[holding answer 16 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 the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking, pursuant to his contribution of 10 March 2009, Official Report, column 176 on Woolworths how many people made redundant from Woolworths as a result of its closure have found work through Jobcentre Plus. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
We do not have comprehensive information on the numbers of people made redundant from Woolworths who have found work through Jobcentre Plus as we do not record job outcomes achieved for former employees of particular employers: to do so would be prohibitively expensive. We do however know that large numbers of people who worked in Woolworths have found new work with Jobcentre Plus' help. In the retail sector, the skills, experience and knowledge of former Woolworths’ employees have proven attractive to new employers.
Our support for Woolworths’ staff began with deployment of our Rapid Response Service, which meant for example that staff in almost all of Woolworths' stores were offered support before they closed. We issued over 8,000 packs to enable people to make claims for benefit, and in many instances provided on-site advice on benefits. Our advice and support on jobsearch has also been available to Woolworths' employees, both in the run up to store closure and afterwards.
The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. and learned Member with the information requested.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking if he will consider the merits of reopening Jobcentre Plus branches in market towns more than 15 miles from the nearest branch. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus Customer Service Directors constantly review their service delivery plans to ensure optimum provision of service for all customers, for every Jobcentre Plus District. This is especially important in the context of the current economic conditions and welfare reform changes planned for the next two to three years.
In addition to our network of modernised Jobcentres we make our services accessible to customers by providing a range of support through outreach, often delivering advisory and other support on partners’ premises. That is important in locations where maintaining a Jobcentre could not be justified. Typically such services can be delivered in partnership with Children’s Centres or on Local Authority premises or in conjunction with one of our Welfare to Work Providers.
The great majority of our services (in common with most large, modern organisations) are now also delivered through the telephone and internet. For example, to give customers more convenient access, we have around half a million vacancies on-line at any time (our website receives close to one million job searches every working day), and new claims to benefit are predominantly taken by telephone with some taken on-line.
For these reasons, we have no plans to reopen Jobcentre Plus offices in the way you suggest, but will continue to explore realistic ways of delivering services that meet the needs of our customers.