In February 2008, Jobcentre Plus contact centres answered 95.4 per cent. of the more than 1.4 million calls offered, therefore comfortably exceeding the 90 per cent. target.
Although I commend Jobcentre Plus for the progress that it has made and for the targets that it has met, 5 per cent. of unanswered calls cut off with a message saying "Ring back later" is still a lot of people. Given that they are people desperately seeking work, when can we eliminate the 5 per cent. unanswered rate?
The 95.4 per cent. rate is very high. In the case of first contact, which involves people calling to arrange a benefit for the first time, which is perhaps the most urgent task that the centres have to perform, the answer rate is 98.1 per cent. Call managing and queue-busting systems have been introduced in the system and work effectively, but Jobcentre Plus is implementing further improvements to those schemes in June. I can also tell my hon. Friend that the whole system has been externally validated and has proven comparable to the best available anywhere in the private sector.
I am not quite sure of the Minister's definition of an answer. For my constituents, who have to rely on the regional office in Canterbury, the problems are still great. They would just laugh if they heard the answer to that question.
Well, the local offices that are part of the benefit delivery centre do not at the moment have the exact same call management system that the call centres use. [Hon. Members: "Ah."] I was referring earlier to the call centres. The benefit delivery centres do not have the same system but they are planning to introduce it, and it will be in place by this summer, so they will be able to implement the system of call management and queue-busting that I referred to in the answer I gave to my hon. Friend Ben Chapman. In any event, notwithstanding the absence of the precise measurement system, we believe that most benefit delivery centres are also hitting the 90 per cent. rate.