April 29, 2009 12:00 AM

Today, the Welsh Liberal Democrats warned that the Government cutbacks in the Welsh Jobcentre Plus network has left the system at risk of being overwhelmed by the rising number of dole claimants.

The warning came off the back of new figures, contained in Parliamentary Questions from Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, showing that:

• Since 2002, 48 out of 111 Welsh Jobcentre Plus offices have closed -43% of all Welsh Jobcentre Plus offices.

• For every Jobcentre Plus in Wales, there are 1,190 JSA claimants - up 159% since 2002.

• For every Personal Adviser, there are 144 Jobseekers - up 75% since last year.

• There are 3,641 outstanding backlogged Jobseeker Allowance claims - up 176% in a year.

• Based on future claimant count predictions, by 2010 there will be 1,726 Jobseekers per Jobcentre and 209 for every Personal Adviser.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"The government has Wales with a thread bare and desperately overstretched Jobcentre network that is starting to buckle at the knees.

"Since 2002, nearly half of all the Welsh Jobcentres have been closed. As a result, jobseekers often have to travel long distances to get to their nearest jobcentre, and often only to find a huge queue when they finally get there.

"What's more, each Jobcentre personal adviser is supporting a massive 144 dole claimants back into work. The idea that they have the time to offer tailored support and training is ridiculous. This is only going to get worse as unemployment is expected to rocket over the next year.

"The government promises that people who lose their job will get the very best support available. But this is simply not possible with such a stripped down Jobcentre network and hard-working Jobcentre staff are being pushed to the absolute limit.

"Guaranteeing training and work experience for people who lose their job during the recession is the right approach, but it's no good offering it after they have been on the dole for an entire year. People need to know that when they walk into their Jobcentre, the support is available from day one.

"The Government must prioritise reopening Welsh Jobcentres and training up more skilled frontline staff. Otherwise new Welsh jobseekers won't get the tailored help they need to avoid long-term unemployment."

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