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|Executive Agency overview|
|Preceding Executive Agency|
|Dissolved||4 October 2011|
|Headquarters||Leeds, United Kingdom|
|Parent department||Department for Work and Pensions|
Jobcentre Plus (Welsh: Canolfan byd Gwaith; Scottish Gaelic: Ionad Obrach is Eile) is the part of the Department for Work and Pensions which delivers working-age support service in the United Kingdom.
From 2002 to 2011, it was an executive agency which reported directly to the Minister of State for Employment. It was formed by the amalgamation of two agencies, the Employment Service, which operated Jobcentres, and the Benefits Agency, which ran social security offices.
Role of Jobcentre Plus
Jobcentre Plus was an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions of the government of the United Kingdom between 2002 and 2011. The functions of Jobcentre Plus were subsequently provided directly through the Department for Work and Pensions. The agency provided services primarily to those attempting to find employment and to those requiring the issuing of a financial provision due to, in the first case, lack of employment, of an allowance to assist with the living costs and expenditure intrinsic to the effort to achieve employment, or in all other cases the provision of social-security benefit as the result of a person without an income from employment due to illness-incapacity including drug addiction. The organisation acts from within the government's agenda for community and social welfare. Job vacancies advertised for employers within each of the public offices use a computer system called the Labour Market System (LMS). A new government website named Universal Jobmatch has recently been launched whereby jobseekers can search for employment and employers can upload and manage their own vacancies whilst searching for prospective employees.
Services are provided in the first instance via in-house job-advisors and advisors contacted via telephony. Customers are able to access vacancy information through the Universal Jobmatch. Claims may be made for working-age benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or the new Universal Credit.
The forerunners of the Jobcentre Plus were the state-run Labour Exchanges, originally the vision of Winston Churchill, President of the Board of Trade and William Beveridge, who had worked for a more efficient labour system in the early years of the twentieth century. This was intended to address the chaos of the labour market and the problems of casual employment. This was followed by 'Jobcentre' with its orange signage in the mid-1970s and the re-branded 'Employment Service Jobcentre' with dark blue signage from 1994-2002.
In 1908 Beveridge was commissioned to devise a scheme which would combine labour exchanges with a new government-funded unemployment benefit. The Labour Exchanges Act 1909 was rushed through Parliament and was passed in September 1909 and, after months of planning and recruitment of clerks; 62 Labour Exchanges were opened on 1 February 1910. The number of offices rose to 430 within four years. At the suggestion of the Prime Minister David Lloyd George, from January 1917, the Labour Exchanges came under the new Ministry of Labour and were renamed Employment Exchanges; so as to more accurately reflect their purpose and function.
The National Insurance Act was passed in 1911 and the first payments were made at Exchanges in January 1913. Initially this covered only elected trades, such as building, engineering and shipbuilding. Weekly contributions were paid by workers, employers and the state in the form of stamps which were affixed to an Unemployment Book (later called the National Insurance card). When no work was available, benefit was payable.
The basic rules and administration regarding claims and the disallowance of benefit remain unaltered today. From 1918, payments were also made to unemployed ex-soldiers and their dependants, as well as to civilians who found themselves unemployed due to the decline of war production industries. The out-of-work donation scheme (the original "dole") was originally only a temporary measure.
As unemployment benefit was payable only for those with a contributions record, and even then for only twelve months for each claim, there remained a group on long-term low incomes, without access to benefit. That was relieved after the enactment of the National Assistance Act 1948, when payments began to be made to jobseekers on low incomes regardless of contributions.
Initially, benefits were paid weekly in cash, at the Employment Exchange. From 1973, the-then Department of Employment began to open a new network of Jobcentres that advertised Jobs but did not process benefits. During this time, claimants were required to make claims and 'sign on' at separate Unemployment Benefit Offices. With the introduction of the Employment Service in the mid-1990s, the Unemployment Benefit Offices were integrated into Jobcentres. From the 1970s, benefits were paid in the form of girocheque until the early-2000s when payments would be made directly to the claimants bank account.
The first 56 Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder offices were brought into existence during October 2001.
As part of the Efficiency Savings Programme of 2004, changes were made to the structure and management of Jobcentre Plus as part of the governmental review headed by Sir Peter Gershon and Sir Michael Lyons to increase departmental efficiency amounting to £960,000,000; a target considered achievable in the period 2007-08. This initial plan was implemented within the Jobcentre structure as the Delivering our Vision Programme. Between 2005-08, directors of the board were to be reduced in number from eight to six, the number of districts from seventy to fifty, the number of management and support staff employed were reduced by 5% and, amongst other things, the number of locations specifically employed to process claims would be reduced from 650 to 77. 
According to figures obtained by the Work and Pensions select committee during 2005–2006, the number of employees within the organisation amounted to 71,000. The amount of money released by the Department for Work and Pensions to people in work-related benefit amounted to £100 million.
The 2000 Makinson Report, written by John Makinson, led to the introduction of a team-based incentive scheme, created in order to improve staff efficiency. The scheme takes as a measure of this efficiency for the allocation of bonuses for teams meeting specific targets (known as a performance related pay-system) the relative successes in each team of the factors :
- of a rating by point-system based on criteria of the priority of each person to have been guided back into work (Job entry)
- the relative results of assessment of customer Service
- the specifics of whether the vacancy was filled at all, and if so, then the time taken for the advertised employment to be met (a measure of the satisfaction of the employer (Employer Outcome)
- the delivery of service professionally and with regards to the effectiveness (accuracy) of the entire organisation as a business targets (Business Delivery)
- a measure of the cost of levels of error by staff and customers, and of the reduction of fraud by customers.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the total number of jobseekers in May 2012 was 1,590,708.
Changes to the service
Jobsearch facilities are available to anyone via the Universal Jobmatch website - the UK's most visited recruitment website with over a million visitors each week. Jobcentre Plus also offered services to employers and employment agencies, who can register their vacancies online through the online service or by calling Employer Direct. Vacancies are available immediately online.
Alongside these changes, Jobcentre Plus has also changed the way in which claims to benefits are processed. In the past, claimants contacted their local benefits office, were asked to manually complete the appropriate forms, and then booked an interview with an adviser in order to discuss work related issues (as appropriate) and submit the benefits claim for processing. The new system instead asks individuals to call a Jobcentre Plus call centre, where claim details are taken over the phone and entered directly to the computer system by the call agent. From summer 2012 new claimants with Internet access are strongly encouraged to make their claim online, interview details are then sent to the claimant by text message. Customers are then asked to attend an interview at their local jobcentre to discuss work issues with an adviser, and finalise their claim, provide relevant signatures and proof of ID and address.
In addition, the actual processing of claims to benefits is also changing, with benefits claims being processed at a smaller number of larger Benefit Centres rather than local benefit offices and jobcentres.
During 2003 the DWP commenced the use of Post Office accounts for the payment of benefits, a process fully operational at the beginning of the financial year in 2005. The accounts are licensed and the electronic benefits transfer banking engine are provided by the company JP Morgan Europe. Prior to these services the banking facility were provided by Citibank. As of 2012, the payment system for benefits is being streamlined, and all payments will now be made into bank, building society or Post Office accounts, and the use of Girocheques will be phased out by early 2013.
In 2012 the DWP announced a "trailblazer" scheme under which all new job seekers on Merseyside would be required to claim benefits online rather than in person at a Jobcentre Plus branch. This announcement was met with concern by Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger as well as chiefs at the Public and Commercial Services union and a member of Liverpool Council's cabinet. This was a partial pilot scheme for one part of the new Universal Credit benefit which it is intended will, in time, replace Income-based jobseekers Allowance, Income-based Employment Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit. The changeover is scheduled to commence in October 2013 and be complete by October 2017. Incapacity Benefit is being phased out and replaced by Employment Support Allowance.
The Work Programme was introduced in 2011 and is mandatory for all jobseekers from 9 months onwards. Unlike the previous New Deal scheme which offered the choices of: training, help in setting up a business, unpaid work placement in a field appropriate to the jobseeker, the work program requires that jobseekers must take unpaid work experience in a discount shop or similar big business retail. This has led to much controversy regarding the inflexibility and lack of choices in the scheme.
From 19 October 2012 all claimants applying for Jobseekers Allowance are expected to look for work online, using the new Universal Jobmatch, an online system accessible from the government portal and powered by Monster.com, either at their local Jobcentre or from their home computer. Those jobseekers who do not possess the necessary computer skills will be offered IT training. jobseekers are expected to use 30 hours of their own time per week searching for jobs, on top of the mandatory Work Programme, or take part in community service.
The Jobcentre Plus service (and its forerunners the Social Security office, Unemployment Benefit office and Jobcentre/Labour Exchange) have featured in all forms of popular culture, often depicted in a general way to suggest poverty or unemployment. In the 1980s in particular, the Social Security office was frequently used as shorthand for the British recession.
Dramatic representations have included the sitcoms Hancock's Half Hour, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Shelley, George and Mildred, Bread, Rab C. Nesbitt, the drama series Boys from the Blackstuff and the films Hot Enough for June, Made in Britain, The Full Monty and I, Daniel Blake.
In the black comedy series The League of Gentlemen, a recurring character is Pauline Campbell-Jones (played by Steve Pemberton), the demented leader of a Restart course for a group of unemployed people.
The ITV sitcom The Job Lot starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Hadland is set in a busy West Midlands job centre. The series is produced by Big Talk Productions and written by Claire Downes, Stuart Lane and Ian Jarvis.
British reggae band UB40 is named after the paper form with the same name (Unemployment Benefit, form 40) that was used to apply for unemployment benefit.
Winding-up of Jobcentre Plus
Jobcentre Plus as an executive agency ceased to exist as of 4 October 2011. Services offered by Jobcentre Plus are now offered directly by the Department for Work and Pensions. Although the Jobcentre Plus corporate brand remains in place at the present time, it functions just as a public brand of the Department rather than a separate entity.
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- Marc Waddington (9 November 2012). "Fears of Merseyside job centre chaos over switch to online job seekers claims only". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
- Lucian Berger (9 November 2012). "Online Jobcentre move a major concern". lucianaberger.com. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
- Love on the Dole on IMDb
- "Government announces organisational changes to Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service". Department for Work and Pensions. 12 September 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
- BBC report into the Work and Pensions Select Committee report into job cuts and poor services at Jobcentre Plus
- March 2006 Select Committee report into Efficiency Savings Programme in Jobcentre Plus
- Written and Oral evidence submitted to the Work and Pensions Select Committee into the failure of the Efficiency Savings Programme in Jobcentre Plus
- Varney Report (Pre Budget 2006) - transforming the delivery of public services. The review looks at how the channels through which services are delivered can be made more efficient and responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses.
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