Following a meeting with Martin Pryor, District Manager of JobCentre Plus, Sir George received the letter below.
"I get a prompt service from DWP when I take issues up with the local offices, and the letter sets out the high standards which are being set."
Hampshire & Isle Of Wight District Office
2nd Floor, Wynnstay House,
121 High Street, Cosham, Portsmouth,
Hampshire. P06 3DR
09 March 2009
As part of my regular updates. I am writing to alert you to a number of developments across Jobcentre Plus that are likely to be of interest to you. I should say at the outset that my team and I will be only too pleased to deal with any enquiries that you have about Jobcentre Plus-related business on behalf of your constituents.
I will take responsibility for making sure we deal with your constituents' problems regardless of the part of Jobcentre Plus to which they relate. You should not feel that you need. for example. to find a direct contact in a Benefit Delivery Centre to sort out a constituent's problems with Jobseekers Allowance.
You will of course know that we have been handling significantly increased workloads during the current economic downturn. I hope you will be aware of the tremendous efforts made by colleagues to continue to meet customers' needs. The steps we have taken in Jobcentre Plus will be set out in a formal memorandum in advance of the appearance of Mel Groves and colleagues before the Select Committee on 11 March. You will receive this memorandum through the usual channels.
As you would expect there has been a lot of activity in developing new help for customers during the downturn; there was for example the announcement of the new offer for those unemployed over six months from April - a package of intensive support for customers, recruitment subsidies for employers, new training places, support to start-up businesses and volunteering opportunities. Nationally, there has been extensive use of the Rapid Response Service, where we have worked with over 800 employers affected by redundancies.
I am pleased to say that over 20,000 employers have recruited through Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs) some 120,000 people at most risk of being overlooked in the jobs market. In November the Government announced that from April 2009, LEPs would also aim to help newly unemployed people into jobs.
Moving to process related issues, I am able to inform you that telephony processes for Crisis Loan applications have now been introduced into 20 centralised benefit delivery centres. This reflects a massive increase in the number of Crisis Loan applications (2.1 m applications in 2007-08 compared with 1.5m in 2006-07). We are now receiving around 220,000 Crisis Loan applications per month and are doubling the number of decision makers across both Benefit Delivery Centres and Contact Centres to meet this demand. We are in the process of setting up a Claim Form Line which customers will access through their normal 0845 telephone number.
I should add here that DWP has published its response to the feedback from the public consultation paper The Social Fund: A new approach, which was issued in December. The response sets out the basic principles that will help to guide the Social Fund towards an active welfare state and looks at the main areas for improvement. In recognition of this depth of interest, a further consultation exercise will take place in summer 2009 as part of a more detailed public debate.
Despite the increasing volumes, I am pleased to be able to say that our average actual clearance times for the main benefits are holding up well. The current year to date national figures are:
• Jobseekers Allowance target
• Incapacity Benefit
• Income Support
10.1 days compared to the 11.5 day
13.1 days against the 15 day target; and
8.5 days against the 10 day target.
I will be very happy to discuss any of this with you. or indeed any other aspects of Jobcentre Plus business.
Hampshire & Isle Of Wight District Manager