Four days of successful strike action have already been taken in Wolverhampton and Walsall, and other sites are still in discussion with members around the union's demands. The indications are that no concessions have been made locally on the five key demands.
- 5,000 new staff, permanency for our fixed term staff
- Limit the number of phone calls per case manager
- Limit the size of the national telephony hub; no to contact centres, yes to service centres.
- Improve consultation – no changes to our offices without union agreement.
- Quality-focused approach – no more management by statistic.
PCS have made clear that movement on these reasonable demands is critical if we are to see a settlement of this dispute. Our members have continued to push for improvements in working practices and extra staff because they know without both, the service to already struggling claimants will continue to be badly affected. Our members want to provide a good service for those who find themselves out of work or in low paid jobs and forced to claim this discredited and often vilified benefit. Unless the employer listens to those at the sharp end of the implementation, PCS will continue to consult our members and support any calls for action they make.
Staff as claimants
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.
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.
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. 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.
At our meeting with the employer on 22/07/19 they informed PCS that “We have some proposals in the pipeline around protecting the confidentiality of individuals, but await proof from PCS that there is a problem out there”. A branch briefing will now go out seeking examples from members around bad experiences and reluctance to make a claim, among other things.
UC advance payment scam
The employer has confirmed that, where it can be proven that a claimant did not benefit from a fraudulent claim (such as identify theft), they will not be subject to prosecution. The department have also confirmed that, where it can be identified that claimants have been co-erced into making a fraudulent claim, all circumstances will be taken into account before deciding on any further action. All identified fraudulent claims are being investigated by CFCD staff.
PCS are clear that while DWP must seek to protect the integrity of the benefit system, they must also protect those in society most vulnerable to this sought of scam.