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 Lesley Strathie, dated 16 January 2007:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what proportion of calls to each Crisis Loan helpline (a) were answered, (b) were unanswered and (c) received an engaged tone in the last period for which figures are available. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
We do not have crisis loan helplines. Currently customers can be dealt with in 3 different ways when applying for Crisis Loans through Social Fund:
Regions and Countries that have migrated Social Fund into their regional and national sites and have officially gone live as a Benefit Delivery Centre will have issued an 0800 number for their customers to telephone. These 0800 numbers are specific to their Regions and Countries. Currently we have 4 Benefit Delivery Centres that have recently gone live that have centralised Social Fund—Sheffield, Norwich, Newcastle and Nottingham. Not all districts in these regions have migrated their work into these Benefit Delivery Centres yet. It is therefore too early to have gathered information on numbers of calls and possible delays. Managers have responsibility for ensuring 25% of their staff are available at all times to answer telephone calls.
Offices that have rolled-out into Jobcentre Plus will give their customers the option of using the telephone service. In Regions and Countries that have not yet centralised Social Fund, these numbers will be local numbers (not 0800 numbers). In most cases customers will be ringing their nearest office. Information is not collated on the number of calls to these offices for crisis loans.
Not all offices have rolled out into Jobcentre Plus and customers in these areas will visit their local social security office to make an application for a crisis loan at the office.
Once all Benefit Delivery Centres have rolled out and Social Fund has migrated into the nominated Social Fund sites in the Regions and Countries, then 0800 numbers will be used nationally. Completion of roll-out for all Benefit Delivery Centres is March 2008 when advanced telephony systems will also be in place, enabling us to monitor telephony performance site by site.