View from Westminster 10th February 2017

An announcement was made a couple of weeks ago regarding Kidderminster’s JobCentre Plus. Located in Lower Mill Street, it is due to be closed, and the services it provides relocated to the library in the town centre.

IN 2010, unemployment levels in Wyre Forest stood at around 2,500. Today, the number of unemployed is around 740. Clearly, for those still unemployed, the Job Centre is a vital resource, so whilst the demand on its services has clearly dropped significantly, its need is still there. But I was worried about the new location. However, much to my surprise, amongst those who work extensively with those needing help finding work, the new location is seen as a bright idea. The library has a number of facilities that complement the work of the JobCentre and so co-locating the two is sensible. Moreover, with budgets tight on council finances, sharing premises makes a huge amount of sense with two public services located in the same building. This will make the future of the library more secure.

Of course, welfare extends beyond simply finding people work and paying benefits. For many people living in social housing, and others, the extraordinary complexity of the benefits system can be daunting. Just coping with the endless forms and expectations can be a challenge.

Birchen Coppice school has come up with a plan to help their parents with tackling with these complexities. The school has got together with Vestia, the Wyre Forest social housing group, to put on surgeries to help tenants deal with problems. It makes a huge amount of sense. Schools provide a centre of community for many people and so, with large numbers of parents coming through their doors each day, it makes sense for schools to host wider services for forums for communities.

Birchen Coppice has always been a thought leader in an area where social housing is high, and crime levels are above the local average. Hosting housing and benefit surgeries, or a police house where people can drop by what becomes a familiar asset to report crimes, is an incredibly sensible idea.

Intelligent and imaginative thought about how to deliver public services and how to help individuals and families is welcome. Designing complex systems and then expecting people to understand them is an outdated way of delivering services. These two initiatives seem to make perfect sense.