The benefits service inspection report says that customer access to the council’s website is “not fully effective” and that information on the site is hard to find.
“The site refers customers to the Directgov website which is a good source of up to date information. However, the Directgov website refers customers back to the Thurrock Council website for information on backdating and appeals,” says the document, published on 22 July 2010.
It goes on to say that finding information on these appeals and backdates is extremely difficult, and a link to national leaflets on benefits that include information on the items is not clearly signposted.
The report also recommends that Thurrock ensures better access to “all relevant IT systems for staff in local housing offices”.
“Staff at the local housing offices do not have access to the document management system used by the service. This means they cannot see what documents customers have provided,” it says.
The Audit Commission suggests that Thurrock makes use of available data so it can compare its benefits service performance with similar councils.
“By not benchmarking with similar councils the council cannot know whether it is delivering a cost effective service,” the report warns.