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Social Security Benefits

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has spent on each benefit delivery centre in each month since April 2006; and what assessment he has made of the efficiency of the centres in operation. (257203)

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 for Work and Pensions has asked me to respond to your questions asking how much his Department has spent on each benefit delivery centre in each month since April 2006; and what assessment he has made of the efficiency of the centres in operation. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Information on the amount spent on each benefit delivery centre in each month since April 2006 is provided in the tables, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

The key indicators used by Jobcentre Plus to measure the efficiency of the Benefit Delivery Centres are the Average Actual Clearance Times for claims and the number of claims processed per person per day i.e. productivity, both of which show an improvement in the efficiency of the Benefit Delivery network over the period since April 2006.

There has been an increase in the average number of claims processed per person per day on Income Support of 58% from the position in 2006/07 to current performance levels in 2008/09. Similarly there has been an increase of 49% on Jobseekers Allowance over the same timeframe.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the (a) minimum, (b) average and, (c) maximum amount of time required to complete each of the (i) previous and (ii) current versions of claims application forms for (A) means-tested and (B) non-means tested benefits; and if he will make a statement. (268186)

My Department does not undertake research in this area across our range of claim forms, principally because time taken to complete a form is very closely linked to each individual's abilities, their circumstances and which parts of the form need to be completed. Given this, research into this aspect would not necessarily deliver any meaningful outcomes.

Customer testing has been conducted for claim forms introduced recently, such as the new employment and support allowance, and the results were taken into account before the forms were introduced. Major changes to content or new forms to be introduced are also tested with customers.

Most new claims for benefit are now taken over the telephone and our contact centre operators guide claimants through the process. The number of new benefit claimants helped over the telephone by Jobcentre Plus contact centres in the period April 2008—February 2009 was 6,734,620. 80 per cent of pension credit and state pension claims are made by telephone and 20 per cent. by paper form.