Feeds

MPs slam employment agency IT

Systems at Jobcentre Plus 'slow and problematic'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.