Conclusions and recommendations |
1. The number of people who stop claiming
benefits is a flawed measure of jobcentres' effectiveness.
The Department measures performance by the number of people that
stop claiming benefits. In 40% of cases Jobcentres do not know
whether those who have stopped claiming benefits have actually
found work, whether it is temporary or permanent, or whether they
have left the benefit system for another reason. Around 40% of
people reclaim benefits within six months and around 60% reclaim
within 2 years. The Department should identify which indicators
it will use to ensure it has a full understanding of the performance
of jobcentres under Universal Credit and the destination of claimants,
and use this information to better understand whether its interventions
are delivering a long-term reduction in the number claiming benefits.
2. There is a risk that sanctions unfairly
penalise the most vulnerable claimants and are applied inconsistently.
Enquiries about sanctions to the Citizens Advice rose by 45% from
October to December 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.
Many enquiries were from vulnerable people, including those with
learning difficulties, who found it difficult to understand their
jobseeker obligations and why the sanctions had been imposed.
Advisers do not always warn claimants that they may be sanctioned
and the Department acknowledged that it can be difficult to impose
sanctions consistently. The Department should give claimants written
warning that they may be sanctioned and should monitor and publish
the rate of sanctions by claimant group and jobcentre.
3. Jobcentres have increased flexibility to
take local need into account, but the Department does not yet
know enough about what works and why.
For example, caseloads per personal adviser vary between jobcentres
by up to 30%. The Department has identified links between the
time advisers spend with claimants and how many people stop claiming,
but is doing limited evaluation of what works in different circumstances
and does not have robust measures of value for money. The Department
should gather information on how different jobcentres are managing
caseloads and play a stronger role in identifying, evaluating
and disseminating good practice.
4. We are concerned that increased flexibility
for jobcentres may leave greater scope for 'parking' harder-to-help
claimants such as those with disabilities.
We were surprised to hear that there are fewer disability employment
advisers than jobcentres, with 522 advisers covering the 740 jobcentres.
The Department's own evaluation of jobcentre services found that
Employment and Support Allowance claimants do not get the same
level of support as Jobseeker's Allowance claimants. The Department
should review its ability to support disabled claimants, particularly
in light of low outcomes for these groups on the Work Programme,
and it should follow up in future evaluation work to test more
rigorously whether 'parking' of claimants is occurring.
- Technology can improve the services available
to jobseekers, but some claimants will struggle with online access
and need more support from third parties.
Online services such as uploading CVs to Universal Jobmatch can
make job searches easier for claimants, and the Department has
added 2,000 new internet access devices in jobcentres. But some
people will need help to manage claims and job searches online,
and this is likely to increase the burden on third parties, such
as libraries and Citizens Adviceat a time when council
and third party welfare services are under pressure. The Department
should ensure that there is sufficient support in place to assist
vulnerable claimants. It should also include an assessment of
the burden on third party advisers in helping people online as
part of its monitoring of online take-up under Universal Credit
and predecessors such as Jobseeker's Allowance Online.