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Jobcentre Plus: Hertfordshire

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the level of sickness absence attributable to work-related stress among staff in jobcentres in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire in the latest period for which figures are available; and what assessment he has made of the effect of such levels of absence on the delivery of jobcentre services. (265805)

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 questions asking what estimate he has made of the level of sickness absence attributable to work-related stress among staff in jobcentres in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire in the latest period for which figures are available; and what assessment he has made of the effect of such levels of absence on the delivery of jobcentre services. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Jobcentre Plus do not collect absence data specific to work related stress, as the causes of stress are complex and difficult to attribute to a single cause. We do, however, collect detailed data on the causes of sickness absence, including absences attributed to mental health problems, and through close monitoring are able to identify problem areas.

Jobcentre Plus is very aware of the negative impact of sickness absence on customer service and is committed to improving performance in this area. Indeed, our strategies are delivering considerable success, with the latest data confirming the improving trend we have seen over the last 12 months. We remain committed to securing further improvements.

Stress management and prevention are fundamental aspects of this approach, and we have a number of tools to support managers and staff achieve these objectives. These include risk assessment policies, developed by our psychologists, in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, to identify working practices that might create pressure and to address stress experienced by individual employees regardless of the cause. These are supplemented by comprehensive lifestyle guidance for all staff on how to reduce personal stress levels.

Stress prevention is integral to wellbeing products available to all staff. For example, our people have 24-hour access to professional stress counsellors and to debt/legal advice free of charge. We also help managers to support their staff by providing them with access to medical advice provided by occupational health doctors and nurses.

In addition, we are embarking upon a major health and wellbeing programme across all of our sites. The programme provides staff with a wealth of information and guidance to support healthier lifestyles, gives them access to a confidential on-line health and wellbeing assessment and delivers targeted solutions to support the individual. The programme also provides managers at our Jobcentres with comprehensive information about the potential health risks to their staff, ensuring specific preventative action is taken to address the issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many personal advisers were employed in job centres in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire in each of the last five years. (265808)

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 how many Personal Advisers were employed in Jobcentres in Hemel Hempstead and Hertfordshire in each of the last five years. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The information is in the following table.

Number of personal advisers in Jobcentres in Hemel Hempstead and Hertfordshire (full time equivalents)

Years

Hemel Hempstead Jobcentre

All Jobcentres in Hertfordshire including Hemel Hempstead

2004-05

5.50

29.72

2005-06

9.51

88.27

2006-07

12.23

82.16

2007-08

11.68

82.65

2008-09

17.07

102.67

Source:

Jobcentre Plus Activity Based Management System

At the beginning of 2005-06 Jobcentre Plus implemented a more robust system that is designed to enable more accurate adviser activity reporting. At that time, as part of our Welfare to Work strategy, Jobcentre Plus expanded the Personal Adviser role to include specialist advisers for specific client groups, for example lone parents and customers aged over 50. This change was to improve the help it provides to customers who face additional barriers in returning to employment.