The Group Executive Committee (GEC) recently met with managers from Disability Services and DRT (DSDRD). This bulletin updates members on progress in negotiations.
Staffing and Resources
Senior DSDRD management advised that they were in an undersupply position which was mainly due to the DLA to PIP conversion and the High Court decision in January 2018 which has resulted in a review of 1.6 million PIP assessments. The DWP were criticised in the judgment of blatantly discriminating against people with mental distress. DSDRD have now concluded recruitment for the DLA to PIP conversion. Senior management are reviewing the resource that will be necessary for the PIP Review (LEAP) work once the work has been done to make sure that the appropriate guidance is prepared as well as consulting with mental health experts. The GEC negotiators made it clear that we did not believe that the DSDRD recruitment plans for 450 would be sufficient to deal with both areas of extra work as well as being able to maintain the day to day work in the directorate. However, since that meeting senior DSDRD management have advised that Fixed Term Appointment (FTA) staff will exit DWP Operations in line with current contract and dates. Potentially there will be some exceptions where DWP Operations anticipate the need to retain FTAs to deal with demand across certain product areas. This uncertainty is not helpful to those members involved and as a result the GEC will continue to make the case that the not only should all FTAs be retained, but they should be made permanent.
Senior DWP managers have been doing a lot of work to recognise the levels of work related stress with the recent Wellness survey. The survey results show that more than half of staff had work related stress in the past 12 months. Senior Operations management deciding to reduce the number of staff by not keeping on the FTAs is only going to exacerbate this situation and increase the pressure on our members. GEC negotiators will continue to demand increases to staffing levels to reduce the pressure on our members and will use the detail of the survey results with DSDRD management. The PCS campaign for more staff has never been so important as now and we encourage members to get involved in the union and any events being organised locally.
The pilot stage has now ended with Strategy and Policy due to carry out a formal evaluation in late summer. The GEC negotiators raised our concern that the Fixed Term Appointment staff contracts are due to end in November 2018. This concern was shared by senior DSDRD management who advised the situation would be reviewed in the summer. Clearly the situation for those members is one of great uncertainty given the experience that has been gained and the fact that if they are not given contract extensions it will have a knock on effect to the staff who will be left to carry out this important piece of work. Once again, the GEC made the case that not only should contracts be extended but these staff should be made permanent.
The GEC negotiators also raised the issue of PIP Presenting Officers being asked to carry out administration duties including photocopying. This added function has been causing concern for PIP Presenting Officer members given that this could mean between 100-200 pages having to be photocopied with the officer attending around 12 hearings per week. This development has caused unnecessary pressure on our PIP Presenting Officer members and must be addressed. Senior DSDRD management advised that they will review this situation. All the duties that members are expected to do should be considered when planning the number of hearings that they can attend. The time that must be taken to do admin duties will eat into the time that is available to attend hearings. Any members who do not have the full range of their duties taken into account should raise this with their local PCS reps.
The GEC were advised of a productivity spreadsheet being introduced in some offices including Watford for DRT staff. This was a tool imposed on members which measured individual staff performance daily. The GEC negotiators raised this issue at the meeting and expressed our opposition to this development. It goes completely against the work being done on team targets which recognises the variations in time needed for the work with the differing complexity of work. Senior DSDRD management advised that this should not have happened and would ensure this tool was removed. As much as this assurance from management is welcome, members should be vigilant that there are no repeat of this. If this issue has not been resolved and members are still subject to completing a productivity spreadsheet then please raise with your local PCS reps who can escalate to the GEC negotiators.
Access to Work
Access to Work became part of DSDRD in October last year after transferring from Work Services Directorate. Senior DSDRD management advised that they were satisfied that Access to Work is operating well. Access to Work has now seen the introduction of NGCC and warm handovers. If there are any issues arising from the introduction of these or any other problems, members working in Access to Work should contact their local PCS reps who can escalate any issues that cannot be resolved locally.