Government’s spending watchdog has said that Job Centre staff have coped well in the face of economic downturn

Tim Lezard

Job Centre Plus-2The government’s spending watchdog has said that Job Centre staff have coped well in the face of the economic downturn.

The National Audit Office said the number of people Jobseeker’s Allowance rose rapidly in the six months after the 2008 credit crunch, increasing by two-thirds, from 0.9m to 1.5m.

However, the NAO also found that only 68% of people coming off benefits go into work and it says the Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] has yet to decide how to adapt to the planned introduction of Universal Credit, which merges out-of-work and in-work benefits.

The PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We welcome the praise for DWP staff, which shows the value of employment services being publicly run by experienced and professional staff, in stark contrast to the failures of the privatised work programme.

“It is shocking that almost a third of people coming off benefits are not going into work.

“We believe the government’s more aggressive regime is driving people to sign off rather than face sanctions, meaning they are less likely to get the help they need.

“The government’s own research shows that jobcentre staff are most effective at finding jobs for the long-term unemployed.”

Officials say the union also supports the NAO’s conclusion that allowing too much flexibility for local managers to decide how to organise services leads to variations that both disadvantages people who are seeking work and fails to provide value for money for taxpayers.

According to the NAO report, published this morning, the DWP needs to ‘broaden its evaluation of new approaches and improve performance measures’ if greater local flexibility is to lead to better services.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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