A trailblazing partnership between leading local employer, Hastings Direct, and coastal JobCentre Plus offices was this week given a warm welcome in Parliament by local MPs, Amber Rudd and Huw Merriman. The MPs were speaking in Parliament during Ms Rudd’s first outing at the dispatch box since her promotion back to Government as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
The novel partnership sees the wellbeing team at Hastings Direct host staff from the local JobCentre Plus in order to advise employees of their rights to obtain working benefits and increase their earnings. It is believed to be the first in the country where a JobCentre Plus team have been invited to hold surgeries with staff in the offices of an employer.
Speaking in Parliament, and hailing the scheme ‘as a signpost, to help people into the benefits structure and increase their earnings’, Mr Merriman said “I welcome my neighbour back to the Front Bench. The Secretary of State will be well aware of Hastings Direct, a company that employs her constituents and mine. Will she pay credit to that company for holding a universal credit surgery with our JobCentre Plus teams, which has helped people to find more access to benefits? One couple with a young child found that they were entitled to an extra £600 per month.”
In response, Ms Rudd said “I thank my Honourable Friend and neighbour for raising the important work that Hastings Direct has done. It is a really good example of a public-private partnership making sure that the benefits of universal credit are set out for employers in an environment in which the employer and the employed can work closely together to get the best outcome.”
Speaking after the exchange, Mr Merriman said “I am really pleased to see Amber back in office. Having visited local JobCentre Plus offices and employers with her over the years, and having worked in this department myself for twelve months, I know she will help more people to find work and access benefits they are entitled to. It is heartening that our local partners are pioneering an approach which could be rolled out across the party.”