PCS calls for jobcentre closures in 8 areas affected by Indian variant of Covid

26 May 2021

A new B.1.617.2 strain of Covid commonly referred to as the “Indian variant” has been found to be prevalent in eight local authorities.

They are Burnley, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. 

PCS representatives have called for all jobcentres in those areas to be closed and that claimants are serviced remotely and online, as they were when Covid-19 first hit the country.  

However, DWP bosses have rejected the suggestion, despite “stricter guidance” for people in those 8 affected areas appearing on a government website on Friday.  

Confusion has reigned this week with local leaders expressing dismay at not being informed, only for Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey yesterday to tell media outlets that the new guidance should not come as a shock.  

The government has rushed to clarify that no new local lockdowns have been implemented and would be issuing new guidance shortly.  

It will include urging people to meet outdoors rather than indoors, staying two metres apart from people not in the same household, and minimising travel in and out of the area. 

PCS members in DWP working in the eight affected areas are angry that their concerns are not being taken seriously when the updated guidance calls for people to meet outdoors and to maintain a two metre distance.  

General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It cannot be right that our members are being put in harm's way once again, even though new government guidance says people from different households should not meet indoors. 
 
“DWP staff deal with a range of claimants who travel in from across the wider region so asking them to travel to jobcentres for appointments contradicts the government’s own advice,  

“This is just the latest example of incompetent ministers showing scant regard for the safety of their own staff who could provide a first-class service to claimants by working from home.” 

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