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Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what mechanisms are in place to assess the effectiveness of consultant-led projects in his Department; what sanctions are available to penalise consultants who run unsuccessful projects; how many projects conducted by consultants were assessed as unsuccessful in each year since 2000; and what sanctions were imposed in each case. 
The majority of engagements for consultancy are awarded on a fixed price basis with payment only made when products have been satisfactorily delivered. Longer-term engagements will have a number of break/review points built into the contract where the customer will review what has been delivered. In cases of poor delivery the contract can be terminated. Therefore, we do not have a system of sanctions in place, consultants are paid if and when we are satisfied with the work delivered. Some contracts will also include a performance based system of incentivisation.
Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the Minister of State will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, dated 22 September concerning job vacancies. 
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the operation of the second-generation customer management system in call centres and benefits offices, with particular reference to efficiency in (a) call handling, (b) payment of benefits and (c) interaction with local authority housing benefit claims. 
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has asked me to reply to your enquiry concerning the operation of the second generation Customer Management System (CMS) in Contact Centres and benefit offices. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
CMS is the IT system that has been implemented to support a number of changes in the way our customers claim Jobcentre Plus benefits. These changes are part of a wider programme of service delivery modernisation in Jobcentre Plus that also includes, for example, greater use of telephone based contact with our customers and the adoption of standard operating processes.
CMS was first introduced in Livingston in July 2003 and rollout to other sites commenced in October 2003. A second release was introduced on 13 December 2004, which made a number of improvements. This included electronic data transfer of information gathered in CMS directly into the Income Support Computer and Jobseeker's Allowance Payment Systems.
With any major change, there is often a period of 'settling in' and this has been the case for the introduction of CMS and the new processes that it supports. Initially we encountered some difficulties in terms of speed, capacity and reliability of the system, although, not entirely to do with CMS itself but related to complementary systems that CMS relies upon. A series of technical releases have largely addressed these issues and the computer system itself is now performing as expected.
As with all IT systems CMS has meant a significant change in the way staff in Jobcentre Plus do their job. They require a good understanding of how the whole process links together, including the importance of gathering information on behalf of Local Authorities (LA) and of getting it right at each stage. To support this we have developed in consultation with practitioners, a toolkit" of advice and guidance aimed at all relevant staff and managers designed to explain and reinforce correct practice and allow managers to monitor consistently. Key messages have also been enhanced in the learning and development material being delivered to our staff.
Despite this programme of improvement work, we know from feedback from LAs that there is further work to be done to ensure that the operation of CMS is successful. The process works best in those LAs where there are effective liaison arrangements between Jobcentre Plus and the LA. Ongoing improvement work is overseen by a joint DWP/Local Authority Association (LAA) steering group. The introduction of CMS Release 3 on 31st October 2005 addressed many of the issues around the amount of clerical documentation associated with the initial releases. The removal of these clerical workarounds through this release will lead to further improvements and will be evaluated by the LAA in early 2006.
Jobcentre Plus is undergoing a massive change programme and is making considerable investment in improved information technology. However change on this scale does create challenges in maintaining levels of customer service for some parts of the business during this period of transition and transformation. As a result, some customers claiming working age benefits have, of late, experienced difficulties getting through to some of our contact centres. We have put measures in place to address this, including temporary adjustments to streamline business processes in order to maintain customer service whilst we go through this transition period. We have also strengthened recruitment plans supported by robust training programmes.
Early indications following the process adjustments are encouraging. We have seen week on week improvements in customer service since beginning of September. Whilst we have sought to minimise the impact of these changes for our staff and customers, some disruption has been unavoidable and this may regrettably contribute to delays in processing benefit claims for some customers.
Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the latest estimate is of underspend by his Department (a) in cash terms and (b) as a percentage of departmental budget for financial year 200405. 
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in West Lancashire are in receipt of disability living allowance high rate case component as well as high rate mobility. 
Mrs. McGuire: The administration of disability living allowance is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Disability and Carers Service, Mr. Terry Moran. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people in West Lancashire are in receipt of disability living allowance high rate case component as well as high rate mobility. The Minister for Disabled People, Anne McGuire MP, promised you a substantive reply from the Chief Executive of the Disability and Carers Service.
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Margaret Hodge: General practitioners have a key role to play in contributing to the success of the Government's welfare reform agenda. They remain the first point of contact for patients and have a significant influence in helping people with health conditions or disabilities remain in work, or regain fitness for work at the appropriate time.
The Department for Work and Pensions is working closely with the Department of Health to provide incentives to general practitioners to assist their patients of working age to remain fit for work or regain fitness for work. A submission has been made to include, as one of the requirements in the quality outcomes framework of the GP contract, referral for employment advice of patients with mental health problems whose job would be at risk.
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