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11 Nov 2009 : Column 550W—continued

Crisis Loans

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many crisis loan decision makers were in post in each of the last 24 months; and if she will make a statement. [298853]

Helen Goodman: The information requested cannot be provided other than at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Billing

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of invoices from suppliers her Department paid within 10 days of receipt in (a) September and (b) October 2009. [299553]

Jim Knight: Latest information available for the last two months up to the 7 October is as follows:

10-day performance target







Departmental Freedom of Information

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff in her Department were employed on the management of freedom of information requests submitted to her Department in each year since 2005; and how much her Department spent on the management of such requests in each such year. [299133]

Jim Knight: Freedom of information within my Department is overseen by a central team consisting of four full-time staff dedicated to freedom of information (FoI). This team is supported by a network of business unit Focal Points who coordinate and allocate those requests for information that fall outside normal business and which are dealt with formally under the FoI Act. The FoI focal points are spread across all the Department's key business units and FoI is only part of their duties. It is not possible to disaggregate the time and cost incurred in discharging their FoI responsibilities.

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Neither does my Department hold information on costs of responding to individual FoI requests as this is an integral part of all staffs' responsibilities.

Departmental Official Cars

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost of provision of Government cars to special advisers in her Department was in the last 12 months. [299597]

Jim Knight: In the DWP, special advisers are not provided with an allocated Government car and driver. As with all civil servants, special advisers may use an official car or taxi in properly defined circumstances. Details of such use is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Telephone Services

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) average time to answer a
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call, (b) average waiting time for a client during a call, (c) percentage of calls dropped or not answered and (d) average length of a call was in a call centre run by her Department and each of its agencies in the latest period for which figures are available. [299338]

Jim Knight: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) operates through two main customer delivery businesses; Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service (PDCS). Figures are provided for the contact centres run by each of these businesses.

Jobcentre Plus contact centre directorate service lines


(a) Average speed of answer

1 minute 22 seconds

(b) Average inbound hold time

11 seconds

(c) Calls dropped/not answered (percentage)


(d) Average call length

6 minutes 34 seconds

Pension, Disability and Carers Service
PDCS call centre information: 1 April 2009 to date Helpline BEL CA Pensions

(a) Average time to answer a call

1 minute 32 seconds

31 seconds

1 minute 27 seconds

54 seconds

(b) Average waiting time for a client during a call

Information not available(1)

(c) Percentage of calls dropped or not answered (percentage)





(d) Average length of a call

3 minutes 11 seconds

1 minute 35 seconds

2 minutes 29 seconds

9 minutes 31 seconds

(1) To fully calculate the average waiting time for a customer during a call would properly include the time spent by customers who terminate their call before they are connected to an agent. The management information available to calculate this is only held locally and is insufficiently robust for the purposes of answering a Parliamentary Question.
1. Prior to a call being answered by an advisor, the customer is initially presented with a recorded message. Following the end of that message, the customer's call is then directed into a queue for answer. The average time to answer a call is calculated from the point that the call joins the queue for answer.
2. All timings are provided in minutes and seconds.
Pension data: Avaya and Opmis M1 systems.
Helpline/BEL/Carers data: Opmis M1 system.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether an assessment has been made of the level of failure demand in call centres run by her Department and each of its agencies. [299339]

Jim Knight: The Department makes regular assessments of the levels of avoidable contact, most recently through a survey conducted in February 2009. Results from the survey are shown in the following table.

Million per year

Total calls received Avoidable calls received

Jobcentre Plus



Pension Disability and Carer Service



Debt Management






1. Annual volumes are based on extrapolation from a sample survey taken in February 2009.
2. Figures exclude calls to Jobcentres as these are not run as call centres.
3. Avoidable contact is "contact that adds no value to the outcome. It includes contact that is nugatory, duplicative or caused by failures in business processes." Avoidable contacts can include wrong numbers, progress chasing calls and calls for clarification.

In line with the recommendations of Sir David Varney's report, Service Transformation, DWP has plans to reduce levels of avoidable contact by 50 per cent. by April 2011.

DirectGov: Publicity

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the advertising, public relations, publicity and marketing budget for DirectGov (a) was in 2007-08, (b) was in 2008-09 and (c) is in 2009-10. [290140]

Jim Knight: Expenditure for advertising, public relations, publicity and marketing was £2,908,737 in financial year 2007-08 and £7,481,309 in financial year 2008-09. The budget for financial year 2009-10 is £3,250,000, well under 0.1 per cent of departmental expenditure.

Elektron Instruments: Redundancy

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assistance her Department is giving to employees at risk of redundancy at Elektron Instruments Limited in Torquay. [298055]

Jim Knight: On 28 January 2009 Elektron Instruments notified Jobcentre Plus that they were planning to make 35 of their 136 employees in Torquay redundant. These were mainly semi-skilled print setters who had been with the company for a long time. They would be going
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in two 'waves', the first on 27 February 2009 and the second on 27 March 2009. This number was later reduced to 25.

We contacted the company the same day, and offered to give redundancy talks to those employees affected under the Rapid Response Scheme. The talks would cover an overview of how to claim benefit, the work we do with partner organisations and help jobseekers find work. They also signpost the Learning and Skills Council provision and make information and leaflets available. The aim is to help minimise some of the apprehension and prepare people for their first contact with Jobcentre Plus, especially if they have not claimed benefit for some time.

The Rapid Response Manager arranged to talk to 11 employees on 19 February 2009, supported by the Jobcentre Manager and a financial adviser.

We have established an excellent relationship with the company. They have been reducing gradually over the year, and they have contacted us each time they have been planning on making further reductions in staff to ask for the Rapid Response Scheme talks for the employees affected.

The company last contacted us on 26 October 2009 to notify that 12 more people had been put under notice. Our Rapid Response Scheme manager has arranged to talk to the outgoing employees on 18 November 2009.

Employment Schemes

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have been in receipt of a training allowance (a) in each year since 1997 and (b) in each month of the last two years. [297356]

Jim Knight: The figures are not collected centrally.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made towards fulfilling the guarantee that any person moving from welfare into work will be better off. [298654]

Jim Knight: The combination of the national minimum wage, tax credits, and the other forms of in-work support we have introduced ensures that work pays for the vast majority of people under the current tax and benefit systems. In particular, lone parents and disabled people have an income that is significantly higher in work than on the out-of-work benefits.

Parents living in rented accommodation who are moving into work are seeing a significantly increased gain to work as a result of changes introduced on 2 November 2009. From this date, child benefit, which had been treated as income in working out entitlement to housing benefit and council tax benefit has been fully disregarded. The effect has been to increase the gain to work for a family with one child by up to £17 per week.

In addition, for the last year, we have been piloting a Better Off in Work Credit. The aim of this credit was to reassure our customers that moving into work would be financially beneficial and to encourage them to look for and start work. The pilot ended on 30 October 2009. We are now evaluating the impact of this credit.

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Employment Schemes: Disabled

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of the clients who have participated in the (a) Project Search and (b) Getting a Life programmes have achieved sustained employment; what estimate she has made of the average cost to each programme of each such job outcome; and what plans her Department has for the future operation of each such programme. [295571]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 26 October 2009]: The Government are not currently operating Project Search. However, sites are in operation in Norwich, Leicester and Bath under individual agreements between each site and Project Search USA. We do not routinely collect any information on the costs or outcomes in any of these sites.

The launch of the learning disability employment strategy Valuing Employment Now on 24 June announced that the Government was inviting proposals from local partnerships interested in running Project Search and taking part in a Government evaluation of the model. We are currently selecting sites to run the model from September 2010.

Information on the number of people who have achieved sustainable employment through the Getting A Life programme is not yet available.

Getting A Life is planned to run until March 2011. The Government have commissioned an evaluation of the programme, which will compare employment outcomes for participants to a matched control group.

Employment: Autism

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent guidance has been issued to staff at Jobcentre Plus on assisting people diagnosed with autism into work; and if she will make a statement. [298151]

Jim Knight [holding answer 9 November 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive, Mel Groves. I have asked him to reply to the hon. member with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

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