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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 408: debated on Friday 11 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Hendon of 6 May 2003, Official Report, column 554W, on Jobcentre Plus, what the definition of unreasonable amount of time for customers to travel as a result of closing an existing Jobcentre Plus office is; what assistance will be provided for travel costs; how clients will be informed of this assistance; and if he will make a statement. [113258]

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from David Anderson to Paul Holmes, dated 11 July 2003:

As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, I have been asked to re ply to your question concerning the travelling time for customers following the closure of a local Jobcentre. This falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.
Ease of access to our services is one of the many factors taken into consideration during the initial planning stages of service delivery, when the closure or re-location of a site has been considered.
The introduction of integrated Jobcentre plus offices is enabling customers to make enquiries about both their benefits and employment opportunities in the same place, reducing the amount of travelling needed. Our new telephone contact centres mean that customers can make enquiries about both benefits and jobs without even 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 new Jobpoints. These are not only being placed in Jobcentre Plus offices, they are also being placed in other public places such as libraries and supermarkets. All of these developments are making it easier for our customers to take advantage of the services we provide.
No customer is required to travel more than one hour door to door to a Jobcentre or be absent from home for more than four hours without being offered the option of postal signing. This allows them to attend the office every three months to maintain their claim rather than every fortnight.
All customers who are required to attend an advisory interview are entitled to have any extra travelling expenses reimbursed if their appointment is either not in their normal office or not on their normal day of attendance. In exceptional circumstances Business Managers can approve the use of a taxi or special vehicle, for example for people with a disability or health condition.
Re-imbursement of these expenses is explained to the customer verbally or by letter when the interview is arranged and offered at the start of the interview.
I hope this is helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what programmes have been implemented to train Jobcentre Plus staff for their new responsibilities in respect of working-age benefits; and if he will make a statement. [121502]

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from David Anderson to Norman Lamb, dated 11 July 2003:

As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the programmes that have been implemented to train Jobcentre Plus staff for their new responsibilities in respect of working-age benefits. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.
The development of Jobcentre Plus is building on the high quality service already provided through social security offices and Jobcentres. We are bringing these two services together to deliver a single, integrated, work focussed service to all people of working age. All staff involved in delivering this new service are receiving extensive training to provide them with the necessary skills for their new role.
Each individual member of staff within Jobcentre Plus has their training needs identified in conjunction with their line manager. This information then forms a personal training plan for that individual. The training is planned in such a way that when they are required to start their job, they have completed and consolidated all their necessary training.
Jobcentre Plus has over 200 training programmes available to its staff, 70 of which have been extensively re-designed to reflect the new roles and responsibilities of staff in these offices. These training programmes fit into three different areas: IT and telephony; procedural, including training on benefit entitlement; and the "New Beginnings" programme. The latter introduces the individual to the new Jobcentre Plus culture and expectations.
The three types of training, delivered to the right people at the right time, have and will ensure that individuals have the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver the best service possible to the public within Jobcentre Plus.
I hope this is helpful to you.