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Jobcentre Plus: Telephone Services

Volume 493: debated on Thursday 4 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons jobseeker’s allowance customers are required to ring 0845 telephone numbers to apply for jobs on Jobseeker Direct; what free alternatives there are to this service; and if he will make a statement. (271324)

[holding answer 27 April 2009]: The cost of calling 0845 numbers remains lower than many alternatives and, where it is possible, using BT landlines to call 0845 numbers is usually the lowest cost option. Research was carried out in 2008 to estimate the additional telephony charges DWP would incur by switching all existing 0845 services to 0800. We do not have a precise amount, but it is estimated that the switch would cost £10 million a year. In addition, there would be one-off transition costs of changing literature and raising awareness with staff, estimated at £1 million.

BT account for two-thirds of landline provision and our recent research shows that over 80 per cent. of our customers contact us using landlines. We believe that 0845 numbers offer the best solution for the majority of our customers, including those wishing to apply for jobs with Jobseeker Direct. We understand that not everyone has access to a BT landline and if that is the case, we will always call back if asked to do so, so that we absorb the cost of the call.

If customers are unable to call Jobseeker Direct on the 0845 number, Jobcentre Plus offices have touch screen Jobpoint terminals installed for customers to use to access the same full range of vacancies available through Jobseeker Direct. In addition, all vacancies can be accessed online via the Directgov Jobseekers website and there are normally places available locally, such as libraries, which offer free internet access to jobseekers who are unable to get to a jobcentre or unable to access the internet in any other way.