PCS has continued to argue with DWP that it is premature to reopen job centres at this stage due to the continuing risk of Covid 19 being brought into job centres if the doors of job centres are “reopened” to the wider public.
Despite PCS’s protestations DWP continue with their plans to reopen all job centres in England in July. At present there are no plans to reopen job centres in Wales and Scotland though we expect that to change.
DWP have provided PCS with no rollout schedule for when exactly job centres may “extend services” though we are aware of reports that some are considering the 6 July and the minister has announced Jobcentres will reopen fully this week. Given that there is at present no published JCFRA it is not acceptable for the department to be proposing they reopen from as early as 6 July. PCS has strongly criticised the speed at which DWP are moving.
Jobcentre Customer Facing Risk Assessment (JCFRA)
This was only sent to PCS at national level on the afternoon of 29 June. It is still currently subject to consultation at national level and will be issued as soon as possible. We are aware that there may be other versions of the JCFRA being used locally. These have not been subject to national consultation and should not be used. No job centre should reopen until the national JCFRA, that has been subject to consultation with PCS nationally, is then subject to consultation with local TUS.
Other guidance to managers
Other guidance was issued to local managers to inform them on what to do to ensure their job centre is safe prior to any decision to reopen. This guidance has been shared with PCS nationally but has not been agreed.
Marylebone job centre
DWP has proceeded, against PCS’ wishes, to open Marylebone job centre from 1st July to the public. Strict limits, agreed at Marylebone to be 10, have been put in place on the numbers of customers that may be allowed into the office at any one time. Similar limits will have to be applied at all other job centres when they reopen.
At recent meetings with senior DWP management PCS was given assurances that moves to reopen job centres must be done very carefully and will only be re-opened when it is safe to do so, The JCFRA must be completed at every location and local TUS must be fully consulted prior to deciding to re-open. Sites should not re-open until screens, signage and sufficient PPE and cleaning products are in place, PCS will do everything we can to ensure that DWP stick to these assurances.
PCS demanded that DWP suspend their plans to reopen the job centres in Leicester following the second spike in Covid 19 there. We welcome that DWP have now agreed to do this.
Many BAME members will particular concerns about interviewing customers face to face given the greater risk that Covid 19 poses for BAME staff. PCS has put these concerns to DWP and we are currently working with the department on producing a culturally competent risk assessment for BAME members.
Not a full reopening
DWP have stressed to PCS that they are not planning to fully re-open job centres and job centres will not be offering the full service that was available prior to the Covid 19 pandemic. Appointments will be offered to vulnerable customers as is already happened but will also be offered to some new claimants to UC. However as the doors of the job centres will be open other customers may use that to enter the job centre with their own queries.
Pressure on managers
PCS is very concerned at the pressure that DWP is placing on local job centre managers to take the decision to reopen their doors. We do not believe that every job centre manager has the experience, and health and safety knowledge to be able to take this decision in full confidence that it is the right decision to make, and it places far too much responsibility on individual managers’ shoulders. PCS has put this to DWP and will continue to do everything we can to support our members who are job centre managers.
PCS will continue to remind DWP of their legal responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for all staff, outsourced workers and members of the public. Until we can be assured they are compliant PCS will continue to oppose their plans.