Headlines: March 16th, 2001

The plan to merge the Benefits Agency – the benefit paying arm of the Department of Social Security – with Employment Services, the job agency of the Department for Education and Employment, will be put into action in October 2001. The new Working Age Agency will provide a single gateway to job hunting and welfare support.The plan puts into effect the principle of customer focus by providing all the services needed for a specific life event, in this case, loss of a job. Pensions, which are not concerned with job loss, will be dealt with by a new pensions organization. Leigh Lewis, Chief Executive of Employment Services, is Chief Executive Designate for the new agency. Alexis Cleveland, current Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, will become Head of Operations of the new pensions organization.

The merged services, under the banner of the Working Age Agency, will be provided initially at 50 locations. They have been chosen to give a mix of rural, urban and inner city areas so that plans can be fine-tuned in the light of experience.

The new agency will have a clear focus on helping everyone who can work do so while at the same time providing advice on benefits and support for those who need it.