Almost £100,000 was paid to benefits claimants by Jobcentre Plus for failings in its service in the South Wales Valleys region – which includes Caerphilly and Bargoed.
The pay-outs, over the last two years, cover loss of benefit due to benefit errors, maladministration, delay, gross inconvenience and embarrassment and severe distress.
In the 2007-08 financial year the total paid out in the Valleys region was £44,618, in 2008-09 £40,078 and was £13,850 in the first six months of 2009-10.
Almost 200 people received payments for the service’s failings.
The figures have been revealed by Plaid Cymru’s Lindsay Whittle, leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council and Plaid’s general election candidate for Caerphilly.
In 2007-08 and 2008-09, according to Plaid, benefit entitlement was the top area of complaint in Wales, representing 32% of all complaints in 2007-08 and 35% in 2008-09.
According to Jobcentre Plus, the number of staff across Wales increased from 4,562 to 5,398, but unemployment claimants rose from 45,419 in January 2007 to 78,234 in October 2009.
Councillor Whittle said: “While there has been an increase in Jobcentre Plus staff, I understand that many of the new staff are employed on a fixed term basis. That is against a background of job cuts in the past and once the economy improves management are likely to make cuts again I have been told.
“Plaid has also been made aware of proposals within the Department of Work and Pensions to transfer staff out of job centres into call centres in an attempt to make the people deal with issues by telephone or the internet.
“Many people in the Caerphilly county area do not have access to the internet, so this development is not unacceptable.
“They are, in fact, de-skilling work and specialists in certain areas of work will be expected to deal with all types of queries. As in many call centres they will inevitably be expected to get people off the phone as quickly as possible.
“ I am concerned that any cuts in staff will not only lead to a loss of jobs but also an increase in claims against Jobcentre Plus.
“Management need to think carefully about the impact of any decision to reduce services that will affect the public.”