HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc89-90W
Mr. Swayne

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that Jobcentre Plus services are available throughout rural areas. [73983]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

We understand the difficulties that people living in rural areas can face, both in securing employment and gaining access to our services. We are therefore developing new ways of making Jobcentre Plus services more accessible to such people, for example byproviding a single point of access to jobs and benefits providing access to jobs through call centres, touch screen 'Jobpoints' in a wider range of locations, and the internet enabling people to make claims for benefit by telephone, and eventually through other channels such as the internet extending outreach services such as local community surgeries making services available through mobile units delivering services from premises shared with our partners in the local community, for example local authorities

We have introduced new services which should be particularly useful for Jobcentre Plus customers in rural areas. "Jobseeker Direct"—on 0845 6060234—is a telephone jobfinding service available to both unemployed and employed people. They can also look for jobs and learning opportunities on the internet, through two websites www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk and www.worktrain.gov.uk.

The integrated Jobcentre Plus offices which we will be extending throughout Great Britain over the next four years will offer a significantly enhanced telephone service that will improve access to services for those who do not live near a Jobcentre Plus office. Each Jobcentre Plus office will have a dedicated telephone contact centre open from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm. Customers will be able to make their initial claim to benefit through this service and book appointments with Personal Advisers.