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National Insurance: Jobcentres

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what criteria were used to decide which jobcentres will offer interviews for applicants for national insurance numbers; and for what reason some jobcentres cannot conduct such interviews; (123407)

(2) what his policy is on the maximum (a) time and (b) distance that applicants for a national insurance number are expected to travel in order to attend an interview at a jobcentre.

Customers wishing to obtain a new national insurance number are required to attend an interview. The jobcentres providing these services were selected on the basis of historical information on where the largest volumes of applications were made, also taking into account the suitability of premises available. Not all jobcentres have suitable premises to conduct these interviews or have had sufficient demand in the past for this specialist service.

Our policy on travelling time and distance is that a customer should be offered an appointment at the nearest location to their requested postcode (place of abode or place of work). In practice Jobcentre Plus specifically advises the customer if the interview is likely to be more than one hour travelling time each way, or if they are likely to be absent from home for over four hours. To assist the customer in these instances, Jobcentre Plus can offer special interview arrangements at a more suitable Jobcentre Plus site. Customers have the option, and some do choose, to travel for longer than one hour to attend an interview. Travelling time rather than distance is the measure on which the suitability of the appointment is determined as this takes into account local transport arrangements. Jobcentre Plus does have a facility to carry out home visits if customers have mobility problems.