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Future of Jobcentre Plus

The Work and Pensions Committee has published its latest report into the role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system.

Two key recommendations head up the report:

  • Establish a more thorough and systematic face-to-face assessment of claimants’ potential barriers to employment at an early stage of benefit claims - with a view to establishing a jobseeker classification tool prior to the re-letting of Work Programme contracts in 2016; and
  • Revisng JCP’s key performance indicators - claimants leaving benefit due to benefit sanctions and other non-work related destinations should not count towards the achievement of key performance targets

The Committee highlights the need for JCP to balance strict benefit conditionality rules with effective, in-depth employment support. They suggest that advisers should be reviewing Universal Jobmatch between claimant interviews so that the adviser can spend more time actually advising and supporting claimants rather than just policing them. That, however, implies that JCP staff have the knowledge to advise customers effectively - and having seen some of their ideas of a good CV recently, that is debateable!

The report also highlighted the inappropriate application of sanctions, and the lack of discretion used by advisers in some instances, and calls for a review into whether the process is being applied appropriately, fairly, proportionately and in accordance with the rules, across the Jobcentre network.

The bottom line is that Jobcentres offer value for money (NAO report) and have proved capable of responding effectively both to policy change and fluctuating claimant numbers, so the key recommendation is that JCP should continue to provide a public employment service for the unemployed, broadly along current lines, particularly through the current period of extensive change in the welfare system. So it looks like they're safe ... for now!

Click here to read the full report.

23 January 2014

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