The group executive committee (GEC) was contacted by a number of members and reps regarding the Universal Credit Hub Key Update issued on 6 April 2020. The instructions contained in this update, which related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) contingency processes, stated that all agents (Work Coaches and Case Managers) could verify Identification verification, clear payment blockers and prepare / accept commitments.
The Case Manager members that contacted the GEC rightly pointed out that Identification verification and the preparation and accepting of commitments is a duty carried out by Work Coaches in Jobcentres. As a result, PCS wrote to senior DWP management requesting that all Case Managers carrying out this work are given Temporary Duties Allowance (TDA) for as long as this arrangement continues. As there was no response to our letter from the employer, PCS took the opportunity to raise it with them at a meeting on 23 April 2020. Senior DWP responded by stating that there had been some confusion over this issue and that verifying claimant identification could be done by a Case Manager (AO) and a Work Coach (EO) as there is no subjectivity in this work and it is entirely formulaic. Regarding claimant commitment work, senior DWP management advised that this had been superseded by new instructions issued on 17 April 2020 with all generated commitments now automated.
Hopefully this response from management addresses the concerns raised by Case Manager members. If this is not the case, then please contact your local PCS rep in the first instance or email email@example.com
Front of House Grading
The GEC have been continuing to raise the issue of Jobcentre members working out of grade. Front of House members may recall that PCS have been raising this issue for some time. This includes the EO overbearing issue, which is due to the lack of AO’s in some Jobcentres, and AO’s being asked to do the work of Work Coaches. As previously reported in bulletins for Jobcentre members, PCS have been left frustrated as this issue has dragged on for some time. Particularly as we wrote to the employer on 12 February 2019 identifying five areas of work that were being carried out by AO members in Jobcentres which we stated were Work Coach duties. These areas of work are:
- Initial Evidence Interviews
- Further Evidence Interviews
- Habitual Residence Test
- Prepare commitment activity
- Discuss and pay advances
These five areas of work had not been properly addressed by the employer in all of the meetings and correspondence since PCS wrote to management 14 months ago. Despite this, senior Universal Credit management provided a document entitled, “Flexible Framework”. This document called on Jobcentres to be flexible in their approaches and choose the options which best suit the size and grade mix of the office. The document stated that, “We are aware that sites have differing grade mixes. In some offices AO functions may have to be undertaken by EO’s. This framework does not suggest that AO’s should be doing EO work”. It was clear that this was not happening across the country as this issue was raised at PCS pay meetings in October last year and in the PCS Front of House members survey. As a result, PCS informed the employer at a meeting on 30 October 2019 that as job roles in Jobcentres had become blurred that a Jobs Evaluation and Grading Support (JEGS) exercise was required for the AO grade. Senior Universal Credit management advised that they would consider their options regarding this request.
As part of trying to resolve our concerns, PCS met with management on 21 January 2020 at which we discussed the proposed Assisted Services Officer (AO) and Assisted Services Coach (EO) job roles as they advised that they wanted to refresh most of the job roles. Senior management advised that they were drafting specific guidance on Front of House grading which would hopefully provide some clarity on the issues we have been raising since February 2019. PCS have yet to receive this guidance and reminded Work and Health senior management of such at a meeting on 26 February 2020. However, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has meant that DWP are fully concentrating on this emergency and as such there have been no meetings on operational issues since the outbreak. PCS has requested that engagement on operational issues are reinstated as soon as possible in order that we can address issues grading in Jobcentres and other important issues across DWP. PCS will continue to make the case that AO members working are paid the correct rate for the job that they are carrying out.