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Mr. Jim Murphy: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of mystery shopper exercises at Jobcentre Plus. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Mystery Shopping is an established method, used by thousands of businesses across the UK, to provide an independent assessment of customer service. It is an important way in which Jobcentre Plus assesses the service it provides to customers, but it is not the only approach used. For example, the Average Actual Clearance Times target measures customer service in terms of benefit clearance times and Jobcentre Plus also conducts customer surveys and acts upon feedback received from individuals, partners and other stakeholders.
The Mystery Shopping programme is one part of the Customer Service Target, which measures performance against the Jobcentre Plus Service Standards. It includes measures of the quality of service provided in key face to face and telephone contacts. The timing of calls to sites is random and can be at any time during business hours so staff do not know when they may be visited or called. Results from the Mystery Shopping Programme are published on the Jobcentre Plus website.
The effectiveness of the Mystery Shopping Programme is regularly assessed within Jobcentre Plus and with the contracted supplier, GfK. The assessment process includes listening to telephone calls and carrying out a series of six accompanied visits per quarter with the independent assessors. This may result in changes to the wording of particular questions to increase clarity and understanding. In addition, when new programmes are introduced, or in response to customer or stakeholder feedback, new scenarios may be developed to test staff knowledge. As a result of these reviews the number and range of scenarios used by the independent assessors was gradually increased in 2006/07.
Results from the mystery shopping programme are used to identify areas for improvement and where further learning and development may be required, either nationally or in particular sites. In the first quarter of 2006/07 national Customer Service Target performance was 1.2 percentage points below profile and, to address this, a number of measures were put in place that had been identified by the Mystery Shopping process. These included the introduction of an A to Z guidance tool which provides information on the policies and programmes that customers (or mystery shoppers) may enquire about, which we expect our staff to understand.
It is still Jobcentre Plus' intention to provide feedback to sites at the earliest opportunity, via the supplier's (GfK) website. Feedback is an important part of mystery shopping as it helps staff and managers to understand where they need to do better in the service they provide dealing with customer enquiries. It enables Business Delivery Unit/District Performance Managers to identify local learning and development needs, or other remedial action, to ensure that the best possible service is maintained for all customers.
For 2007/08 further changes have been introduced to strengthen and improve the mystery element by further increasing the number and range of scenarios, varying the way the questions are asked and changing the way feedback is provided.
I hope this is helpful.
Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to reply to the letter of 26 February from the hon. Member for North East Milton Keynes' constituent Mr. R Taylor of Hadley Place, Milton Keynes. 
|Total number of visits||Total number of positive outcomes|
| Notes: 1. A positive outcome refers to applications for benefit that have resulted in a monetary award of benefit to the customer. 2. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.|
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimate is of the cost of providing compensation to members of pension schemes with a solvent employer who have lost pension savings at (a) financial assistance scheme levels and (b) pension protection fund levels in (i) cash terms and (ii) net present value terms. 
James Purnell: The total number of pension schemes with solvent employers which have commenced winding-up is not known, so we are unable to provide any estimates relating to members of such schemes, other than for those we are aware of with compromise agreements.
(a) (i) £570 million at Financial Assistance Scheme rates in cash terms.
(ii) £130 million at Financial Assistance Scheme rates in NPV terms.
(b)(i) £760 million at Pension Protection Fund levels in cash terms.
(ii) £180 million at Pension Protection Fund levels in NPV terms.
Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he has put in place to deal with the additional workload in his Department arising from women born in 1947 reaching pension age. 
James Purnell: Our workload volumes forecasts take account of published population projections, provided by the Government Actuary's Department, as well as the impact of current and planned policy initiatives, including state pension deferral and state pension reform. Any female population growth from 1947 will therefore be factored into our state pension and pension credit workload forecasts from 2007.
This information is then used to calculate and plan the resources required to administer forecast workloads. This, and other factors such as planned productivity improvements brought about through our transformation programme, will be factored into long term planning. Decisions about budgets and workforce deployment take into account affordability, value for money and the different priorities of our key customer groups. The process for ensuring sufficient resources are in place to handle any increase in workload is robust and staffing allocations are made to maintain a high standard of customer service.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimate is of the number of pension schemes in wind-up with a solvent employer which signed compromise agreements after 2005 which do not qualify for assistance from the Pensions Protection Fund or the financial assistance scheme as proposed to be amended by the Pensions Bill; and what his estimate is of the number of members in these schemes. 
James Purnell: Information on the number of compromise agreements entered into by trustees and employers after 2005 is unavailable. However, since 2005, employers that are considering entering into a compromise agreement with their pension scheme may obtain assurance in the form of a clearance statement from the Pensions Regulator that a contribution notice or financial support direction will not be issued later in respect of that agreement. In general terms the Regulator will not issue clearance statements where compromise agreements render schemes ineligible for the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many legal actions brought against local and central government authorities as a consequence
of accidents in (a) publicly administered space and (b) play areas in the last 12 months involved (i) under-18s and (ii) under-16s. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in relation to local and central Government. HSE brought one case against a local authority in 2006-07, as a consequence of accidents to persons under 16. There were no other cases involving under-18s.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many legal actions were brought against local and central Government authorities as a consequence of accidents in play areas in each year since 1997. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in relation to local and central Government. In the 10 years from 1997-2008 to 2006-07, it brought 16 cases against local authorities following accidents to persons under the age of 18 in playgrounds, sports areas, swimming pools, and public parks.
|Social fund community care grants|
|Average initial award|
|Social fund community care grants by region|
|Average initial award|
|Government office region||2005-06||2006-07|
Awards made after review are not included.
DWP Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact of the real terms reduction in the Social Fund Community Care Grant budget on the resettlement of homeless people. 
The Community Care Grant budget is now 41 per cent. higher in "cash terms" than in 2000-01 and represents an increase of 18 per cent. in real terms. It is available to meet the wide-ranging needs of all vulnerable groups, including the resettlement of homeless people.
Mrs. McGuire: On 30 March I signed this convention on behalf of the United Kingdom at a signature ceremony organised by the United Nations at its New York headquarters. A total of 92 countries, nearly half of all UN member states, have now signed the convention. The objective of the convention is to secure for the estimated 650 million disabled people around the world their human rights on an equal basis with non-disabled people. Our signature of the convention signifies the UK's strong support for human rights at home and abroad and our intention to ratify the convention without undue delay.