Over the next year there will be transformational changes to DWP services. As well as Universal Credit and other changes to the benefit system we will see the introduction of Universal Job Match. A significant modernisation of employment services this will enable employers to upload vacancies directly onto the database. It will also provide a free matching service based on the jobseeker’s online CV. Internet access will be required to take advantage of this, which is why some steps are being taken to provide access to customers at the jobcentre.
Despite this project running for more than a year it is only as roll-out approaches that proper trade union consultation has started. It is already clear that there are some important unanswered questions around the involvement of Monster.com and whether internet access can really be improved for customers in jobcentres when the network is being cut. It is unclear how DWP can deliver its legal obligation to ensure employer compliance with the requirements for advertising vacancies. While there is an assurance that the changes will not involve the privatisation of any job roles there is currently insufficient information available for PCS to verify this.
The union will immediately challenge any transfer of work to support the public employment service into the private sector. Another area of concern is how mandatory account registration and mandatory job applications will work. As stress is being put on jobseeker compliance and benefit sanctions there will be even more stressful claimant interactions to be assessed and managed.
There are also pilot projects underway to change the way participants of the Work Programme sign on each fortnight although this remains a legal requirement for receipt of JSA. Sam Hall, group assistant secretary, commented: “These pilots often referred to as ‘Drop and go’ reduce the contact the claimants have with the jobcentre. After adverse TV coverage like the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme this may not be a good idea.”
Levels of service to the public are also under threat from downgrading of work on the front line. The trialling of Band B customer service managers continues in Greater Manchester and Cheshire district. Helen Flanagan, group vice-president, said: “We will stop any further roll-out pending a full evaluation. The move to downgrade the CSM role is clearly about cost cutting and puts staff and members of the public at greater more risk.”
Splitting the advisory interviews at the start of a claim to reduce the Band C content of the work is also a big step back in customer service. Along with the downgrading of decision making such as on failed to attend cases it is just about making cuts. PCS will look very carefully at the risk assessments of these new roles and take action to protect the job content and the safety of members on the front line in ,obcentres.
PCS industrial officer, Miranda Harr, said: “The union has secured a commitment from management nationally that local reps are entitled to proper consultation with district management teams on the introduction of these changes. Any breakdown in this arrangement should be raised with DWP group office.”