I was recently invited to visit Northampton Jobcentre Plus, where I met many local staff.
We discussed how people are helped into work at a time when employment is at its highest level since the early 1970s. The staff at the Jobcentre Plus were friendly, professional and hardworking, and are clearly committed to securing the best outcomes possible for their clients. I heard from staff about how they feel benefits are working in practice and their views on Universal Credit, as well as several different schemes that the Job Centre is planning to support people back into work.
I was struck with how the staff of the JobCentre, who are the ones who administer Universal Credit, have a positive impression of it. It was repeatedly mentioned that Universal Credit is far simpler to engage with than its predecessor and is far more successful at helping people back into work.
The Jobcentre Plus is part of the Department of Work and Pensions. Services are provided via in-house or telephone job-advisors, and customers can obtain vacancy information through the Universal Jobmatch. Several external support schemes are also available for people of all ages 16+, and staff at the Jobcentre are happy to talk clients through them if needed.
I have in the past run several major Jobs Fairs in Northampton, at which we connected many local people with new employment opportunities.
As of November 2019, there was 3.2% unemployment in Northampton North – about the same as the then-national average of 3.1%.
Average weekly pay for employees in Great Britain has increased by 3.4% excluding bonuses in the three months to November 2019 compared with the previous year.