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14 December, 2020 Open access

Work coaches raise concerns about reduction of appointment times following the reintroduction of conditionality

Update on PCS union's negotiations with the DWP reports members’ particular concerns about Work Search Reviews, which are now limited to only 10 minutes

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has highlighted concerns raised by jobcentre work coaches about reductions in appointment times.

Providing feedback about the DWP’s approach to conditionality appointments after the reintroduction of labour market conditionality from 1 July 2020, the PCS says -

‘The decision to reduce the First Commitments appointment time from 50 to 30 minutes and Work Focus Intervention from 20 to 10 minutes saw many work coach members contact the GEC (group executive committee) to express their anger at what they saw as taking away their autonomy. This was particularly highlighted in the Work Search Reviews, which are now limited to only 10 minutes, when previously the timings of those appointments were at the discretion of the work coach.'

The PCS also highlights concerns from some work coaches that they are not being allowed breaks between 10-minute interviews and this, in addition to increased caseload pressure, is resulting in increased stress levels and risks increasing sickness absence rates.

In addition to the concerns from work coaches, PCS advises that it has been contacted by claimant representative groups that have said -

'... they have been notified of what they see as a reduction in service. This view is shared by work coach members who take great pride in helping people, many of them vulnerable, in their time of need and feel that they are unable to do so because they are not allocated enough time.'

In response to these concerns, the PCS says that the DWP has advised it that reduction of appointment times is a ‘temporary measure’ subject to review on an ‘ongoing basis’, that breaks between interviews have not been withdrawn, and that it will look at work coach caseloads with a view to supporting staff and providing ‘clear messaging' on what can be done in 10 minutes.

For more information, see Concerns raised on reduction of appointment times in Jobcentres from