Motion A21, carried by DWP Group Conference 2018, gave instructions to the GEC on the protections asked for by staff when making a UC claim while being in employment.
Previous estimates indicated 40% of DWP staff may be in receipt of a pre-UC benefit, such as tax credits, that will be moved over to UC as part of Managed Migration between 2018 and 2023.
GEC negotiators will meet regularly with DWP over Managed Migration; the last meeting happened on 12th July and this bulletin is a progress report. Further immediate concerns about confidentiality will be raised at a full meeting with UC Operations management on Tuesday 17th July, as these were not adequately addressed at the earlier meeting.
Concerns over confidentiality
A number of PCS members who have made or are in the process of making UC claims have been in touch to express concern about who would handle their claim. We have made clear to DWP that staff making claims would prefer that their claims were not dealt with by colleagues in the same office. UC management have been sympathetic to this concern, and it will be discussed again next week as a matter of urgency, with a view to finding an immediate fix.
Creation of a specialist team to process claims from DWP staff
In HMRC, where an employee claims tax credits, the case is marked as sensitive and is dealt with by a specialist team. This is what we have asked for in DWP; no decision has been made yet. Specialist teams would allow for targeted training to staff handling these claims, and would ensure confidentiality from the point of view of the processing of the claim.
Potential for work coaches to remotely manage claimants who are DWP staff
Claiming UC comes with conditions that did not previously apply to tax credits, including that claimants should “where reasonable” seek to increase their earnings. This means, as well as interacting with DWP to get the claim processed, staff who make a claim will also have to interact with work coaches. How this will happen is still being examined, but it is possible that it could be done remotely. The trial of work coaches working in Service Centres and handling their caseload of in-work claimants via the telephone seems to work well. However, this will be complicated if and when “in-work conditionality” is introduced – i.e. potential stoppage of benefits where a UC claimant who works is not felt to be meeting their claimant commitment.
PCS continues to oppose in-work conditionality at every opportunity.
The GEC acknowledges the demand of the PCS motion, that staff claiming UC be given the option of meeting in a Jobcentre or other venue of their choice; we welcome any views from branches in relation to the concept of remote handling of claims made by DWP staff. Any views can be fed back via Leeds@pcs.org.uk.
GEC negotiators have asked for an IT fix that would block staff accessing their own claim. UC Full Service uses a 16 digit identification number that no one could reasonably be expected to memorise. An IT fix would prevent accidental access, and we understand this exists currently in HMRC tax credits. We have also pressed UC management to engage with their policy team to get an insert into security guidance that references such a scenario, so that in any investigation members would have a clear route of defence.
Experiences of DWP staff claiming UC
If branches find that members are approaching them to express concerns about claiming UC while also being a DWP member of staff, or if members report bad experiences, please urgently let the GEC negotiators know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Conference notes that based on the numbers of staff in receipt of Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit there is the potential for anything up to 40% of staff to be claiming Universal Credit. As in Work claimants these DWP staff will be subject to in work conditionality along with other in-work claimants.
Current advice provided by DWP for staff finding themselves subject to this regime where they work for the department charged with delivering UC is woefully inadequate.
Conference instructs the incoming DWP GEC to:
- Demand that staff are offered the right to full confidentiality in respect of their UC claim
- Demand that they are given the option of demonstrating that they have met the conditions of their claim in a Jobcentre or other environment of their choice
- Demand that DWP sets up specialist teams, as has happened in HMRC, to handle their claims
- Demand that any time lost and expenses incurred by staff as claimants is fully recompensed.
- Demand that staff can opt out of dealing with the claims of other DWP staff