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Jobcentre Plus: Christchurch

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 14 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people obtained advice on benefits from the Christchurch office of Jobcentre Plus in each of the last six months; (138911)

(2) where he proposes former clients using the Christchurch Jobcentre Plus office will be able to use jobpoints and free telephone services after the proposed closure of the Christchurch office;

(3) on what date Jobcentre Plus in Dorset and Somerset finalised its service delivery plan for the district; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the plan;

(4) whether he is now in a position to place in the Library a copy of the business case for the closure of the Christchurch Jobcentre Plus office;

(5) pursuant to the letter of 15 May 2007 from the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform to the hon. Member for Christchurch, what assessment he has made of the ways in which closure of the Christchurch Jobcentre Plus office will enable his Department to provide a better service to the residents of Christchurch than it has been able to provide up to now.

[holding answers 23 May 2007]: 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 Mel Groves, dated 14 June 2007:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions about the consultation process on Christchurch Jobcentre. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to Lesley Strathie as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus. I am replying on her behalf as Acting Chief Executive.

I am unable to provide details of customer usage in Christchurch Jobcentre in the last 6 months as this information is not recorded. I can tell you that Christchurch has a Jobseekers Allowance customer load of 277 customers and an Income Support/Incapacity Benefit customer load of 2,065, of which 1,720 are sick and disabled and 345 are Lone Parents. As part of the consultation period which began on 21 May 2007, for 6 weeks, we will be analysing usage in detail via a questionnaire to customers who visit the office.

Lesley Strathie’s letter of 14 December referred to the Service Delivery Plan, which has yet to be finalised as we are just entering the consultation period. We are therefore unable to place a copy of the Business Case in the Library as it is not complete until after the consultation period when the Service Delivery Plan will be finalised.

If after the consultation period the decision is taken to close Christchurch Jobcentre customers will be able to use the facilities at Bournemouth Jobcentre Plus. All Jobcentre Plus customers can access 0800 and 0845 telephone numbers when making claims to benefit and benefit enquiries, in addition to the 0845 number for Jobseeker Direct. Additionally the Jobcentre Plus website is available to all 24 hours a day.

As you will know, we are continuing to develop our nationwide network of Jobcentres, and to review and improve our services. Advances in technology and increased availability of Contact Centre facilities mean that increasing numbers of customers—including employers—access our services by using the internet or telephone.

I hope this is helpful.