Headlines: November 28th, 2003

Jobcentre Plus is to improve its links with local authorities in response to a report from the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, which focused on the relationship with councils on the administration of Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, and counter-fraud activity.The BFI found there had been some improvement in this area since an inspection by the former Benefits Agency in 2001. It noted, though, that Jobcentre Plus needed to do more to secure the benefits system from fraud and mistakes.

Particular improvements highlighted in the report include the recruitment of Regional Fraud and Programme Protection Managers to work closely with local authorities, and the successful rollout of electronic transfer of data systems, as both local authorities and Jobcentre Plus reported that this had a positive impact on their relationship.

Specific areas identified for improvement included training staff in liaison duties and ensuring that joint working with local authorities was given due prominence in business plans. It also called for better management information at a national level on joint working performance. The report found there was variation in performance with some Jobcentre Plus offices making greater effort than others in their relationships with local councils.

Jobcentre Plus has developed an action plan for dealing with the BFI’s recommendations and Chief Executive, David Anderson, is establishing a steering group, chaired jointly with the BFI and involving local authorities, to oversee progress.