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Jobcentre Plus personal advisers provide an effective and highly valued service in helping people looking for work. There are over 9,000 personal advisers who conducted 10.8 million interviews last year with people looking for work. The feedback from those they help is positive and suggests they are an effective method of support in helping people find employment and preparing them for work, the National Audit Office today reported to Parliament.

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Customer research has shown personal advisers have a positive impact by raising customers’ confidence and equipping them with improved job-seeking skills. Independent research also suggests the use of personal advisers is associated with greater numbers leaving benefits.

However, the National Audit Office also found the effectiveness of personal advisers is reduced by the burden of paperwork, by interruptions and by people failing to keep appointments. As a result advisers spent only around 52% of their time interviewing people, a proportion that could be improved by changes to paperwork, improved administrative support and ensuring customers turn up to their appointments on time.

In 2005/06, 1.8 million appointments were missed when customers failed to turn up. This cost at least £16 million in wasted time and creates additional administrative duties and paperwork. The substantial paperwork is time consuming to complete and is compounded by the limitations of some of the IT systems which cannot print out forms with the necessary details. Interviews with customers are also interrupted by ad hoc queries from passing customers and general phone calls, both of which could be more efficiently handled by support staff.

The National Audit Office has also reported that Jobcentre Plus needs better data management as it currently operates with incomplete information on various aspects of its work, from how many personal advisers it employs to the exact cost of paperwork or late appointments.

“Overall my findings are encouraging. Personal advisers have proved themselves an effective means of supporting people on benefits looking for work and they are delivering a good service. But, as my report shows, the benefits could be even greater. Better support for personal advisers would allow them more time to do what they do best - actually sitting down with the people who need guidance.”

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO


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