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I am sorry to hear that Mr. Goldstone has not received the refund of £340 promised to him on 7 June. Regrettably a technical fault on the Agency's CS2. computer system has prevented the payment from being made. This fault is not yet resolved, but the Plymouth centre has arranged for Mr. Goldstone's refund to be paid on 16 November.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many press officers are employed in his Department; and what the cost of employing them was in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Department has no plans to recruit additional press officers in the next 12 months. There is a recruitment exercise currently under way to fill existing vacancies. Further recruitment exercises may be required in the next year to maintain the agreed level of staffing.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the quarterly average exit rate for (a) incapacity benefit and (b) severe disability allowance has been since May 1997. 
Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 10 November 2005]: For incapacity benefit, the quarterly average exit rate since May 1997 has been 7.9 per cent. of the total caseload. For severe disablement allowance, the quarterly average exit rate since May 1997 has been 1.7 per cent. of the total caseload.
2 Source: Count of unemployment-related benefits, Jobcentre Plus computer systems (including clerically held cases). Figures are unrounded. NOMIS figures include clerically held cases. Based on 100 per cent. claimant count.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the percentage of incapacity benefit claimants have been receiving the benefit for more than five years; and what this percentage was in May 1997. 
Mrs. McGuire: As the benefit was only introduced in April 1995, we are unable to give the information requested for the five years previous to 2000. As at February 2005, 48.1 per cent. of claimants had been claiming for more than five years.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what percentage of days were lost through sickness absence in Jobcentre Plus in each of the last two years, broken down by (a) region and (b) country; 
(2) what the rate of (a) early retirement and (b) resignation on grounds of stress and ill health has been in Jobcentre Plus in each of the last two years, broken down by (i) region and (ii) country; 
(4) what training needs have been identified for staff in Jobcentre Plus in relation to the proposed changes to disability benefits; and what discussions on training have taken place with staff. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions regarding sickness absence; early retirement and resignation on the grounds of stress and ill health; staff turnover; identification of staff training needs in relation to the proposed changes to disability benefits, and details of discussions that have taken place
Information on the percentage of days lost through sickness absence in Jobcentre Plus in each of the last two years, broken down by (a) region and (b) country in each of the last two years, is in the table.
|Region/country||Absence rate 200304||Absence rate 200405|
|East of England||5.2||4.8|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||4.8||4.5|
Information is not available on whether people have taken early retirement or have resigned from Jobcentre Plus because of stress. Information on the ratio of people Part of the Department for Work and Pensions who have retired for reasons of ill health generally, and the ratio of general resignations, broken down by region and country in each of the last two years, is in the table.
|12 months to March 2004||12 months to March 2005|
|Reasons for leaving||Retirement on grounds of ill health||Resignation||Retirement on grounds of ill health||Resignation|
|East of England||0.1||3.8||0.2||5.4|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||0.1||3.1||0.1||4.8|
|East of England||7.79|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||6.38|
It is too soon to provide information on the training needs for Jobcentre Plus staff in relation to any proposed changes to incapacity benefits. When the full nature of any changes to these benefits has been finalised, we will consult staff to identify training requirements and develop learning modules accordingly.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many incidents of violence against staff working in Jobcentre Plus have been reported in each of the last two years, broken down by (a) region and (b) country; and what the ratio of incidents to whole time equivalent employees was in each year, in each case. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question regarding the number of incidents of violence against staff working in Jobcentre Plus that have been reported in each of the last two years, broken down by region and country, and what the ratio of incidents to whole time equivalent (WTE) employees was in each year, in each case. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
|Region||Number of assaults||WTE ratio||Number of assaults||WTE ratio|
|Yorkshire and Humberside||26||.0038||23||.0036|
|East of England||18||.0038||25||.0057|
|Jobcentre Plus totals||235||.0033||329||.0050|
It may be helpful if I explain the background to these figures. Although data indicates that there has been a rise in the number of incidents reported in the last two years it is not possible to identify any direct casual relationships. This period coincides with a number of initiatives within the Department that have encouraged staff to report all incidents so that lessons can be learned, and appropriate remedial action taken.
Customer facing activity in Jobcentre Plus has been thoroughly risk assessed to ensure comprehensive measures are in place to protect the health and safety of our staff whilst at work. These measures range from ensuring the delivery of user-friendly services to our customers and ensuring all staff have the appropriate skills to manage and diffuse difficult situations, through to more physical controls such as the provision of individual panic alarms for staff, the use of CCTV cameras and deployment of security guards.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of the recent reductions in staffing at job centres arose from (a) resignation of personnel who have not been replaced, (b) voluntary redundancy and (c) compulsory redundancy. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning how many of the recent reductions in staffing at jobcentres arose from (a) resignation of personnel who have not been replaced, (b) voluntary redundancy, and (c) compulsory redundancy. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
We do not keep information of this type separately for jobcentres therefore the answers that I have provided refer to the whole of the Jobcentre Plus organisation. Between 1 March 2004 and 30 September 2005, Jobcentre Plus has seen an overall net reduction in our full-time equivalent staffing totalling 8,066. This figure is a combination of the effects of staff leaving and staff joining the organisation. The number of managed early releases during the same period is 707 full-time equivalent staff. There have been no compulsory redundancies.
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