HC Deb 16 May 1996 vol 277 cc561-2W
Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Social Security Agency customers in receipt of unemployment benefit or income support in Northern Ireland currently sign on by post by reason of the distance of their place of residence from their local social security office; how many of these will be required to sign on and be interviewed in person after the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance at each social security office in Northern Ireland; if they will be provided with a travel warrant to cover the cost of a return journey between their place of residence and their local social security office; and how many additional client adviser posts will be created in each social security office to advise and help job seekers. [29143]

Mr. Moss

Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Alec Wylie. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Alec Wylie to Mr. Roy Beggs, dated 15 May 1996:

I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary question on Jobseeker's Allowance.

There are 20,781 customers in receipt of Unemployment Benefit or Income Support in Northern Ireland who currently sign on by post because of the distance of their place of residence from their local Social Security Office. Some 10,000 of these customers will be required to sign in person and be interviewed when Jobseeker's Allowance is introduced on 7 October 1996. After this date the criteria for postal signing will be revised whereby the jobseeker's journey from home to office or return would have to exceed one hour or their attendance would have to result in an overall absence from home (due to the infrequency of public transport) in excess of four hours. Any jobseeker who has a physical or mental disability which restricts their mobility would also be able to sign by post.

As is the case for all other jobseekers required to attend their local social security office on a regular basis, there will be no provision to meet the cost of travel. Travel expenses are only paid when a jobseeker has been requested to attend their local social security office on a day other than their signing day.

The staffing complement in the local Social Security Offices is presently being considered but it is estimated that the existing client adviser complement will be increased by 114 posts.

I hope this explains the position for you but I would be happy to provide any further information you require.