(2) how many claims for jobseeker's allowance received from persons resident in Bristol West constituency are yet to be processed;
(3) what steps his Department is taking to reduce processing times for claims received for jobseeker's allowance in Bristol.
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 the average processing time for Jobseeker's Allowance claims received from Bristol was in the last period for which figures are available; how many claims for Jobseeker's Allowance received from persons resident in Bristol West constituency are yet to be processed; what steps the Department is taking to improve processing times for claims received for Jobseeker's Allowance in Bristol. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
In Jobcentre Plus we aim to process Jobseeker's Allowance claims within an average of 11.5 working days. Jobseeker's Allowance claims for customers in Bristol are processed at our Bristol Benefit Delivery Centre. The latest figures available for Jobseeker's Allowance claims are for the month of March 2009. These figures show that during March 2009 the Bristol Benefit Delivery Centre processed Jobseeker's Allowance claims on average within 8.9 working days of the claim being made.
Although figures are available for the number of Jobseeker's Allowance claims waiting to be processed, it is not possible to break this figure down into particular constituencies. On 27 April 2009 there were 1,387 new claims to Jobseeker's Allowance to be processed at Bristol Benefit Delivery Centre.
During the operational year 2008/09 we processed all Jobseeker's Allowance claims in Bristol within 10.1 days. This is significant as during the twelve month period from April 2008 to March 2009 our Bristol Benefit Delivery Centre saw the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance rise by 133.5 per cent from 8,550 to 19,960. Despite this increase in our workload we have continued to perform well in processing new claims.
We anticipate that additional resources are required to deal with the increasing number of new claims to Jobseeker's Allowance arising during the economic downturn. We have recently recruited 130 new staff in the West of England district across a range of Jobcentre Plus offices and duties. These people are currently at various stages of the recruitment process; some have been recruited and trained, whilst others are awaiting screening clearance. Another 105 new staff have been recruited on a fixed term basis and are currently awaiting allocation to posts and training.