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Mr. Plaskitt: It is the Department's procurement policy to (a) buy sustainable goods and services even if they cost more; (b) make sustainable procurement part of every commercial VFM decision which will be made on the basis of whole life costs; (c) undertake environmental risk assessments of contracting activities and (d) consider ethical and Fair Trade issues across the whole supply chain.
The e-benefits project is one of 22 local e-government national projects sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The project is led by Rotherham MBC. The project's software covers three benefits: housing benefit, council tax benefit and free school meals. These have been evaluated by ODPM, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Cabinet Office. Rotherham is currently working with the ODPM and a consortium of suppliers to make these products available commercially to other local authorities next year.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the oral answer of 31 October 2005, Official Report, column 610, what progress has been made by the Financial Assistance Scheme Operational Unit; and whether he expects the first payments to be made by the unit by Christmas. 
Mr. Timms: The Financial Assistance Scheme Operational Unit has been gathering information on pension schemes since 1 September. Over 250 schemes have been notified to FAS, of which 51 have so far been accepted as qualifying pension schemes.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many offers of (a) training and (b) other support have been made to individuals by Jobcentre Plus and subsequently rescinded for (i) budgetary or (ii) other reasons in the last 12 months. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question regarding how many offers of (a) training and (b) other support have been made to individuals by Jobcentre Plus, and subsequently rescinded for either budgetary or other reasons in the last 12 months. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
I assume that when referring to individuals that you are referring to staff members of Jobcentre Plus. On that basis, I can advise you that no offers of training or other support made to staff have been cancelled or rescinded during the last 12 months due to budgetary reasons. Some local training cancellations may have occurred due to operational reasons.
During 2004/05, 446,396 learning days were delivered to meet the needs of individual staff and the business of Jobcentre Plus. A further 521,220 learning days have been planned for delivery during 2005/06 across Jobcentre Plus, representing an average of 6 days per person for the year.
We also provide other support during the year which includes 'Working Together', our cultural change programme; use of our performance and development system to support staff development; our employee assistance programme; and leadership and manager development. All of these continue to be on offer.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning what consultations have been undertaken to assess the preferred method of contact for customers. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus conducts an annual customer satisfaction survey which canvasses the views of our customers across the full range of our services, including the channels of contact we provide. The surveys give us a clear picture about how our services are perceived by customers, including how well delivered they are, and how easy or difficult they are to access. They also provide baseline information on customer expectations and satisfaction and the basis for tracking, over time, how customer perceptions of the service change as Jobcentre Plus implementation is rolled out, helping to drive the process of performance improvement.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning pilots that have been conducted in Canvey Island Jobcentre Plus during the last five years. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
In answer to your specific question there have been two pilots conducted in Canvey Island Jobcentre Plus in the last five years. These pilots were not exclusive to Canvey Island Jobcentre Plus as they were run in Essex Jobcentre Plus District which covers Canvey Island.
From April 2004 Essex has been one of seven Jobcentre Plus districts delivering the Governments Pathways to Work pilot. The pilot targets help and support at customers claiming Incapacity Benefit by encouraging and promoting work where possible. As a result of the pilot, 1950 customers have been placed in work.
On 31 October 2005 the In Work Credit pilot was launched in Essex. The Credit gives extra help to lone parents, or parents whose partners are in receipt of Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance, when they start work provided they meet certain criteria. This pilot is expected to run until 30 October 2006.
Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what was the average time taken by local contact centres in England to call back applicants for jobseeker's allowance following the initial application in the last period for which figures are available; and what the target is. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the average time taken by local contact centres in England to call back applicants for Jobseeker's Allowance. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus. In answer to your specific question, we do not keep separate figures for specific benefits. Also, whilst we do not have an official target for calling back customers who have made an initial application via our contact centres, we do have a stated aim to call 90% of customers back in 24 hours.
Jobcentre Plus is undergoing a massive change programme. Change on this scale does create challenges in maintaining levels of service and it has put our business under some pressure in this transitional period. As a result many customers claiming working age benefits have not received their call-back within our stated timescales.
We have put in place robust measures to improve performance including temporary adjustments to streamline the business process and ramping up recruitment plans, supported by robust training programmes. The latest figures that we have available are for the second week of October when 9.8% of customers received their call-back within 24 hours and on average customers were being contacted within 2.6 days of their initial contact. While this
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