DWP has announced its plans for extending operating hours from May 2020.
The proposals are confused and offer no consistency of approach. Some sites plan to be operating every evening to 8pm and/or every Saturday. Other sites will only be extending hours on one or two days per week or only one Saturday in four. Most sites will not be extending at all.
This muddled approach confirms what PCS has been telling the department for months, namely that there is no significant customer demand for DWP extending its operating hours. The department appears to be motivated to be seen to be doing something on operating hours, irrespective of the actual levels of customer demand.
The department has provided no coherent rationale to justify its proposals. For example the Universal Credit service centre in Buchanan, Glasgow is to open two evenings per week, while the UC service centre at Stockton is to open 5 evenings per week, yet the UC service centres at Blackpool and Basildon are to open every Saturday, but not evenings. Inbound telephony lines will continue to close at 6pm.
Job Centre Proposals
The lack of clear rationale is equally absent in the proposals for job centres. Around 15 job centres are extending their hours. Some for five evenings per week, some for one or two evenings per week and some on Saturdays only.
Only two of the job centres currently opening on Saturdays (Dudley and Poplar) are to continue opening on Saturdays. Another is to move from Saturday opening to opening two evenings per week (Oldham). But the other job centres who have been working on Saturdays are to stop Saturday working. Incredibly one of the reasons management gave for reversing these extensions was lack of customer demand.
In Pensions where operating hours have been extended at Swansea management now want to extend evening at Burnley, despite all the evidence showing there not enough demand to justify Swansea being open in the evenings, let alone Burnley as well.
DRT are to extend operating hours one evening per week at Atlantic Quay but, at Ravenhurst and Stockton, operating hours will be extended every evening and every Saturday. Again no clear reason has been provided for this inconsistent approach.
CFCD are to extend one evening per week for four weeks out of every five, rotating this between four locations, doing outbound interventions only. This approach will spread the load more evenly and management say they already have volunteers to cover this.
While PCS welcomes the fact that most offices will still see no extension of operating hours in May 2020, we have to condemn these proposals. They are unnecessary and will not provide a better service to customers. By making staff work evenings and Saturdays means there will be fewer staff at work during the day, when customer demand is at its highest. It will lead to more missed calls which in turn will lead to more repeat calls, increasing everyone’s workload for no benefit.
PCS will be pressing management to introduce tentpoles for extended hours at as low a level as possible to reflect the lack of genuine business need for extending hours. PCS will also be demanding that full risk assessments are completed and signed off by the local health and safety reps before sites proceed to actually extend their hours.