Auditors impressed with job finder agency

29-11-2006

Auditors impressed with job finder agency
The government's welfare to work agency has succeeded in lowering the number of people applying for jobseekers allowance by getting them into employment, a policy watchdog today said.

Today's report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on Jobcentre Plus says that micromanagement from individual personal advisers had provided an "effective and highly-valued" service for people seeking full-time work.

Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), employs more than 9,000 advisers who conducted 10.8 million interviews over the last 12 months.

The NAO's report is largely based upon positive feedback from consumers, who said that one-on-one sessions made them more confident about finding work, as well as giving them specific job seeking skills.

But auditors warn that the effectiveness of personal advisers was being hindered by the burden of excessive paperwork, with employees spending 52 per cent of their time interviewing people.

In addition, the NAO says that £16 million was wasted through 1.8 million missed appointments in the last year, while interviewers themselves are often needlessly interrupted by general queries and phone calls that would be better handled by dedicated support staff.

Speaking today, Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, emphasised that the overall findings of the report were "encouraging".

"Personal advisers have proved themselves an effective means of supporting people on benefits looking for work and they are delivering a good service. But, as my report shows, the benefits could be even greater," he said.

"Better support for personal advisers would allow them more time to do what they do best - actually sitting down with the people who need guidance."

The DWP today said that the NAO report was "welcome recognition" of the role advisers had played in driving UK employment levels to record highs.

A spokesperson went on to say: "The report highlights that nine million customers did attend their interviews, however we are doing more to ensure we cut the number of missed appointments.

"We are also cutting paperwork by providing dedicated administrative support for advisers, leaving them free to concentrate on helping our customers back into work."


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