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The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked the acting chief executive to provide the 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 his Department is taking to ensure that the principles of digital inclusion are applied to Jobcentre Plus. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus supports the principles set out in the Government's Digital Inclusion Action Plan and the work of the Cabinet Committee set up last year to ensure that everyone, especially disadvantaged people, benefits from the use of digital technologies in delivering public services.
I recognise how important this is for Jobcentre Plus and for our customers. Many of the people we help are disadvantaged and some are amongst the most vulnerable members of society. We are tackling that challenge by extending access to our online services and by helping people to acquire the confidence and ability to use those online services.
Job vacancies notified to Jobcentre Plus can be accessed online, through digital television and through Jobpoint Kiosks located in all of our local Jobcentres. We are now starting to replace and upgrade that network of Jobpoints. We are also exploring making some online services accessible by mobile telephone which, like digital television, are more extensively owned and used by our customers than home computers.
Customers can already access information which enables them to answer some basic enquiries about their benefit entitlement through the online Benefit Adviser service on Directgov. Later this year customers will be able to make their claim for benefit online and that service will be extended in 2010 to enable customers to track progress of their claim and notify changes of circumstances through a secure personal account. We are also planning to make these services available to intermediaries and welfare rights organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureaux so that customers can access them there or be helped by those organisations to use them.
It is equally important that we provide help for those customers who need to become confident about using digital services. Through the work-focused interviews carried out by our Personal Advisers, we identify people who could benefit from that help and refer or signpost them to a wide range of information technology training offered through DWP's Employment Programmes, Learndirect or UK Online centres.
I also recognise the importance of ensuring that our services are accessible to disabled people or people with other barriers to using digital technology. Our online services are compliant with the Government's Web Accessibility Standards, compatible with the main assistive software packages including JAWS, Dragon, Supernova and Zoomtext. All our services are also accessible by telephone or through our local Jobcentres for those people who need it or who find it difficult to access online services. Later this year, we will be able to offer a new "Text Box" service which will improve the service we provide to speech and hearing impaired people over the telephone.
I recognise that improving digital inclusion is essential to ensuring that all our customers can benefit from the improvements in service that digital technologies can provide to help them move off welfare and into work.