1 Understanding the performance of
1. The Department is responsible for the management
of jobcentres, which provide critical support to the unemployed,
including those on Jobseeker's Allowance. In 2011-12, nearly 37,000
jobcentre staff across 740 jobcentres supported a caseload of
some five million people at a cost of £1.4 billion. In 2011-12,
jobcentres helped around 3.6 million jobseekers set up new claims
for Jobseeker's Allowance and helped 3.5 million people to leave
2. At the start of the economic downturn the
number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants increased from 0.9 million
in September 2008 to 1.5 million in March 2009.
Jobcentres responded to the increased demand for their services
by prioritising activities to check eligibility for benefits and
referring more people to other sources of support. The number
of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has remained broadly
constant at around 1.5 million since March 2009.
3. The Department monitors the performance of
jobcentres by measuring the rate at which people stop claiming
benefits rather than the number of people who find employment.
Between 250,000 and 300,000 people end their claims for Jobseeker's
Allowance each month, but in around 40% of cases individuals will
reclaim benefit within 6 months, with 60% reclaiming within 2
years. The Department told us that in 40% of cases it does not
collect data on those that find work as opposed to simply the
number who stop claiming benefits. It also told us that employment
was not the only objective of the Jobseeker's Allowance regime
and its purpose was also to cut the benefits bill by reducing
the number of people who are dependent on benefits.
In addition, the Department told us that it chose to monitor the
number of people leaving benefits rather than track job destinations
because it is less expensive to administer.
4. The Department said it did not feel disadvantaged
by not having information of the destinations of all leavers and
that its administrative data is supplemented by periodic surveys
on the destination of claimants.
However, Universal Credit will only be fully implemented by 2017
at the earliest. The Department told us that under Universal Credit
it will have much quicker access and more readily available information
about the destinations of some of its claimants. To calculate
Universal Credit payments the Department will have real-time income
information from HM Revenue and Customs on the number of people
that move into work.
5. We were concerned that the Department's emphasis
on simply counting the number of people leaving benefits does
not necessarily help cut the benefit bill as many who stop claiming
benefit reclaim within a short space of time. Around 60% of claimants
that started claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in 2011-12 had also
claimed in the past two years
and 40% of leavers re-registered for benefits within six months.
The Department does not consider the level of people reclaiming
benefits to be material to the performance of jobcentres because
it considered that the figure reflected the dynamism of the labour
market rather than jobcentre performance.
Without this information, however, the Department is unable to
identify where it may need to take a different approach to its
services, for example training or other support, to stop people
from having to reclaim.
6. The Department's own research identified a
link between the time jobcentres' advisers spend with a claimant
and how many people stop claiming, but the caseloads of advisers
within jobcentres vary greatly across the country. The number
of claimants an adviser deals with can vary by 30% even in areas
with similar unemployment and job markets. For example, Merseyside
had 155 cases per adviser in contrast to 196 in Durham and Tees
Valley. The Department
considers these variances to be attributable to different labour
markets and told us that districts were resourced according to
the number of claims that they deal with, with local managers
deciding the staffing mix in their jobcentres. In some offices,
the assistant adviser undertakes the administrative work for interviews
with claimants, so the personal adviser can do more interviews
a day. In other officesin Wessex, for examplethe
district manager concentrates their budget on personal advisers,
so they have to do more administrative tasks and fewer advisory
interviews a day.
7. The Department is increasing the flexibility
given to jobcentre district managers to adapt the services they
provide to claimants to meet local need. It operated a 'dragon's
den forum' until it was closed down because it was found to be
slowing implementation of flexibilities and discouraged sharing
of ideas, and is now running pilots across the country to assess
the impact of increased flexibility in jobcentres. The NAO report,
however, found that staff shared good practice through informal
networks within their existing jobcentre districts rather than
more distant offices.
The Department told us that the introduction of local flexibilities
is a big change for the organisation and it is working to ensure
that information is shared both locally and nationally.
2 C&AG's Report, para 1, 3 Back
C&AG's Report, para 4 Back
Qq 67, 70; C&AG's Report, figure 19 Back
Q 30 Back
Qq 30, 36 Back
Q 38 Back
Qq 36, 39 Back
Qq 41-42 Back
Q 58 Back
C&AG's Report, Sustainable employment: supporting people
to stay in work and advance, Session 2007-08, HC 32 Back
Qq 54,56, 61 Back
Q 61 Back
Q 102 Back
Qq 100, 102-107 Back
Q 92 Back
Qq 92, 143 Back