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15 July, 2020 Open access

DWP confirms that it is considering re-opening closed jobcentres to accommodate new work coaches

Universal Credit Senior Responsible Owner tells Work and Pensions Committee that Department is currently looking at one of the closed jobcentres 'to try and set up a demonstrator of how we'd do this'

Following the Chancellor's announcement last week that - as part of a new Plan for Jobs designed to help secure the UK’s economic recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19) - the DWP will double the number of work coaches by the end of the financial year, Universal Credit Senior Responsible Owner Neil Couling has confirmed that the Department is considering re-opening jobcentres that have been closed as part of its jobcentre closure programme to accommodate the new staff.

Giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee today as part of the Committee's inquiry into universal credit and the wait for the first payment, Mr Couling confirmed that the DWP hopes to have appointed 4,500 out of the 13,500 new work coaches by the end of October 2020, and that they will be accommodated within existing DWP estate and properties.

However, Mr Couling added that the DWP will need new estate to accommodate the remaining work coaches and, when asked by Committee Chair Stephen Timms whether this might include re-opening some jobcentres that have previously been closed, said -

'It is a possibility. We are looking, certainly, at one of the closed ones that I know of at the moment to try to set up a demonstration of how we do this. We are going to adopt probably a different design than we have in existing jobcentres, partly because we need to make them Covid-compliant quickly. Some of our old estate will not be very good; the jobcentres we closed were quite small... but in general I think these will be newer properties.'

NB - the government set out its plans to 'streamline' its Jobcentre Plus network in January 2017, with the aim of offering a 'more efficient service while delivering good value for the taxpayer' that, it said, would save around £180 million a year for the next 10 years.

Today's Work and Pensions Committee evidence session is available from parliamentlive.tv

Stop press (21 July 2020): a transcript of the evidence session is now available from parliament.uk