Memorandum submitted by Hounslow Welfare
Benefits and Money Advice Unit
The Social Inclusion Unit comprises the Welfare
Benefits and Money Advice Unit and the Community Funerals Service
(incorporating statutory public health funeral duty). The Unit
is part of the Corporate Policy and Regeneration Division within
the Chief Executive's Directorate of London Borough of Hounslow.
The Money Advice Service established in 1988
and the Welfare Rights Unit established in 1990 merged in 1990
to form a unified service. The refocusing of the service into
a more corporate strategic rolewhilst retaining our practical
advice service basewas made in 2003 and the Unit became
the Social Inclusion Unit. We are a second tier advice service
and hold the Community Legal Services specialist quality mark.
For local residents who are at risk of losing
their home through rent or mortgage arrears or who have a complex
benefit problem (eg involving an appeal tribunal) and due to mental
ill health or disabilities would find it difficult to access other
These surgeries are provided in (1) a Social
Services specific mental health setting; (2) a sexual health clinic
at the local hospital; (3) at the same hospital's centre for cancer
patients and their partners/carers; (4) at Brentford County Court
each Monday and (5) six sessions week for Hounslow Homes (the
previous local authority housing stock/tenancies).
Public helpline and staff consultancy helpline
These sessions are held three times weekly for
the public for benefit and debt enquiries and four sessions a
week for equivalent staff enquiries.
We deliver a minimum of 12 training courses
Other activities include information provision,
take up campaigns and contributing to social policy initiatives
at local and national level.
Statistics: between July 2004 and June 2005,
we took on 181 new clients in addition to long standing clients
and represented at County Court on 116 occasions and represented
at 47 appeal tribunals as part of our core Unit Work. Over a nine
month period for Hounslow Homes we carried out 402 interviews
with clients to include 202 new clients Of these Hounslow Homes
clients 56 were disabled or from a household including someone
with a disability. Although we cannot immediately access the equivalent
statistics for the outreach surgeries under 1, 2 and 3 above,
by their nature they will all be in relation to people with acute,
chronic or terminal health conditions.
The local authority has a high BME population
with almost 35% from minority ethnic communities (9% is average
for England) and those of Indian origin represent 17% in total.
Requests for translation and interpreting for over 120 different
languages have been made to our in-house specialist unit. Hounslow
ranks 102 on the 2004 Index of Deprivation for England and Walesalthough
more deprived on some measurements/SOAs.
We welcome the opportunity to present our comments
to the Select Committee and would like to emphasise that this
is based on the years of experience of advising and representing
clients; close contact with staff and community organisations
within the local authority and of monitoring and drawing social
policy conclusions from the work of the Unit.
We generally welcome the proposal to engage
more people in the world of work.
In the current climate of efficiency
savings, we are concerned about the scale of the resource implications
for Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to conduct the reform programme for incapacity
benefit based customers effectively (guided by recent research
findings in DWP report no 278).
We believe that the personal
advisers (PAs) within Jobcentre Plus will only be able to deliver
this vision of moving substantial proportion of incapacity benefit
based customers off benefit and into sustainable employment with
considerably enhanced training, building on the life skills expertise
many have already developed, but working in conjunction with occupational
health specialists and organisations with specialist knowledge/expertise
of certain client groups This is especially relevant in respect
of clients with mental ill health and complex health problems
including substance misuse.
Job-entry targets should only be one measure-of
success for outcomes of work with these customers.
We believe that a significant
programme of work is required with employers to consider how best
to encourage/induce them into recruiting and retaining employees
with enduring health problems. There is a need to understand that
public sector employers receive conflicting messages around management
of absence and achieving efficiency savings which may conflict
with the need to have a more inclusive approach to employing and
retaining staff with health and disability needs. Private sector
employersespecially small businessesmay find it
more difficult to think of employing staff who may not always
be able to perform optimally due to health needs because they
are running much smaller units on much slimmer operational margins.
Access to Work needs to be better
resourced and promoted both to individuals and employers. In-work
subsidy of salary cost schemes (as seen elsewhere in Europe) need
to be researched to see if that would act as an inducement to
increase sustained employment for those moving from/staying off
incapacity benefit. Tax credits do not have the income reach to
perform this role.
We disagree that there should
be a holding rate of benefit if it is to be at JSA level of payment.
Ill health and disability are well researched to show the additional
costs they incur. Disability Living Allowance is not triggered
until three months of eligible needs are metand with a
further six month qualifying period so some seriously ill people
would not qualify (eg cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy).
We do not believe that it would
be helpful to divide an incapacity based benefit into two streams.
One benefit at higher rates as proposed would be welcome.
The deficiencies of the current
PCA and appropriate expertise of the medical servicesespecially
but not solely in relation to mental ill health needs to be addressed.
Incorporating the expertise
of other health professionals including occupational health advisers
and work psychologistsas employed in the Pathways to Work
Pilotsis to be strongly welcomed in having a holistic and
empowering route back to employment for whomever of the JOP customers
wishes to or is capable of making that journey.
More credibility must be given
to gathering evidence by DWP/JCP to make the work related assessment
and the revised PCA more valid from the people who have a professional
relationship with the IS customertheir G P/CPN/social worker/community
It is essential that IBPAs/residual
DEAs within JCP know about in-work benefits and tax credits and
can facilitate fast tracking of such claims. They also need to
know about and promote information of the benefit linking rules
which may encourage a person to set aside their fears of benefit/income
insecurity and try the move into work.
The knowledge base on benefits
generally needs to be significantly enhanced within JCP at local
There is a real lack of coherence
in the way that the DWP agencies, HMRC/tax credit office and local
authority housing benefits interface both from the customer access
perspective and between the different benefit delivery agencies/staff-themselves.
The move away-from locally provided benefit services at Jobcentre
level to geographically remote claims and processing centres is
causing a fragmented service and places greater knowledge resourcing
demands on limited staff at local Jobcentre level In addition,
this new range of channels of communication envisaged for full
roll out by 2008 denies proper access to benefits information
to more vulnerable groups such as speakers of other languages/those
with severe mental ill health/those with basic skills and learning
disabilities and those with communication impairments.
Tax credits need to be reformed.
They should be rethought into a current income/fixed time award
basis if they are to provide the income supplement security envisaged
by the policy makers. There is a need for them to be available
higher up the income scale for disabled people without children.
Consideration should also be given for making tax credits available
for sub 16 hour employment as many people with severe and enduring
or fluctuating health needs/disabilities cannot sustain eight
regular working week of 16 hours minimum.
There is a need to prevent an
automatic revision of a person's DLA when they move into employment.
This was built into the guidance and training when the permitted
work rules were introduced as a result of consultation but needs
to be reinforced as part of the reform programme envisaged for
incapacity benefit customers.
1. There is evidence of concern in respect
of the capacity of personal advisers (PAs) to acquire appropriate
level of expertise to deal with specialist needs of certain client
groups especially those with mental ill health and substance abuse.
2. The workload capacity for PAs dealing
with a significant proportion of clients with complex needs is
under resourced and under assessed.
3. There is already evidence of conflict
between the enforcing and enabling role of PAs both for the JOP
staff and its implications for the customer experience.
4. The use of sanctions must be very carefully
considered if the overall message is to be one of can-do optimisation
of moving people into sustainable employment.
5. There is a strong risk of mismatch between
raising customer skills/expectations and employers' capacity to
employ a sufficient proportion of this cohort of ex-lB customers
as well as retention of existing employees with acute/chronic
health needs or disabilities.
6. There is the need for Government, employer's
organisations and trade unions jointly or separately to make a
business case for employers to retain employees with long term
health conditions and to examine current practices on management
of absence and redeployment.
7. The in-work support dimension from JCP
which is currently not visible will need to be introduced but
may need to be done in conjunction with community based organisations
on a contractual basis.
8. There is a need to have a national contract
framework for organisations who will be assisting JCP in achieving
their targets of enabling incapacity based customers to move into
sustained employment. This would include looking at equivalent
competency standards as for the Community Legal Services Quality
Marklinked to NVQ standards.
9. There is a clear risk of not getting
people with enduring health problems and disabilities to the "starting
gate" of sustainable employment in a very target driven JOP
climate focusing on lob starts rather than other valid measures
of customer progress. This is of relevance to the job satisfaction
of the specialist IBPAs as well as of legitimate encouragement
in a longer time scale for the customers. We suggest the need
to have more sophisticated targets than just job entry as measure
10. There is a need to accept that enhancing
life and social skills for some of the more complex clientseven
if it does not lead to meeting short term in-work target outcomesis
still a valid outcome from the WFI/PA process.
11. The Pathway to Work pilots which engaged
with work psychologists in both customer-facing interviews and
in training/supporting the IBPAs is a positive development which
needs to be included in the programme of reform.
12. The greater use of occupational therapists
is to be welcomed in any extensive reform programme to move significant
numbers of people with health problems and disabilities from benefit
into work or to retain them in current employment.
13. The Condition Management Programmes
again show a holistic approach to successfully integrating people
back into the world of work and we would hope that these would
be integral for customers with both mental health as well as limiting
physical disabilities (especially where pain management is an
issue). There are major benefits to be gained from encouraging
greater referral rates to physiotherapists. However, these again
have resource implications for DWP and the
14. From an occupational health perspective,
there is a need to reflect on a more appropriate management of
absence policy which deals with those with short term intermittent
health need absences and those needing more support to return
on an incremental basis to work after a period of absence. This
would include appropriate occupation health input with a more
formal rehabilitation procedure and involvement of Access to Work
15. Closer working between occupational
health and GPs in planning rehabilitation would be helpful in
the retum to work/retention process as would greater use of intervention
services such as physiotherapy and osteopathy where these have
good evidence based support outcomes.
16. Another option is to consider the role
of counselling in moving people towards job-readiness. Some illnesses
may have a psychosomatic basis (but real in their impact) or they
had previous poor work experiences which may be interpreted as
causing them to be "work shy" but have a legitimate
basis which counselling support could address.
17. We do not agree with the holding option
of JSA equivalent rate of benefit for an initial 12 weeks whilst
awaiting the PCA. Research has shown (Joseph Rowntree Foundation
for example) that the levels of benefit for single adults and
child free couples are inadequate. Many people with health problems
have already had additional costs/loss of income before they make
the claim for incapacity based benefit and DLA requires a three
month initial qualifying period before disability related costs
can be acknowledged. The rapidly increasing cost of fuel already
has serious implications for disabled people (examples include
those with MS. rheumatoid arthritis, undergoing chemotherapy).
Research exists to show the higher costs incurred by people with
health problems and disabilities.
18. We do not see the need for a separate
naming of benefits for people deemed to have less severe and incapacitating
health needs and more severe/terminal conditions. If JCP have
a clear and supportive agenda to encourage people that work is
viable and achievable even with enduring health conditions, there
is no need to try and spell it out within the renaming of the
benefit. We do not believe anyway that there is a clear synchronicity
between the severity of health conditions and a consequential
incapacity for work. It is a complex process and depends on individuals/psychological
and emotional responses and support networksincluding appropriate
and potentially fulfilling work with supportive employers.
19. We welcome the acknowledgement that
benefit rates for people with enduring health problems and disabilities
need to be higher than current rates.
20. We acknowledge that the new approach
outlined in the reform proposals will require a change to the
current PCA to incorporatehopefully with the input of work
psychologists/occupational therapiststhe assessment of
future work capacity. We are concerned that the professional competence
in the revised PCA/associated work assessment needs to be considerably
enhanced particularly with reference to customers with mental
ill health but also in relation to some of the more common physical
health conditions. Our Unitin common with other specialist
advice agenciesfind that we have a very high success rate
at appeal tribunals involving incapacity and disability benefit
claims. The general rate for successful appeals is just over 50%.
With adviser representation this level of success is significantly
higher. This reflects the thoroughness with which we gather the
medical evidence from the relevant health professionals involved
in the person's health/disability care and our application of
this to the relevant regulations.
21. The 2004 indices of deprivation for
London Borough of Hounslow show high employment rates but low
income rates from This employment. The labour market in Hounslow
is generally made up of low paid jobs in the service industries.
It is doubtful whether these industries could employ large numbers
of people with disabilities and enduring health problems.The
better jobs are to be found in companies located on the A4 "golden
mile" and these tend to go to highly skilled people who are
not borough residents. There are income viability issues for single
adults and families with children who the reforms would wish to
move off incapacity based benefit and problems then with a tax
credit system which as currently conceived can generate problems
for people trying to manage on a low income. As indicated above,
there is always the concern that JCP customers with health problems
may get directed into low skill/low paid employment with adverse
physical/mental health outcomes.
22. The fragmentation of different elements
of DWP delivering connected services on benefit claims and training/job
search for customers must be addressed if the JOP is to deliver
on its customer service commitments on the benefits part of its
business. Our experience in 1-jounslow has been that the process
is unsatisfactory and adversely impacts on the most vulnerable
23. Attention to must be given to the cost
to customers of interfacing with DWP delivery agencies to meet
new WEI expectations and to maintain their benefit/tax credit
claims. Many of our clients do not have a landline as they have
not been able to afford this (or have been disconnected due to
debt) and so rely on mobile phones. The emphasis on accessing
benefit claims and maintenance of these via telephony comes at
a heavy cost to these customers. Consideration should be given
to 0800 access for all these call centres but even on mobile phones
there is a charge for 0800 access so there is a residual need
for customers to be able to access this information via Jobcentres
or other community based settings. The so called warm phones in
the Jobcentres are fiercely guarded in terms of customer access
and do not even allow access to the district crisis loan direct
serviceshortly to be moved to a regional telephone service
We hope that our comments prove helpful to the
inquiry process and are grateful for the opportunity to reflect
into the process from the perspective of our Social Inclusion,
Welfare Benefits and Money Advice Unit. We have also spoken with
our economic development and business team and with the senior
occupational health adviser for London Borough of Hounslow,
We are appending some case studies which illustrate
some of the issues we have addressed in our response.
Client A (Jobcentre Plus: lack of interface/lack
A current client of ours seen through our Hounslow
Homes advice session was found fit for work following a medical
examinationprior to seeking help from us. Due to a failure
by JCP to adequately inform the client and a failure to stop his
benefit for six months from the decision date, payment of benefit
(IS) continued and thus no link was made by customer between the
failed PCA examination and benefit entitlement. He did in fact
get a letter from IS stating there had been a change of circumstances
noted but that benefit would continue. Benefit then stopped after
six months but client could not get a satisfactory response as
to why and what action he should take when he made contact by
phone to JOP. (This client has basic skills needs and finds it
difficult to understand the complexities of benefits and the written
communications.) He then took his letters into the local Jobcentre
for advice on which benefit he should be claiming but they told
him it was not their role to advise him and to go the Citizens
Advice Bureau. He lived for two months on intermittent crisis
loans until he established a need to claim JSA whilst appealing
the incapacity decision. This client is now being assisted with
his late appeal and clarifying his housing benefit.
Client B (failure to identify customer's mental
ill health needs within PA/WEI framework leading to inappropriate
Client was referred to one of our Hounslow Homes
advice sessions due to her rent arrears in July 2005. She is aged
53. She had been in receipt of JSA since 2002 but this was stopped
in June 2005. Benefit was stopped when she stopped attending a
computer course as she couldn't cope with it and failed to attend
a follow up interview at the Jobcentre. During her interview with
our adviser, the client kept bursting into tears over the stress
she had experienced struggling with the computer course and stated
all she was capable of was cleaning work. We referred her to her
GP to discuss her depression and anxiety and he then medically
certificated her. We are assisting her with her new benefit claims
and backdating requests. Her WFI following her claim for IS on
incapacity grounds was handled with appropriate sensitivity by
the IBPA. However, her inappropriate training referral whilst
on JSA had not helped her mental health and may make it more difficult
to re-engage her into work related activities when her GP deems
her well enough to seek work again.
Client C (special needs not identified by PA and
client reluctant to acknowledge these).
Known to the Unit but not a current client.
Young man now aged 21 has a diagnosis of ADD
and Tourette's Syndrome Received his secondary education in a
special needs boarding school. In receipt of ULA middle care/lower
mobility. He does not want to acknowledge special needs and presents
as a pleasant, enthusiastic if somewhat chaotic young man. He
has had some problems with activities leading to police/court
involvement. Was unable to sustain his place on a college course
after leaving school at 16 with moderate GCSE results. Has worked
intermittently but unable to sustain the employments after varying
lengths of time. There has been no referral to Connexions for
appropriate assistance when he came within the age remit for this
service nor have any of the PAs working with him been able to
identify that he does have special needs and give him the additional
support he needs to get into appropriate, sustainable employment.
Client D (inappropriate failure of PCA for severely
mentally ill client)
This client has been assisted on more than one
occasion with claims/appeals for both Incapacity Benefit and Disability
Living Allowance. He has a history of severe, possibly psychotic
depression and has had a lengthy relationship with local adult
mental health services within the Mental Health Trust. This has
included hospitalisation following a significant suicide attempt
and a long period as a day patient whilst he was being compliant.
However, even with such severe history of mental ill health, self
harm and neglect, this client only successfully retained his DLA
on two occasions by our intervention and representation at appeal
using the medical evidence provided by the psychiatric services
he uses. Additionally, twice we had to assist with appeals/revision
requests when he was deemed to have failed the PCAon the
last occasion with our assistance his mental health score was
well in excess of the PCA threshold.
Client E (multi-agency approach for a client which
indicates substantial resource implications of supporting one
client who will be typical of the caseload IBPAs will be responsible
This man has been a client of this Unit since
2001. He has had a history of benefit and debt problems which
have needed our continued involvement.
He is aged 46 and single. He is a housing association
tenant. He has a history of mental health issues, centred around
alcoholism and depression. He has been treated as both an in-
patient and out-patient in the psychiatric department of his local
hospital. He does not currently have a social worker although
he is known to the local Community Mental Health Team. He does,
however, have a support worker from a specialist mental health
agency (REAP). This person maintains regular contact with him,
seeing him at least weekly and more frequently if necessary. She
has helped him with his lifeskills and has now taken responsibility
for liaising with his numerous unsecured creditors. She has also
helped him learn to budget his limited income properly and is
working with him on his life skills as his social housing tenancy
has been threatened by his behaviour when under the influence
He has not been fit enough to work for the last
18 months. He is still officially employed as a security guard
but is receiving no pay from his employer. He has been signed
off as unfit to work by his GP for a variety of reasons In addition
to the problems mentioned above he has been hit hard by a large
number of deaths of both family and friends over the past year.
Recently he has been receiving assistance from an organisation
(Shaw Trust) which specialises in helping people with mental health
problems obtain work. He is at last succeeding in getting job
interviews as a result of this help.
Our involvement with this client has principally
revolved around the following:
assisting him with benefit claims,
eg incapacity benefit, income support;
housing/council tax benefit, disability
sorting out issues which have arisen
over these various claims;
liaising with his employer over statutory
writing to his creditors (although
this is now being done by his support worker); and
representing him in possession proceedings
brought by his housing association for £3,500 rent arrears
(he is paying his arrears under a suspended possession order)
It should be noted that our involvement with
this client will not stop if and when he obtains employment. He
will need assistance in claiming in-work benefits such as working
tax credit and housing/council tax benefit based on his income.
However, we cannot be confident how sustainable his employment
experience will be.
Our client has twice contacted us when he has
felt suicidal. On the first occasion about three months ago he
said he had taken an overdose. This situation is one of the very
few occasions where we can break client confidentiality, so we
alerted the ambulance service. On the second and more recent occasion
the adviser, who is not a trained counsellor, spent 20 minutes
on the telephone trying to dissuade him from his stated intention
to take an overdose.
Accessibility of DWP contact centres
The contact centres which are generating the
greatest level of concern for Hounslow residents are those utilised
by Jobcentre Plus. We have been a full JCP district since August
2004. JCP customers have had to make initial claims for key benefits
through the Pembroke Dock call centre in South Wales. Advisers
have had no accessdespite requeststo the scripts
used by call centre staff to establish where a breakdown of communication
in benefit claims could occur. For example, where a person is
making a claim for incapacity benefit but will also be eligible
for Income Support as well as or in place of incapacity benefit;,
there do not appear to be the prompts from the call centre staff
to ask the appropriate questions to facilitate the 1.5 claim as
well if that was not the presenting claim.
Customers are still experiencing long periods
from their initial call to the Contact Centre for either their
claim call backs and for their work focused interviews. Today
we spoke to a caller to our Unit who had called the Contact Centre
on l3 September and was being offered a call back to take the
claim on 27 September. They would still then have to suffer a
further delay for the work focused interview at the local Jobcentre.
We had extensive examples of delays when the contact centre started
operation last year but this is clearly still an operational issue.
Since late June all benefit processing
work was transferred to Glasgow from Hounslow and customers and
advisers now have to ring there to report changes of circumstances
or enquire about progress of a claim. There is a menu system in
operation for this which experienced advisers at national forums
had warned DWP were inappropriate for a significant proportion
of their customers. We are finding that either the main 0845 number
is busy and you get through to be told by an automated voice that
all lines are busy or you get through the main entry point and
then find that the menu option you choose is engaged and have
to start the process all over againat a high cost to claimants
who are on very low benefit rates, On Monday we took a call from
a local disability organisation to ask how one of their very unwell
service users could notify DWP that she had married and was no
longer entitled to her Income Support. She had found it impossible
to get through on the Glasgow number and had visited two local
Jobcentres so anxious was she to report this change in circumstances
only to be turned away at both Feltham and Hounslow and told she
had to call the unobtainable Glasgow number!
There are certain client groups for
whom the contact centres place a significant barrier to entitlement
in addition to the above. Clients who speak another community
language and cannot communicate at all or with legal confidence
in Englishover 120 languages at a conservative measurement
in Hounslowface enormous barriers in accessing contact
centres and are often asked if their children or a friend can
give their details for the claim to be processed rather than using
language line, Many of our poorest service users do not have landlines
but rely on mobile phonesthe cost to them of calling these
Centres if they are pay as you go is unacceptably high. Customers
with mental ill health, learningdisabilities and communication
impairments also find claiming benefits and reporting changes
over the phone very challenging or impossible. Not every vulnerable
person has access to a support worker or adviser and they can
just fall through the net and rely on family and friends when
unable to negotiate through these telephone systems for their
correct benefit entitlement. Our local Surestart brought one case
to us easier this year of an Arabic speaking family previously
supported by NASS who were assisted initially to make a telephone
claim but then had to move accommodation. They went for weeks
without their benefits whilst awaiting the processing as the local
Jobcentre having used language line for the initial interview
then just abandoned them to contact the local crisis loan direct
service by phone where it remains impossible to get through and
did not offer to get languageline to make this contact for them.
The reliance on phone systems and
old telephony at that for the Crisis Loan Direct service from
February 2004 has been the cause of many complaints to our service
from clients, residents and other local organisations. We have
written in detail twice to the District Manager raising our concerns
that people just cannot get through on the phone. We had to arrange
bypass systems using email to the local benefits managerclearly
not available to most JCP customers. We also had to ask for reassurance
that vulnerable customers were assisted by JCP staff and not just
turned away from the office and instructed to go home and phone.
Even when we move to a London wide system in 2006 with improved
telephony, there will be cost and access problems for especially
the most vulnerable customers as detailed above.
The Pension Centres seem to be much
more accessible to callers and do not use an inappropriate menu
system. They also offer to find information and call customers
Quality of services at call centres
In terms of the movement of benefit
processing to established centres such as Glasgow, advisers have
more confidence that staff there have a higher level of benefits
expertise than at the initial Pembroke Dock contact centre or
at the local Jobcentres where this has been the cause of concern
arising from our monitoring of casework. We have again written
to the District Manager highlighting examples of persistent poor
benefits knowledge/practice. We have also found that staff at
Makerfield have a better understanding of benefits. The level
of knowledge at Pension Centres was very poor initially but we
believe that this has improved (Dundee was our initial Pension
Centre and staff there displayed very poor benefits knowledge).
We remain concerned that there is
an appropriate interface between the various delivery arms of
the DWP and HMRC for tax credits both at Contact Centre level
and via IT systems.
Delivering the DWP business objectives
Stakeholders need to be actively
included in the work of the DWP on the ground as well as in national
forums. There needs to be enhanced communication and regular liaison
between the relevant contact/processing centres and local advice
agencies including localauthority strategic units such as ours.
We are creating our own corporate partnerships within our local
authority and within our casethe six local authorities
who make up the West London Alliance. If we are to meet the wider
obligations of regeneration, economic and business development,
joint work with the Pension Service and the PCT, then an efficient,
accountable and transparent DWP benefits service is essential.
If there is to be an increased flow of JCP customers from benefits
to work, then an efficient benefits system will provide a more
appropriate springboard for people to make this transition. We
need to have access to the management/key operational staff network
of the contact centres/processing centres/local caller offices
that serve the resident population. We do not even have the most
basic of contact directories for these services currently.
We are able to offer suggestions
as to how to make the contact centres effective for those able
to use these routes but also need to discuss the residual services
that will need to be in place at local JCP level to meet the needs
of those who cannot access adequately the telephone based future.
The contact centres need to be adequately staffedwhich
they are not currentlyand with staff who are far better
skilled in benefits knowledge including associated disability
benefits and tax credits. The remaining local Jobcentre staff
need to be appropriately knowledgeable about the benefits system
and to provide a service generally for those unable to use the
contact centres unassisted.
With the introduction of tax credits
and the reconfiguration of benefits delivery intoJobcentrePlus
especially, the Pension Service and the Disability and Carers
Service, the workload of advice agencies has increased and become
more complex. There are costs associated with this for the agencies
themselves and for the funding authorities.
These are brief comments on some of the issues
around the use of contact centres as a replacement for the holistic
benefit service which were provided prior to April 2003 and the
reconfiguration of benefit delivery services.
6 October 2005