(2) what representations he has received on the decision by Jobcentre Plus North West to discontinue its out of hours evening service; 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 my hon. Friend with the information requested.
Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 19 May 2008:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking how many people in the North West used the out of hours evening service in the last three years and what representations he has received on the decision by North West to discontinue its out of hours evening service. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Between April 2006 and March 2008 the North West region received 5743 week day evening calls and 2522 resulted in a home visit, the majority of visits resulting in a payment. We do not have complete figures for April 2005 to March 2006.
As a result of the enhanced service now offered by The Pension Service in terms of its opening hours and the vastly improved access to Crisis Loans, a national internal review of the out of hours service was undertaken. We have decided that the service should in future operate to provide emergency cash payments only on days when no normal service is available (weekends and public holidays in the main).
Under the current arrangements, approximately 15% of the weekly referrals are received between Monday and Thursday resulting in only around 40 visits nationally, compared to 10,000 crisis loan applications we receive per day. Delivering an out of hours service on weekday evenings to such small numbers of customers is not cost effective.
Local customer stakeholders were informed in each of the regions in advance of the new arrangements and two representations have been made from organisations in the North West. Local managers have made arrangements with these organisations to discuss the new processes.