(2) what the average time was that a caller to the Jobcentre Crisis Loan helpline had to wait before the call was answered in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement.
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:
The Secretary of State has asked Lesley Strathie to reply to your questions asking whether the Government plans to increase the number of staff manning the Jobcentre Crisis Loan helpline; and what the average time was that a caller to the Jobcentre Crisis Loan helpline had to wait before the call was answered in the latest period for which figure are available. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to Ms Strathie as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus. I am replying on her behalf as Acting Chief Executive.
Average call waiting times are not available as we do not have a national Crisis Loan helpline. Telephone calls for Crisis Loans are taken at Benefit Delivery Centres around the country using separate 0800 numbers. Centralisation of Benefit Delivery is not yet complete. In areas where Social Fund Benefit Delivery Centres have yet to be rolled out customers may call their local office on a local number.
To help with the increasing demand in Crisis Loan applications we have, since early July, started to re-deploy staff from the Contact Centre Directorate to handle telephone enquiries about Crisis Loans. As a result there will be an extra 500 people taking calls from customers applying for Crisis Loans.