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 right hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what steps Jobcentre Plus has taken to manage an increase in the number of people claiming benefits. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The Government's continuing investment in Jobcentre Plus means that it is well placed to handle the impact of the current economic conditions and deal effectively with the increase in the number of people claiming benefits. The Department also regularly reviews the capacity and capability of Jobcentre Plus to effectively deliver the full range of services for which it is responsible.
Jobcentre Plus has already implemented a number of measures to increase its workforce, maximise the use of estate and streamline business processes. It will continue this approach during 2009/10 as Jobcentre Plus continues to recruit the additional staff funded through the Budget settlement. All of this work means that Jobcentre Plus is in a strong position to maintain customer service levels and deliver the services the newly unemployed need.
I am pleased to report that, despite the very large increases in the number of people seeking assistance from Jobcentre Plus over recent months, in 2008/09 new claims for Jobseeker's Allowance were cleared in an average of just over 10 days. This is ahead of the target of 11.5 days. It is also currently seeing around 80% of people within three days from the date of their claim to talk about help in finding work.