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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many jobcentres were (a) opened, (b) relocated and (c) closed in each of the last 12 months; under what circumstances jobcentres are (i) opened, (ii) relocated and (iii) closed; and if he will make a statement; (268439)

(2) what the (a) address is and (b) date of opening was of each jobcentre in England and Wales.

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 how many jobcentres were opened, relocated and closed in each of the last 12 months; under what circumstances jobcentres are opened, relocated and closed; and, what the address and date of opening was of each jobcentre in England and Wales. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The information requested has been placed in the Library.

Jobcentre Plus Customer Service Directors regularly review their service delivery plans to ensure optimum provision of service for all customers, for every Jobcentre Plus District. Our approach to closure of a customer-facing Jobcentre takes into account any impact on customer service and the relocation of the work and staff of the closing office. When considering site closures we are committed to full consultation with our customers, partner organisations, Trade Unions, staff, and local Members of Parliament.

In light of the emerging economic downturn pressures we decided to suspend the planned closure of 25 Jobcentres. This decision was announced in November 2008. There has been a further closure of three small sites in London during March 2009. These had been announced last summer prior to the decision to suspend future closures. There will be no new Jobcentre closures while the current economic conditions persist.

Jobcentre Plus inherited around 1,500 offices from the merger of the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service in 2002. We have modernised our Jobcentre network to improve customer service, rationalising our estate to provide excellent high street coverage and a single, integrated customer facing office, at the same time reducing cost to the tax payer. We remain the largest office network in Government with 741 modern Jobcentres. This high street presence is supported by 31 modern contact centres and 79 main benefit processing centres.

In addition to our network of modernised Jobcentres we aim to make our services accessible to customers by providing a range of support through outreach, often delivering advisory and other support at our partners’ premises. That is particularly 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. This has brought our customer facing services together in a more coherent and integrated network and I believe Jobcentre Plus is well-placed to respond to the full range of economic conditions.

Letter from Mel Groves:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what roles we expect the planned additional 6,000 Jobcentre Plus staff to fill. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Whilst Jobcentre Plus will have an additional 6,000 staff in the next operational year we do not yet have the detailed plans on their deployment as these are still being worked on. However, it is anticipated that more than half of these will be Personal Advisers and others will be in customer intervention and support roles within our customer service operations.