Previous Section Index Home Page

30 Jan 2006 : Column 287W—continued

Jobcentre Plus

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the time taking to issue new contracts to training providers of Government-funded Jobcentre Plus training programmes. [42249]

Margaret Hodge: We are introducing new contracting procedures to reduce bureaucracy and improve performance. Bringing in these changes has been complex and we had to be sure that they delivered the outcomes we wanted.

New contracts will be in place from July 2006.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many calls to helplines dealing with claims for jobseeker's allowance (a) were received, (b) were handled, (c) received an engaged or busy tone and (d) were abandoned by the caller in each month since January 2004; and if he will make a statement. [24951]

Margaret Hodge: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 30 January 2006:

30 Jan 2006 : Column 288W

Calls answeredCalls abandoned(114)
June 2004314,085247,60768,815
July 2004414,980322,86391,128
August 2004319,777253,28366,891
September 2004440,131358,97575,832
October 2004321,743280,40939,560
November 2004336,494296,00237,790
December 2004357,550293,69263,073
January 2005410,165328,86182,138
February 2005356,548305,51954,074
March 2005457,642345,015111,564
April 2005400,621284,399110,243
May 2005393,297291,769101,057
June 2005561,180391,730168,700
July 2005525,392303,090221,686
August 2005533,636280,233251,922
September 2005717,701419,703296,864

(114) Calls answered and calls abandoned do not equal calls offered, because of short abandoned calls. Short abandoned calls are calls that are abandoned before the end of the greeting message and are therefore not offered to an agent and could never be answered.

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total cost was of providing interviews, signing on and job referrals for jobseeker's allowance recipients in 2004–05. [44957]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 23 January 2006]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. She will write to my right hon. Friend.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 30 January 2006:

Medical Examining Centres

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many medical examining centres there were in (a) 1997, (b) 2001 and (c) 2005; what plans there are to close any medical examining centres over the next five years; what assessment he has made of (i) average distances and (ii) furthest distances travelled by benefit claimants for medical assessments in each year; and what assistance is available for transport costs. [36738]

Mrs. McGuire: In August 1997 there were 137 medical examination centres (MECs), in December 2001 there were 121, and in July 2005 there were 125. These figures relate to permanent sites. In addition medical services use up to 40 casual hire centres, which are used as and when required.
30 Jan 2006 : Column 289W

Under plans agreed with the Secretary of State, the contractor (Atos Origin) is to close 11 MECs. However, three large regional centres are to be opened to service the areas affected by the MECs closures.

Information on actual distances travelled by benefit claimants is not collected. However, no customer is required to travel more than 90 minutes each way on public transport to attend a MEC. Where customers cannot get to an examination centre within 90 minutes using public transport, or where it is clear that they would have health-related difficulties in travelling, alternative arrangements are made.

All claimants who attend an appointment at a MEC are entitled to claim full reimbursement of pubic transport fares or where they have travelled by other means, such as by car, expenses can be claimed at set rates. Details of expenses which can be claimed are sent to the customer with their appointment documentation.

National Insurance Number

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many national insurance numbers have been issued. [44115]

Mr. Plaskitt: There are approximately 72 million national insurance numbers currently in issue. This exceeds current UK adult population because the total includes numbers retained for deceased people, for those in receipt of benefit living outside of the UK and for customers who are abroad.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to answer questions (a) 18786, (b) 18787, (c) 18634, (d) 18859, (e) 19631, (f) 20012, (g) 21436, (h) 21433, (i) 21437, (j) 21434, (k) 21441, (l) 21445, (m) 21444, (n) 21439, (o) 21442, (p) 21438, (q) 21452, (r) 21451, (s) 21586, (t) 21581, (u) 21582, (v) 21590, (w) 21857, (x) 21962, (y) 21957, (z) 21961, (aa) 24135, (bb) 21854, (cc) 21853, (dd) 21855, (ee) 23680, (ff) 23393, (gg) 24538, (hh) 24540, (ii) 24573, (jj) 24951, (kk) 28422, (ll) 28420, (mm) 28385, (nn) 29986, (oo) 30004, (pp) 30001, (qq) 29988, (rr) 30002, (ss) 30068, (tt) 30064, (uu) 30566, (vv) 29999, (ww) 30066, (xx) 30971, (yy) 31021, (zz) 31208, (aaa) 31196, (bbb) 32506, (ccc) 32505, (ddd) 32250, (eee) 32726, (fff) 33295, (ggg) 33701, (hhh) 33435, (iii) 34170, (jjj) 35360, (kkk) 35371, (lll) 35361, (mmm) 35364, (nnn) 35372, (ooo) 35373, (ppp) 35376, (qqq) 35395 and (rrr) 35359, tabled by the hon. Member for Yeovil. [40858]

Mr. Plaskitt: My ministerial colleagues and I have replied to 28 of these 70 questions tabled by the hon. Member.

We attach importance to answering parliamentary questions promptly and will endeavour to respond to all questions within parliamentary deadlines where possible.
30 Jan 2006 : Column 290W

Pathways to Work

Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people on incapacity benefits in the Pathways to Work pilots have helped back into work since the initiative began. [44098]

Margaret Hodge: There have been almost 150,000 people started on the Pathways to Work programme, including 11,200 existing customers. Nearly 80,000 people have attended mandatory work focused interviews. Of these, 17,670 people volunteered to take advantage of the Choices programme.

With our support, 19,500 people have entered employment, including 3,220 who volunteered to take part in the Pathways initiative. This has resulted in an 8 percentage point increase in people leaving incapacity benefits after six months in the Pathways areas compared to the rest of the country.

Next Section Index Home Page