§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will take steps to ensure that the introduction of positive outcome targets for staff conducting restart interviews will not result in individual claimants being forced off programmes or benefits.
§ Miss Widdecombe
Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from M. E. G. Fogden to Mr. Jim Cunningham, dated 21 February 1995:The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about whether the introduction of positive outcome targets for my 161W people conducting advisory interviews will result in clients being forced off programmes or benefits.It may help if I explain that one of the main tasks of our local Jobcentres is to advise unemployed people in the best possible way and help them to find a job, or appropriate training, as soon as possible. This is done by having regular interviews, where the client is able to discuss their situation with an adviser, consider the options available and agree a course of action which, if taken, will offer the best prospects of finding a job.As part of our objective to offer unemployed people, particularly the longer term unemployed and others at a disadvantage in the labour market, we offer help and advice in finding work or appropriate training. Since April 1994 we have had targets for positive outcomes from advisory interviews. We aim for a positive outcome of 50‥ of those clients invited to a 12 month advisory interview and 35‥ of those invited to a 24 month interview. These targets reaffirm our commitment to interviews which are effective in meeting the needs of each individual.Far from encouraging our people to force clients off programmes or benefits, the targets reinforce the importance we place on ensuring we provide positive advice helping people back to work. This is the message that the guidance we give our people in delivering advisory interviews is designed to reinforce.I hope this is helpful and assures you of our intent to provide unemployed people with practical advice and information which is geared to their individual requirements.