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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 534: debated on Monday 24 October 2011

18. What recent assessment he has made of the capacity of the Jobcentre Plus network to administer the benefits system during periods of rising unemployment. (76001)

The Department for Work and Pensions reviews work loads and staffing regularly to ensure that there is capacity to pay benefits and help people find work. On average, the DWP aims to clear jobseeker’s allowance claims within 10 days. It is currently clearing them in 9.6 days, nearly five days faster than five years ago.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Twenty-two jobcentres and 17 benefit processing centres are due to close. While I understand that the Government are saying that they are going to try to avoid compulsory redundancies, there is no doubt that staff will be forced out of their jobs. Overall, the unemployment figures are reaching 3 million. In my constituency, the claimant count went up by 10% in the year to September. Surely we are going to see a worse service provided to claimants. Will the Minister undertake to provide regular performance statistics to this House?

What the hon. Lady does not understand is that we inherited a network of half-empty buildings. I am sure she would agree that it makes no sense to fund, for example, two or three jobcentres within a mile of each other in a city centre. Rather than cutting back—the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) mentioned bus services—I would like to protect the services that we can possibly protect, and making our network of jobcentres and benefit delivery centres operate more efficiently and effectively seems a very good way of trying to ensure that we protect front-line services.