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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the future of Jobcentre Plus; and what plans he has that will affect (a) the staff and (b) the level of service they offer the public; [112061](2) what plans he has to alter the number of people who work in Jobcentre Plus in Portsmouth in the next 12 months; [112062](3) what assessment he has made of the level of service available to the people of Portsmouth from Jobcentre Plus; and what changes he expects to see in the level of service in the next 12 months. [112063]

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Acting Chief Executive, Clare Dodgson. I have asked her to reply to the hon. Member.

Letter from Clare Dodgson to Mr. Hancock, dated 20 May 2003:

As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, I have been asked to reply to your questions concerning Jobcentre Plus service delivery. This falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of the Agency.
Jobcentre Plus has been established to deliver a radical change in the way that benefits and employment services are provided to people of working age. By 2006, we plan to introduce a network of around 1,000 fully integrated Jobcentre Plus offices.
Through the development of these new modern offices, Jobcentre Plus will provide an integrated, work-focused service to all people of working age. The introduction of work-focused interviews is extending the opportunity to more people to take advantage of the help, guidance and support we can provide to assist them to move into sustainable employment. We are also introducing new services for employers, which will help them fill vacancies more quickly with well-prepared and motivated employees.
In all our plans we have focused on the needs of our customers. The new offices will offer customers a seamless service, where they will be able to make enquiries about their benefit entitlement, and the training and employment opportunities available to them, under one roof. Alternatively, customers can choose to telephone one of our contact centres to make inquiries without having to come into one of our offices. The introduction of new technology is also enabling people to find the information they need about jobs and training via the internet and our touch screen Jobpoints. These facilities are making it easier for our customers to access the services we provide.
Our staff are also benefiting from the introduction of Jobcentre Plus. The refurbished offices are providing a professional, modern environment in which to work and work-focused interviews afford the opportunity for greater job satisfaction through delivering advice and guidance on work, training and benefits to a broader range of people.
As at 2 May 2003, we had opened 258 new Jobcentre Plus offices and have set out our plans to introduce the Jobcentre Plus model across Great Britain by 2006. I would like to assure you however that we will not open an office unless we are confident that it provides an environment in which the new Jobcentre Plus services will work and one that is safe for our customers and staff. Throughout this transitional period our social security offices and Jobcentres are working together to ensure that customers still benefit from a high standard of service.
Jobcentre Plus will be introduced in Portsmouth during mid 2004. Partners and stakeholders were consulted about these plans in June and September 2002. Their comments are currently being taken into consideration in reaching final decisions, which have yet to be announced.
Currently, services are being offered at Portsmouth Central Jobcentre, Portsmouth North Jobcentre, Guildhall Walk Social Security Office. These offices are not large enough to accommodate the integrated services of Jobcentre Plus, nor do they have the capacity for expansion. Suitable premises are being identified, which will have the capability to deliver the enhanced services to Portsmouth customers. I can give you my assurance that customers will continue to receive a high level of service during implementation and beyond. I can also confirm that we are not planning any reduction in the numbers of Jobcentre Plus staff in Portsmouth.
The introduction of Jobcentre Plus is being well received by our customers. In national surveys we have found that eight out of 10 customers are satisfied with all elements of the new service. Jobcentre Plus performance has improved as a result of the rollout, with integrated offices exceeding their share of national performance and exceeding their specific job entry targets by over 10%.

I hope this is helpful.