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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the recent performance of Jobcentre Plus in dealing with claimants; and if he will make a statement. (102175)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Leslie Strathie, dated 9 January 2007:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what assessment he has made on the performance of Jobcentre Plus in dealing with claimants. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Jobcentre Plus employs around 71,000 staff dealing with some 235 million contacts from customers per year. Every working day, we conduct 36,000 work-focused interviews, and process over 15,000 new benefit claims. Through our website, we enable customers to access details of around 300,000 job vacancies.

We are part way through a process to transform the way the business operates to provide improved labour market and benefit services more efficiently and with fewer staff. In our new offices, which are already in place across most of the country, customers experience a more welcoming and professional environment and our Contact Centres and e-channels provide greater flexibility in the ways customers can contact us. I am pleased to say that, this year, Contact Centre performance has consistently exceeded our internal target of answering 90 percent of calls. from customers. In addition, the vast majority of people contacting Jobcentre Plus to make a new claim for benefit can expect to be called back within 36 hours (currently 86 per cent.), helping to ensure that people receive the financial and work-focused support that they need at the earliest possible opportunity.

Following pilots of a new Standard Operating Model in North Lincolnshire and Central London, Jobcentre Plus has begun to roll-out changes to its delivery model to improve further our customer service. Changes to be introduced over the coming months include: an 0800 number for new claims customers, to replace the 0845 service; and a single call to the contact centre to claim benefit.

Jobcentre Plus must make more progress in the time taken to process new benefit claims and we have a new target for 2006-07 called the Actual Average Clearance Time target. A dedicated Customer Experience Improvement Team has been put in place to drive performance improvements in this area.

Performance on Income Support (IS) and Incapacity Benefit (IB) clearance times has shown some improvement this operational year and we are currently on track to hit the IB element of this target. We aim to build on the improvements seen so far during the remainder of the year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many personal advisers are employed by Jobcentre Plus; and at what total cost; (102386)

(2) how many Jobcentre Plus staff work in (a) benefit claims and processing, (b) provision of welfare to work advice to claimants and (c) regulation of external providers of welfare to work services; and at what total cost in each case.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Leslie Strathie, dated 9 January 2007

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking; how many personal advisors are employed by Jobcentre Plus; and at what total cost, and how many Jobcentre Plus staff work in (a) benefit claims and processing, (b) provision of welfare to work advice to claimants and (c) regulation of external providers of welfare to work services; and at what total cost in each case. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The latest month for which actual information relating to these questions is available is September 2006. The relevant figures are shown in the following table.

Category

Staffing levels (Full Time Equivalents) (September 2006)

Total Cost (September 2006) (£ million)

Personal Adviser Service1

9,064

20.896

Benefit Claims and Processing2

29,629

51.974

Welfare to Work advice3

919

2.465

Regulation of external providers4

471

1.349

1. The personal adviser service includes disability employment support; new client advice; restart/ fresh start advice; new deal lone parents/ partners; new deal for young people/25+/50+; work focussed interviews lone parents and incapacity benefit; and incapacity benefit caseload activity. 2. Benefit claims and processing includes staff in both processing sites and contact centres involved in processing all Jobcentre Plus benefits; staff in customer service outlets offering benefit advice including financial assessors; and income support, jobseeker's allowance, incapacity benefit and social fund management. 3. Welfare to work advice includes services provided by staff in disability services; action team initiatives; employment zones; and new deal for disabled people. It does not include staff involved in Jobsearch review or Jobseeker Direct. 4. External providers include third party provision management of both ESF and non ESF.