX008, JSPX009, JSPX010, JSPX011 and JSPX012)
Where a GMS earnings case is received from Local Service Investigations but
the rule is not one listed above and the employer has not been contacted, the
case should be referred back to Local Service Investigations so that an EQ1
can be obtained.
Local Service Investigations requests are made under the Social Security
Administration Act 1992 which requires an employer to provide the
information when requested.
It is the claimant’s responsibility to provide the information required in relation
to employment and they should be allowed 14 days to provide the requested
If the employer refuses to supply the information, contact the claimant
immediately to request the information.
Under disclosure principles of section 29(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998,
the information can be requested however there is no statutory power to insist
the employer provides the requested information.
7) Any materials as to why information relating to the Customer
Compliance department and its operations is apparently not
available to the public in DWP / Jobcentre Plus publications or
DWP/Jobcentre Plus does not as a matter of course publish detailed internal
operational guidance on it’s external website for a number of different
reasons not least of which is the frequency of change required to that
guidance in order to address varying issues. These may arise as a result of
changes to legislation or representation from regulatory bodies, ombudsman
or customer representative groups.
Please note –
In response to your comments under number 16. The
Guidance has changed with regards to a customer failing to attend a Local
Service Compliance interview and the following now applies:-
Failure to attend a pre-notified interview will mean that the respective benefit
claims(s) is/are referred to the benefit owning team to consider suspension of
benefit, taking into account any known vulnerability of the customer. If a
benefit claim is suspended due to un-notified failure to attend for interview, on
subsequent early contact, a further interview can be arranged, although the
suspension may remain in place until Customer Compliance action is
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the
reference number above.
DWP Central FoI Team
Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act
If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing email@example.com
or by writing to: DWP, Central FoI Team,
Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two
months of the date of this letter.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the
Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a
decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us
or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745