In 2016 there was a lot of speculation that there was no future for AOs working in jobcentres because there was no role for them in Universal Credit. PCS argued that the department should not have exited so many AOs and was clear that there was plenty of important work that should be delivered by AOs in Jobcentres and that was not going to go away.
After the exit schemes had completed it became apparent that in many offices there were no longer sufficient numbers of AOs to conduct all of the AO work such as the FA role, HRT appointments, finance duties, covering the AJCS diary among many other activities. As the work was still there but the grade mix no longer reflected the nature of the work it was left to EOs and occasionally HEOs to deliver this work.
The changes introduced by Universal Credit and in particular full service were meant to reduce the AO work but it has become apparent that this is not the case. In fact quite the opposite is true with the verification work that is now necessary under UC Full Service. There was meant to be a technological solution for the verification work enabling claimants to verify on line, but like so much of what has been promised by UC this has failed to materialise.
All this is happening in the context of the current recruitment freeze across the whole of DWP operations. It is clear in jobcentres, particularly where UC FS has rolled out, there is not enough staff of any grade to deliver a decent service to claimants. The freeze has resulted in individual members being left in limbo following success in promotions exercises and others who are unable to follow their partner who has changed jobs to move to a different area where the department has an obvious shortage of staff. PCS is therefore demanding that the department drops the freeze in recruitment in order that all arms of DWP oOperations. As part of that general call for additional staff we will be calling for the shortage of AOs in jobcentres to be addressed.