A telling fact came out in answer to a parliamentary question from John Leech MP the other day. He asked Caroline Flint, Minister for Employment, how many Job Centre Plus staff had been sacked for not turning up to work in the last year.
Whilst it would have been safe to assume there would be at least a few - every organisation gets bad apples once in a while - I don't think anyone could have predicted the real answer: 497.
That is a lot. If you consider that these people's profession was to advise people on how to both get and keep jobs, it is quite worrying. If you then take into account that in the public sector it is more difficult to get the sack than in the private sector, it appears that JobCentre Plus have a serious problem on their hands.
Not only is it worrying for JCP, it is also less than satisfactory for jobseekers and the taxpayer.
If there are so many job advisers who can't even turn up to work enough to keep their own job, how on earth are the unemployed people they are supposed to assist meant to manage it? That is damaging to the prospects of jobseekers, damaging to their dependents and damaging to wider society. The individual and social harm done by long-term benefit dependency is well-documented, so it is in all our interests for this service to be as effective as possible.
Not only does the taxpayer foot the bill for those who remain on unemployment benefit, this shocking figure also represent an added recruitment bill. In 2006-07, JBC recruited 2,770 people. That means that 18% of all new recruits to JobCentres were replacements for the ineffective staff who had been fired - recruits with all the attendant costs of advertising and training.
Yet again, it seems the mismanagement of our services is letting down the taxpayer and those the services are meant to help.