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Advisory Services: Debts

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance his Department has provided to staff working for Jobcentre Plus on the referral of clients to receive debt advice. (263078)

[holding answer 12 March 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide my hon. Friend with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what guidance his Department has provided to staff working for Jobcentre Plus on the referral of clients to receive debt advice. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Referring customers to appropriate agencies for advice and support on debt and financial management has long been part of the service provided by Jobcentre Plus. To help our Personal Advisers with this, we have a comprehensive programme of learning designed to equip them with the range of knowledge and skills required to support all customers. This learning provides the adviser with the key skills needed to undertake effective work-focussed interviews, identify things that may be making it harder to find work and, where appropriate, signpost people to relevant sources of help.

More specifically, the “Introduction to Customer Groups” learning and development module provides guidance on how to help customers with debt problems. Currently being updated to strengthen and reinforce the help that is available to customers from Third Sector Organisations, this module is included in a range of learning routeways to ensure personal advisers and other staff are able to signpost customers to appropriate sources of help.

It is also worth mentioning that as part of a national partnership agreement, customers with debt problems are often referred to their local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureaux, which is well equipped to offer advice and guidance.