The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive, Mel Groves. I have asked him to reply to the hon. Member.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking: what training is provided to Jobcentre Plus staff to ensure autistic service users receive fair access to their services; and what measures are in place to assess the effectiveness of such training. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus is committed to supporting disabled people, including people with autism. To help staff understand and meet the needs of disabled customers, training is provided which promotes a whole team approach. Diversity and Equality Awareness for Excellent Customer Service is part of the foundation learning and provides staff with a general awareness of disability, disability issues and the responsibilities of Jobcentre Plus. It also provides an understanding of specialists such as Disability Employment Advisors, Incapacity Benefit Personal Advisors, Work Psychologists and Access to Work Advisors. This allows staff to access guidance and make appropriate referrals and also ensures customers receive a supportive, streamlined and professional service.
The learning programme for Jobcentre Plus Advisors raises awareness of a customer's personal circumstances and the impact this may have on their ability to move into sustainable employment. Advisors are signposted to guidance which includes background information on a number of conditions, the implications for interviews and how to use questioning techniques in order to support customers. The performance of advisors is measured through the regular completion of the Quality Assessment Framework during interviews. Advisors explore the customer's situation and circumstances as they relate to the world of work, identify any specialist support required and, where appropriate, advocate on behalf of the customer or seek additional support from specialist colleagues or external partners.
All Jobcentres have access to Disability Employment Advisors, who focus on customers who need more extensive support. They receive further training (which includes practice interviewing customers with autism), and can seek help from Work Psychologists to assist them in supporting customers.
The Employers' Forum on Disability has been running telephone tutorials on autism and in order to encourage staff to take advantage of this learning opportunity these events were publicised on the Jobcentre Plus intranet site (the organisation's mainstream communication method). Such training helps staff develop an even greater understanding of autism and the issues related to employment.