Jobcentre running changes demanded


Job Centre

The Government has been urged to consider changes to the running of jobcentres after MPs found that in two out of five cases, they do not know whether those who stop claiming benefits have actually found work.

The Public Accounts Committee said counting the number of people who stop claiming benefits was a "flawed measure" of jobcentres' effectiveness.

he committee also expressed surprise that there were only 522 disability employment advisers covering 740 jobcentres.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was urged to review support for disabled claimants, particularly in light of low numbers finding jobs through the flagship Work Programme.
The MPs noted that around 40% of people reclaim benefits within six months of stopping, and around 60% within two years.

"The Department should identify which indicators it will use to ensure it has a full understanding of the performance of jobcentres under Universal Credit and the destination of claimants, and use this information to better understand whether its interventions are delivering a long-term reduction in the number claiming benefits," said the MPs.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge (Barking), who chairs the committee, said: "On its own, the number of people who stop claiming benefits is a flawed measure of how effective jobcentres are. Jobcentres should have a degree of flexibility to deal with local priorities but the DWP does not know enough about what works and why.

"Local flexibility also opens up the possibility that harder-to-help claimants, such as those with disabilities, get 'parked'. The Department needs to look closely at its ability to support disabled claimants, particularly given that these groups suffer poor outcomes under the Work Programme."

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Evidence from Government that increasing minimum sanctions from one to four weeks encourages people back into work is patchy at best. There is no evidence to show what is gained from stopping people's benefits for a month. What is clear is the hardship it causes. Southwark CAB in London is one of many bureaux reporting that sanctions are helping to fuel a rise in demand for food banks - last April a local provider gave out 130 boxes, this April it was 500. Too many jobseekers have their benefit stopped because they don't understand what is required of them."

A DWP spokesman said: "Every day advisers are successfully helping people move off benefits and into work, and it is welcome that the report recognises Jobcentre Plus is good value for money. We're focused on making sure people get all the help and support they need from Jobcentre Plus to make the move into work, and it is encouraging that employment has risen by over 400,000 in the past year while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance has been falling for the last seven months."

© 2013 Press Association