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Department for Education: Correspondence

Question for Department for Education

UIN 56451, tabled on 15 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to improve his Department's response times to correspondence from members of the public.

Answered on

25 October 2021

The government recognises the importance of responding to members of the public in an effective and timely manner, and the Cabinet Office published an updated 'Guide to Handling Correspondence' for government departments and agencies in July 2021, which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/handling-government-correspondence-guidance.

The guidance reasserts the standards for handling correspondence, including a 20 working day deadline for departments to respond to members of the public, criteria outlining when a response to a member of the public is required, and when a piece of correspondence from a member of the public should be transferred to another department. Following the publication of the updated guidance, all departments have been reminded that they must follow the processes outlined in the guidance.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, this department had an unprecedented increase in the volume of customer contact. As a result timeliness for the despatch of correspondence to the public has unfortunately been affected. Additional resources have now been made available to the correspondence team and there has been a steady and sustained improvement in timeliness. During September 2021, 90% of correspondence was answered within the 20 day target and the expectation is that this will continue to improve. In order to provide the public with rapid access to advice the department placed an emphasis on answering phone calls throughout this calendar year, with over 94% of telephone enquiries presented to the National Helpline being answered every month during 2021.