|The Principal of Dundee College opens
the National Convention on Youth Employment
The suggestion by Danny Alexander MP that public buildings such as libraries should be considered for use as outreach services for Jobcentre Plus appears to me to make a whole lot of sense. (See http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/Library-39outreach39-proposal-for-Jobcentres.4840598.jp to read the story in today’s Scotsman).
He points out that there is no reason that Jobcentre Plus services cannot be provided in places such as community centres and council buildings.
The 2004 Government Spending Review announced an efficiency savings programme which planned to reduce the numbers of Jobcentre Plus staff by around 14 per cent and lead to dramatic changes in the way Jobcentre Plus delivered its services
The new standard operating model for claiming benefits introduced the telephone as the main route for applying for and contacting Jobcentre Plus about benefit claims. Benefit processing was centralised into a smaller number of large processing centres, resulting in reduced face to face service for claimants in local offices. Citizens Advice’s evidence on the new system for claiming benefits from Jobcentre Plus said,
“The most vulnerable claimants, homeless people and those with mental health, learning or other disabilities have suffered the worst as local office support has decreased and alternatives to phone contact have been refused.” (See http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/evidence_reports/er_benefitsandtaxcredits/er_not_getting_through to view the full report).
Although, in November, the government decided to abandon plans to close more Jobcentre Plus offices, the “outreach” proposal would help to plug gaps in the Jobcentre Plus network – it should be remembered that the ‘rationalisation programme’ was handled in a haphazard ill-conceived fashion.
In my view, consideration should also be given to having some Jobcentre Plus services and advice surgeries at suitable local Post Offices. During the unsuccessful campaign to try to save four Dundee Post Offices last year, many of us made the point that having additional services at local Post Offices would help secure their future. Having some Jobcentre Plus services at sub post offices would not only achieve this, but would also make job centre services more readily available and plug some of the gaps in the service.