§ 52. Ms. Abbott
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he intends to take to provide the staffing and resources to bring the service at the benefit office in Arcola street, Hackney, up to average levels; and if he will visit the office to see the conditions which staff and claimants experience.
§ Mr. Portillo
Staffing levels in social security local offices are determined by an agreed complementing system which is designed to match staffing with work loads. The staffing allocation for Stoke Newington office, at Arcola street, Hackney, has increased significantly over the past two years, as follows:
Number 1985–86 117.0 1986–87 135.0 1987–88 141.5
As at 1 November there were 147 trained staff in post and seven staff under training. There is currently an overcrowding problem but this will be addressed in planning the implementation of the forthcoming com-puterisation of the assessment and payment of benefits.
Increases in trained staff and a strengthened management team have contributed to a marked improvement in levels of service at the office in recent months. Levels of service are generally satisfactory and stand comparison now with those of other London offices.
£50,000 was spent in March 1986 on improving the facilities for supplementary benefit callers. Further improvements to the caller areas, for which a total of £24,000 has been allocated, are currently being planned and should be completed by April 1988.
My noble Friend, the Earl of Arran, hopes to visit the office shortly.