PCS has held discussions with Universal Credit management including People Survey Results, management structures, the impact of the recent budget announcements and festive leave plans.
People Survey Results
The GEC has reviewed the data from the People Survey. Unfortunately the way the data has been presented makes it difficult to be clear what the issues are in Universal Credit. This is because the hierarchy has been built to reflect a future management structure not the structure of the organisation at the time the survey was taken. Until the management structure is better developed PCS will be looking at the Area Directorate survey results at a national level.
PCS is very keen to engage with Universal Credit management particularly in order to address the concerns expressed by members working in the Service Centres about the levels of stress they are experiencing.
Superficially the results would back the reports of high levels of stress as virtually every Service Centre has responded negatively to the statement in the survey “I have an acceptable workload”. This is a clear indication that members support PCS’s claim the Universal Credit Service Centres are need more staff. The GEC will ask for further analysis of the data affecting members working in Universal Credit with a view to addressing the concerns that members continue to raise with us and that are evident from the survey results.
The survey results are presented in the format of the new Area Directorate Structure. There are 4 Area Directorates: Scotland, North of England, central England and Wales, and Southern England and London and the home counties. Directors have been appointed to manage all of the Service Centres located within these areas and all the associated jobcentres. The aspiration is to have as many Service Centres as possible dealing with the Jobcentres in their geographical vicinities with the exception of London and parts of Southern England where Service Centre activity will be delivered from more geographical disparate areas such as Northern Ireland and the Bolton. The structure below this is still developing. A trade union side structure will be convened that reflects the management hierarchy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the budget that new claims to Universal Credit Live Service will end at the end of December and in addition the rollout of jobcentres to Full Service will dramatically slow down from 50 to 10 between now and June at which point the rollout is due to ramp up again. This means that significant numbers of claimants that were not planned for will be claiming JSA, ESA and IS during this period. As a consequence staffing numbers will have to be reviewed for both Working Age Benefits and Universal Credit. PCS has asked for a meeting at the earliest opportunity to discuss how the budget changes will impact on staffing across all areas of DWP.
Training for Universal Credit Full Service
Many members have contacted the GEC with issues regarding the belief that they are expected to give up part time working patterns in order to undertake training for Universal Credit Full Service. The PCS Universal Credit negotiating team confirmed with senior managers in UC that full time learning would be encouraged where it was possible but that there was no desire to pressurise or force part time staff into full time working patterns whilst undertaking training. In most situations solutions should be available for part time staff to undertake training and maintain their working patterns if they have to.
Additionally concerns have been expressed about the training schedule over the peak leave months of August and September. PCS have been clear that training commitments should be minimised during this period as the pressure brought on the staff left operating jobcentres at these times could become unacceptable.
Universal Credit plans for managing staffing levels during the festive period have been shared with PCS. We welcome the steps taken to manage business continuity over this period and we are committed to ensuring that claimants receive the service they need. The festive plans include 54 additional staff from the Surge Team, offers of overtime, support from jobcentre staff, offer of extra hours for Twilight Shift workers, communications time over the three week festive period being for essential communications only e.g. replacing team meetings and reading time with short buzz meetings as necessary. Trade Union Duties will be deemed as essential.
We are also clear that assumed consent and access to flexible working has not been suspended during the festive period and it would not be in the gift of local managers to do so. There should be no repercussions for members who choose to use assumed consent over this period. Any suspension of assumed consent should be notified to firstname.lastname@example.org