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House of Lords written question – answered on 6th November 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Thomas of Winchester Baroness Thomas of Winchester Spokesperson for Work and Pensions

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are enough personal advisers in Jobcentre Plus offices to deal with the number of people unemployed; and, if not, how many personal adviser posts are vacant.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

Jobcentre Plus monitors workloads very closely, both at local and national level, to enable it to plan for and deploy extra resources where these are needed to provide services to unemployed customers.

Since November 2008 the Government have invested nearly £5 billion to help people claiming out-of-work benefits get back to work. As part of this, funding to Jobcentre Plus has been increased by £3 billion to ensure Jobcentre Plus continues to provide personal help and advice to customers who need it, despite the current recession. This money will also help ensure that the Flexible New Deal—which is now providing tailored help for the long-term unemployed—can cater effectively for higher volumes of jobseekers.

The Budget 2009 funding meant that Jobcentre Plus was able to recruit up to 10,000 more staff, on top of 6,000 new staff previously announced in PBR. This increase is entirely for staff directly helping customers to find work or provide support until they get a job. Between October 2008 and July 2009, Jobcentre Plus had recruited 14,000 people. Once forthcoming official statistics for headcount are published we expect to be able to confirm that Jobcentre Plus had achieved its plan to reach 82,000 full-time equivalents in post by the end of September 2009.

Meanwhile, customers are now using Jobcentre Plus services differently than previously. More of its face-to-face customer contact is on an appointment basis and information on job vacancies is readily available by telephone and the internet. We have introduced a single national telephone number for new benefit claims so that calls from the public can be directed to the next available member of staff, regardless of location, giving Jobcentre Plus flexibility in where it handles work. This enables staff in jobcentres to focus on those customers in greatest need of support to return to work, maximising the impact of our resources.

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