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Employment Service (Annual Report)

Volume 300: debated on Friday 7 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when the Employment Service annual report and accounts for 1996–97 will be laid before Parliament. [15308]

I have today laid before the House the Employment Service's Annual Report and Accounts for 1996–97 which give full details of performance in that operational year.The Report notes that the Employment Service achieved some very significant successes in 1996–97. Most notably, the Service rose to the major challenges of successfully introducing the Jobseeker's Allowance and implementing the Labour Market System in the same operational year. Both were very large undertakings which required effective management and considerable investment in infrastructure, training and systems. The intensive effort which the ES had to devote to these two initiatives did result, however, in the Service not meeting a number of its job placing and other targets.The Report notes that there has in addition been some misrecording of job placings and that performance for 1996–97 has been over-stated as a result. The causes lie in inconsistent application of ES job broking instructions and weaknesses in the performance validation process which are being tackled as a matter of priority. The ES Chief Executive has provided me with details of the urgent steps he has taken in this respect including issuing fresh and comprehensive instructions on the definitions of a submission and a placing, and the introduction of a new and more thorough performance validation system. Alleged cases of deliberate misrecording of placings are being investigated and appropriate disciplinary action will be considered against anyone found deliberately to have contravened the procedures.The Comptroller and Auditor General in his comments on the Report notes that the Employment Service has taken swift and robust action to address this issue. The NAO and the Service have agreed that the NAO will undertake an annual validation of the Agency's performance measures and performance achieved, beginning in this current operational year. Further details of the action taken by the Employment Service are contained within the report.It is important to note that the misrecording of placings has no effect on the unemployment count which is taken from the records of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance as shown by the Benefits Agency computer system.The current review of the Employment Service targets which I announced to the House on 30 July will take these matters into account. I expect the Review to recommend by the end of the year a series of targets which reflect our new priorities, are fully achievable and which can be measured accurately.