The DWP has recruited nearly 3,000 extra Jobcentre staff to help the growing number of unemployed get back to work, yet none have come from inside the Department, which itself faces job losses, Personnel Today has learned.
Last November, James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, announced plans to recruit an extra 6,000 frontline workers to meet a surge in demand at the country’s Jobcentre Plus’, since the recession has taken hold. Purnell also halted plans to close 25 Jobcentres this year.
The past two months has seen DWP embark on a hiring blitz, recruiting 2,700 new staff for customer-facing job centres roles across the country.
Yet all of the staff recruited so far have come from outside the 104,000-strong Department. While this may be good news for the economy in the short-term as it has created jobs, early last year DWP announced it would need to axe some 12,000 workers by 2011 to make efficiency savings.
In an interview with Personnel Today, Chris Last, HR director at the DWP, said there could be some scope to move staff from roles that were no longer needed into frontline services.
“What we can do, is where we make operational efficiencies [at the DWP] we can have more people working in the front line in the jobcentres and delivery centres,” Last said.
He did not know how many DWP staff could transfer to the front-line jobcentre roles immediately, or exactly when this could happen, and now there are only half of 6,000 new jobs left to fill.
“It will depend on how effectively and quickly we can make the operational delivery efficiencies in other parts of the business,” he said.
In February 2008, the DWP announced plans to cut 12,000 more jobs on top of the 30,000 redundancies already made since 2005.
Last said: “We will have to continue making efficiencies in the other parts of the business, I don’t know if that [will make up the] 12,000 or not because I don’t know what the growth in the front line is.”
Meanwhile, the DWP is preparing for a three-fold increase in the number of people expected to be jobless for more than 12 months this year.
In a letter to bidders for the government’s flagship £1.2bn welfare-to-work programme, officials admitted providers would have to revise their tenders for the contracts to cover as many as 300,000 long-term unemployed.
A spokesman at the DWP said: “Given the global economic downturn, it is important that we ask providers to plan for a range of eventualities – including worst case scenarios. We are determined to offer real help to find a job for people who have been out of work for longer, which is why we will continue to make sure the flexible New Deal works.”