Feeds

MPs slam employment agency IT

Systems at Jobcentre Plus 'slow and problematic'

High performance access to file storage

Poor IT is hampering efficiency at Jobcentre Plus, according to a Commons report.

A parliamentary watchdog has said staff at Jobcentre Plus are having to work with slow and problematic IT, which often does not have the basic functionality that would be expected in a modern office.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee found that many of the shortcomings in the IT system are simple but irritating for agency's jobs and benefits advisers: for example by requiring them to re-key identical information for every new customer, or by making it hard to print out the information they need.

In a report, the committee says although changing IT systems can be costly, given what the Department for Work and Pensions pays its supplier for IT support, it should press for simple improvements in order to help save on staff time.

Under the government's efficiency programme, 24 per cent of gains should come from greater productivity of staff. Improving the amount of time advisers spend with customers is a key element of helping Jobcentre Plus achieve its efficiency targets, says the committee.

Edward Leigh, chair of the committee, said: "It's up to Jobcentre Plus to give advisers the kind of working environment and support facilities - including an IT system - that makes life easier not harder - to enable them to increase their face-to-face time with customers.

"The more time advisers can spend getting people into work, the greater the contribution they can make to saving public money."

A spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents Jobcentre Plus staff, told GC News: "The whole of the efficiency review is underpinned by IT, but it is quite clear that at Jobcentre Plus it has not been doing that and in some instances it has made life worse."

The report also criticises the Jobcentre Plus Direct call centre service, the first point of contact for clients. Although the ability to conduct much of an initial claim for benefits over the telephone can simplify the process and help people in rural areas, it can also create problems.

Clients with mental health difficulties or who do not speak English as a first language can find it more difficult to deal with a contact centre, rather than speaking to an adviser face to face.

"We have always said that if the government was true to its word about delivering better public services, then there would be choice. At Jobcentre Plus that choice has been whittled down to only the telephone," the PCS said.

Earlier this year the committee reported on the poor performance of the contact centre and said that in some areas both advisers and clients complained of delays in booking interviews and errors which delayed the payment of benefits.

Jobcentre Plus said performance has now "substantially improved", due to a revised process for handling first contact claims for benefits and the completed roll out of a national 0800 freephone service for all customers in May.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Number crunching suggests Yahoo! US is worth less than nothing
China and Japan holdings worth more than entire company
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.