We welcome – with caution - the recommendation from the Work and Pensions Select Committee to reduce the 6 week wait for Universal Credit to 4 weeks.
However the flaws in the UC system are much more fundamental than just the waiting time issue.
- DWP should suspend the current Full Service roll-out immediately, halt the closure of jobcentres and ‘back of house’ offices, and retrain staff within those sites to perform UC work, while recruiting additional staff to UC. We support the calls for the suspension of further UC roll-out made by many MPs and organisations.
- PCS opposes many in-built aspects of UC including the six-week delay for first payment, and oppose charging for the phone line, which should be free. We continue to oppose the huge cuts to the overall welfare budget made by the current and previous government and believe that without investment, both in our social security system, and in the staff who deliver it, the serious problems being faced by both our members and those using the system will worsen. It is our sincere concern that the current roll-out schedule pushes staff into an intolerable situation, whilst at the same time undermining the service relied upon by the most vulnerable in society.
- At a time that DWP customers need help and guidance PCS believes the current office closure programme is fundamentally flawed. Currently PCS members in Sheffield are on all out strike against the closure of their office (Eastern Avenue) and PCS members in DWP Plymouth will take strike action on Monday 6 November against the closure of the Old Tree Court office.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka commented “Universal Credit remains a disaster because it is driven by the Tories’ political choice to cut public spending and to denigrate people who rely on social security support.
“The misery being inflicted by the government’s mishandling of this disastrous programme must be stopped and the full roll-out should be suspended immediately. The government’s arrogant refusal to listen to its own staff, experts, charities, those affected and even its own MPs shows their aim is not to help people but to cynically cut support from those who need it most.
“A review of the entire project – from its impact on claimants to systemic failings, IT problems and pressures on staff – is needed before any decision is made as to whether it is fit to continue. Cuts to DWP staff and resources must be reversed to give the department the means to develop a system that offers genuine help.
"This should begin with the immediate end to the office closure programme - PCS members in Sheffield and elsewhere are fighting to protect a decent local public service."