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Jobcentre Plus: Plymouth

Volume 494: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what recent assessment she has made of the capacity of Plymouth Jobcentre Plus office to meet the demand for its services; (277291)

(2) what the average waiting time for applicants for assistance to Plymouth Jobcentre Plus office (a) to be processed and (b) to receive benefit was in the latest period for which figures are available.

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 recent assessment she has made of the capacity of Plymouth Jobcentre Plus office to meet the current demands for its services; and what the waiting time for applicants for assistance to Plymouth Jobcentre Plus office (a) to be processed and (b) to receive benefit is. These are issues which fall within my responsibilities as the Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

I can confirm that we have been reviewing our resource and estates to meet customer demand for our services in the Plymouth area since January 2009. This review includes looking at the capacity of the Plymouth and Devonport Jobcentres to expand customer facing services. Full site visits were carried out at both locations on 6 May to finalise plans to free up space for additional workstations and hold group information sessions.

In addition, we are also looking into using other government departments premises to house some of our work. For example Land Registry premises are being considered nationally to accommodate some of our back of house functions. The site at Crownhill in Plymouth offers us potential for up to 400 seats. The proposed work to be relocated to this site includes the Fraud Investigation Service, Security Advisers, Learning and Development and Local Employment Partnerships work. Use of these alternative premises will free up floor space in both Jobcentres to expand customer-facing services in both Plymouth and Devonport.

We are using a number of partners’ premises to conduct a range of customer-facing activity. For example, Picquet Barracks in Devonport is going to be used to support the forthcoming Princess Yachts redundancies. New claims and some review meetings will take place in this location for Princess Yacht customers and these premises will be available in the short term for any other redundancies.

We have also reviewed the staffing levels in Plymouth, and have recently recruited eight new members of staff for Plymouth Jobcentre and 12 for Devonport at administration level. These new staff will be involved in conducting new claims interviews for Jobseeker’s Allowance customers and subsequent fortnightly jobsearch reviews. An additional recruitment exercise is underway to recruit advisers to conduct Work Focussed Interviews and periodic reviews for customers, plus additional administrative support.

In addition we have recruited additional staff at the Plymouth Benefit Delivery Centre to handle telephone calls from customers enquiring about their benefit.

Customers contacting us to make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance are currently waiting between three and five days from their initial contact to see an adviser for their New Claims Interview at Plymouth Jobcentre and two days at Devonport Jobcentre. Unfortunately waiting times for an appointment in Plymouth Jobcentre have risen higher than we would like due to several local large scale redundancies. However we are working additional hours during weekends to undertake new claims interviews to reduce waiting times for customers.

Claims for customers living in the Plymouth area are processed at the Benefit Delivery Centre located at Old Tree Court in Plymouth. The table below shows the current average time taken in April 2009 to process and pay benefit due on claims dealt with at our Plymouth Benefit Delivery Centre.

Days

Benefit type

Target clearance time

Actual clearance time in April 2009

Jobseeker’s Allowance

11.5

10.62

Employment and Support Allowance

21

11.31

Income Support

10

9.37

Staff at the Benefit Delivery Centre are also working overtime at the weekends to maximise claims clearance times.

We are confident that the plans we have made to expand our resource and estates in Plymouth will meet the needs of our customers. We will be continuously monitoring and reviewing our services to ensure we maintain the highest standards of customer service.