Following consultation with PCS, DWP have negotiated a BAME Risk Assessment which should be carried out for every member of staff who identifies as Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic.
The COVID 19 pandemic has brought many challenges for DWP staff and the GEC has been raising our members’ concerns at every opportunity. Thousands have benefitted from the protections we have won with the guidance on schools, vulnerable citizens, and the travel time policy, and we have been pressing DWP to build in the same level of protection for our Black members since figures came to light of the disproportionate numbers of Black workers dying from COVID-related conditions.
In early April we saw worrying reports from Chicago that 70 percent of those that had died from COVID related illness were of African heritage; it was later reported in the UK that COVID disproportionately impacts the Black community with South Asian people also passing away in very high numbers. The GEC immediately flagged this with DWP demanding protections for our Black members.
DWP rebutted PCS’ concerns stating that there was no clear evidence that physiology was a factor and that evidence in fact leaned toward socio-economic deficit causing the high proportion of deaths. The employer was not minded to make any decisions regarding Black staff, they were awaiting Cabinet Office guidance following the outcome of the Public Health England ‘BAME Covid’ inquiry. PCS demanded that internal research be undertaken to establish the numbers of Black colleagues that have taken time off due to COVID 19, and a Risk Assessment be carried out to ascertain the COVID related concerns of our Black members.
By mid-April it was confirmed by the UK Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre that 34 percent of more than 4,800 critically-ill patients with COVID 19 identified as BAME. PCS demanded and attended a bespoke meeting with DWP to assess the risk to our members raising as evidence there the sad passing of Belly Mujinga - six weeks later we saw the passing of Trevor Belle – who had died from COVID related conditions having been spat at by members of the public. After these determined representations from the GEC, DWP agreed to work with PCS to assess and mitigate the risk to our members.
The DWP BAME Risk Assessment has now been created; it was welcome to hear that DWP have paid due regard to the concerns PCS have raised and although having received Cabinet Office guidance which covers all equality strands, have retained the agreed stand-alone BAME format.
Every member that identifies as BAME should now make use of this process. It has been agreed that all Black members that have already had a one-to-one meeting to discuss their concerns, will revisit the discussion using the BAME Risk Assessment.
No Agreed Jobcentre Front Facing Risk Assessment (JCFRA) - use the tools in the PCS box!
As DWP have now made what PCS believe is a premature move to extend Jobcentre services, the GEC is striving to ensure you are equipped with the guidance you need to protect your health and wellbeing. In the absence of an agreed JCFRA members should read all PCS briefings on the DWP group web pages.
DWP have advised that many Black staff are already working front of house and have raised no concerns with line managers. PCS have advised that our members are raising their concerns with their union. It is important that management are aware of every issue that affects you at work, and using the BAME Risk Assessment is your opportunity to record how the COVID pandemic personally affects you, to allow any risk to your health and wellbeing to be mitigated.
If you have any concerns, please first speak to your local rep for advice and guidance, and if not resolved there, please raise your issue to DWP group office in Leeds at email@example.com
If you are aware of colleagues who are not yet members of PCS, please advise them of the work the union is doing to protect the workforce, and ask them to sign up for membership via the PCS website.
There has never been a more important time to be part of the PCS collective.