contract wins

contract wins

How the Department of Work and Pensions optimised and streamlined its 28.5m-file inventory thanks to an exhaustive audit

The customer

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy.

As the UK’s biggest public service department it administers the State Pension and a range of working age, disability and ill health benefits to around 20 million claimants and customers.

Many departments in the public sector hold huge paper inventories which contain millions of records – and so optimising and streamlining that storage can bring multiple benefits.

Cost savings in the short and long term, faster retrievals and even making digitisation a more cost-effective option in future are all on the table.

In our experience, knowing exactly what information you are holding – and understanding how long each file needs to be kept – is the most powerful step that can be taken towards optimising a paper inventory.

This often allows for significant numbers of boxes to be securely destroyed, which in turn reduces storage costs and lowers the number of files which will require scanning for digital transformation when the time is right.

This is especially true when the files which are being retained are barcoded and tracked, allowing for faster retrieval.

An outstanding example of how this process works, and how it delivers positive outcomes, is currently underway at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the UK’s biggest public service department.

The DWP is a ministerial department supported by 13 agencies and public bodies, tasked with administering the State Pension and a range of working-age, disability and ill health benefits to around 20 million claimants and customers.

As such, it holds a vast inventory of records and has been working diligently over a number of years to audit and optimise those records.


Restore Records Management first began working with the DWP in June 2021, having won a tender for the on-site auditing and reduction of their inventory consisting of over 27 million files. This process was a huge success and was completed in February 2023. Now, as a part of a new three-year project and fully outsourced solution, we are currently transferring DWP’s remaining inventory – (over 13 million files) from their current location at Heywood, near Manchester, to a secure Restore Records Management facility.

This is the first time DWP records will be stored and managed by a third party.

The contract includes over 600 file retrievals and returns per day, allowing the DWP  to access information on demand.

Secure destruction services are also being provided in line with DWP’s retention policy, as part of an all-round solution that is helping to reduce costs and increase efficiency by ensuring files that do not have to be kept are destroyed, and those which are required most often are easily accessible.

Here we tell the story of the project and the positive impact it is having on the way the DWP works on behalf of the nation.


The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) largest records management site, near Manchester, housed over 27 million records and covered 28,000 sqm, including nine storage facilities.

The site had been in use since the Second World War and had been managed by several different suppliers over that time.

In 2021, the DWP requested a full audit and segregation of the holding in preparation for a move away from the site. It also needed to find a secure facility to store and manage its remaining records.

It was clear that a new approach was required, one which offered a solution tailored to the DWP’s requirements and which could be delivered within tight timescales to vacate the site by the end of February 2023.

Using our extensive experience in handling large Government contracts, Restore Records Management presented a detailed project plan that showed how we would handle all stages of the contract – including validation, segregation, retention, destruction, and secure disposal. A full end-to-end solution.

Within days of the contract award, Restore Records Management had established a presence at Heywood Stores, held staff briefings with all existing personnel and introduced new IT kit systems. The audit team was put together from existing key onsite staff with many years of experience in the DWP holding and Restore Records Management staff with experience in relocating sites.

Phase 1: audit of 28.5m files  – that’s 1.2m boxes and 1.8m barcodes
Every record needed to be touched, validated, and assessed for destruction, then either re-boxed or sent for secure destruction.

Due to the volume of work and tight time scales this required us to create bespoke software that was user-friendly and would deliver efficient accurate processes. The software enabled us to check the status of all files and segregate the holding by account.

Every file had to carry its own barcode which required 1.8 million files to be barcoded as part of the undertaking.

The audit tool, developed in-house, took the decision-making away from the user, directing them by using colour-coded prompts to move the record, whilst creating document tracking and work orders in the background.

It took three months to build and test and went live within four months

Starting the audit
To hit the deadline, we had a team of 120 people working around the clock. Day and night shifts were used to hit the required volumes and with limited processing areas, the desks were in use for up to 16 hours per day across the shifts.

The audit began in April 2022 with 50% of the destruction already identified and more being added during the process.

The first pass destroyed 11.8m records and was completed by the end of 2022. A joint decision was then taken to re-process 3.5 million records and destroy a further 1.8 million to reach the goal of 13.5 million destroyed.

In total over 2,200 tonnes of confidential waste was removed from the site to be securely processed by our sister company Restore Datashred.

Daily and weekly review meetings took place to ensure we were hitting the volumes and on track to meet the deadline. We were targeting 170,000 touches a day.

The tool created enabled us to develop our own reports which were used internally and to feed progress back to DWP.

Whilst the audit was taking place, the site was still open for business-as-usual requests. Every record was fully tracked throughout so that it could be picked if required by the client. Over 300 records a day were requested and 100% were delivered within our strict SLA rules.

The next stage: the big move, relocating files to a new site

During phase 2, more than 270,000 boxes were moved into the new facility. The ongoing contract now sees over 600 file retrievals and returns per day, allowing the DWP to access their records on demand.

All boxes are now fully validated, segregated, and consolidated to a smaller footprint delivering further cost savings for the DWP

A dedicated and experienced team from Restore Records has been supplied, focusing on delivery, timescales and budget.

This is a good example of how a Relentlessly Resourceful records manager partner brings value. We created bespoke technology and our team worked around the clock to achieve optimum results for the client.

In total, 28.5m files have been audited – and there have been 13.5m destructions. A happy and positive ending for all, delivering long-term cost savings and optimisation of records for the DWP.

“This work extends and enhances our existing relationship with the Department for Work and Pensions. Our flexible approach and ability to find solutions was key and it’s an exciting project.”
Nigel Dews, Managing Director at Restore Records Management


  • 28.5m files audited
  • 600 file retrievals a day
  • 13.5million files destroyed
  • A dedicated team of 120

“The DWP continues our relationship with Restore, following the award of the Off-Site Records Management contract and looks forward to working with Restore in the coming years.”

DWP spokesperson

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