To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the closure of Jobcentre Plus and benefit contact centres in Liverpool, Huyton and Chester on (a) response times for replies to correspondence and (b) the quality of service provided to users.
The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Darra Singh. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Darra Singh
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions asking what assessment has been made of the potential effect of the closure of Jobcentre Plus Benefit and Contact Centres in Liverpool, Huyton and Chester on (a) response times for replies to correspondence and (b) the quality of service provided to users. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The closures of the Benefit and Contact Centres in Liverpool, Huyton and Chester should affect neither our correspondence response times nor the quality of the service that we provide to our customers.
With regards the correspondence that we receive, Jobcentre Plus has clearly laid down service standards whereby a customer can expect a full response within 10 working days of us receiving the letter. We are also committed to responding to Members of Parliament writing to us on behalf of a customer within 15 working days.
The rationalisation of our offices can be completed without impacting on the service, we offer to our customers. Our contact centre network is virtual, meaning that calls are routed to the next available agent no matter where they are in the country. Similarly, customers do not actually have direct contact with our benefit processing sites - telephone calls about benefit enquiries are dealt with in our contact centre network.
Our business transformation is designed to respond to the changing ways that people seek to access, our services. Our online job search facility receives more than a million visits every day and our contact centres handle more than 230,000 calls every working day. People can now apply for Jobseeker's Allowance via the internet and more than 500,000 have done so. We are planning to build on these arrangements and introduce a range of new digital services that today's employers and customers expect, including online benefit tracking and enabling jobseekers to create online profiles which can then be matched to vacancies. We are also focused on continuing to modernise and develop our benefit centres to drive up productivity and value for money.