William Eichler 27 January 2017

Proposed Jobcentre Plus reforms ‘significant missed opportunity’

Proposed Jobcentre Plus reforms ‘significant missed opportunity’ image

The Government’s proposals to merge Jobcentre Plus offices and benefit centres are ‘a significant missed opportunity’, say council chiefs.

The department for work and pensions today announced its plans to merge 78 Jobcentre Plus offices with larger ones nearby.

The DWP also said around 50 Jobcentre Plus offices will be co-located with councils or other community services to provide joined-up services.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) said these reforms do not go far enough and that ‘now is the time to devolve funding to councils and not Jobcentre Plus.’

With eight out of 10 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and 99.6% of applicants for Universal Credit submitting their claims online, there is less need for physical office space.

The DWP estate currently covers around 1.5 million square metres across the country and 300,000 square metres of this – 20% - is under-utilised and could be vacated.

Minister for employment Damian Hinds said impending contract renewals for many DWP buildings provided a good opportunity to update the infrastructure supporting welfare delivery - saving £180m in the process.

‘The way the world works has changed rapidly in the last 20 years and the welfare state needs to keep pace,’ he said.

‘As more people access their benefits through the internet many of our buildings are under-used. We are concentrating our resources on what we know best helps people into work.’

Responding to the DWP’s plans, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board Cllr Mark Hawthorne said: ‘With half of unemployed people receiving no support to help them back into work and the other half staying on benefits for longer, now is the time to devolve funding to councils and not Jobcentre Plus (JCP).’

Cllr Hawthorne argued the expiry of the JCP estate contracts should be a ‘huge opportunity to improve services and realise efficiences through the shared use of buildings.

‘Many jobseekers rely on other services, such as support with housing, childcare, health, debt management and health conditions, to overcome their barriers to work,’ he said.

‘The LGA has long argued that support can be delivered far more effectively by devolving and integrating services, and by DWP working effectively with other local partners.’

However, he argued the Government’s proposals would not achieve this.

‘We believe the Government’s proposals as set out are a significant missed opportunity, and urge it to consider how its proposals could result in more fundamental change, through increased co-location with other local services to improve services for jobseekers while at the same time making efficiency savings across its own JCP estates.’

For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Head of Looked After Children and Vulnerable Young People

Enfield London Borough Council
Up to £89,319
 This is an exciting opportunity to lead all the services that support Enfield’s children in care and care leavers. Enfield (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Enfield London Borough Council

Head of Communities

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
to £61,751 (pay award pending)
We are looking for an innovative and knowledgeable senior professional to join our leadership team with strong experience of working in communities... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Economic Development Officer (Town Centres)

North West Leicestershire District Council
Band F, £29,636 - £32,878 per annum
The Economic Development Officer (Town Centres) post forms part of the Council’s Business Focus team who provide help directly to businesses. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Educational Psychologist

Camden London Borough Council
£44,131 - £53,34
The ideal candidates will have an excellent understanding of psychological frameworks and their application in... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Economic Development Officer

North West Leicestershire District Council
Band F, £29,636 - £32,878
Are you interested in a challenge and want to help shape the future of North West Leicestershire? Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue