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29 June, 2020 Open access

Reopening jobcentres to the public could create a ‘perfect storm’, warns Public and Commercial Services Union

Any move to reinstate the jobcentre network beyond its emergency coronavirus provision now is premature while the threat from the virus remains, says Union

Reopening jobcentres to the public this week could create a 'perfect storm', the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union has warned.

Further to the announcements on 19 March 2020 that there would be no requirement to attend jobcentre appointments for at least three months, and on 23 March 2020 that public access to jobcentres was to be restricted with thousands of DWP staff moved to focus on processing new claims as part of the government’s effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the PCS has said that, while the planned reopening is understood to be gradual, a lack of adequate protection for staff and customers could lead to 'pandemonium' - 

'We have made it clear to DWP that any move to reinstate the jobcentre network beyond its emergency coronavirus provision now is premature while the threat from the virus remains all too real and we have called on them to delay it until it is safe ...

PCS does not accept that all the safeguards required to make jobcentres safe are in place and that we should not be opening the doors for an increased service until they are. We have also made clear our concerns for our black and minority ethnic members who will have real worries about this development, especially given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the BAME population, and the high numbers of BAME people in the country that have contracted Covid-19 and sadly died.

PCS is also concerned that DWP will try to reduce the 2-metre social distancing rule in the light of the latest government policy. PCS’s position is clear that 2 metres must remain the rule in all our workplaces and will oppose any attempt to reduce this safety measure.'

The situation is potentially made worse, the PCS says, as a result of - 

'... the fact that benefit sanctions, suspended during the pandemic, are set to be reinstated on Wednesday and that around 2.5 million new claimants, many of whom received Universal Credit payments when their livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, will be navigating a system that few of them have experience of.'

For more information, see PCS warns reopening jobcentres to public is perfect storm.