The Department for Work and Pensions has hit its target of recruiting 4,500 additional work coaches as part of a programme to double the number of staff tasked with helping people find work by the end of the financial year.
It said the recruits had now accepted their job offers and would be joined by “thousands more” following a further hiring drive that is set to launch later this month.
Employment minister Mims Davies said the new staff would help people looking for work to get the support they needed, whether they were looking for their first job, their next opportunity or a change of tack from a “struggling” sector.
“Work coaches are at the forefront of our national recovery and will be there for jobseekers striving to get back on their feet,” she said.
“From setting young people up with their first jobs to helping others retrain and find fresh opportunity in new industries, their support will help drive Britain’s recovery.”
Last month the National Audit Office said DWP’s recruitment plans would reverse almost a decade of declining headcount at the department in fewer than 12 months. DWP's full-time-equivalent headcount in 2019-20 was 72,186, the public-spending watchdog said.
But the recruitment drive comes against a backdrop of an Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that joblessness could rise to 13.2% next year, which would broadly equate to about 4m people out of work.
As part of its departmental overview report last month, the NAO warned that fraud and error at DWP was likely to “increase significantly” as a result of the easements introduced for benefit claimants and the use of “some inexperienced staff” to process new claims in recent months.
The NAO said that in 2019-20 DWP estimated it had overpaid £4.6 bn of benefits, 2.4% of all benefit expenditure, and underpaid £2bn of claimants’ entitlements, 1.1% of all benefit expenditure.
“This is the highest-ever recorded level of fraud and error in DWP’s benefits,” it noted.
The comptroller and auditor general has qualified DWP’s accounts every year since 1988-89 due to material levels of fraud and error.