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6 January, 2022 Open access

Work coaches to continue to offer telephone interviews where claimants do not feel ‘comfortable or safe’ to come into the jobcentre

PCS union welcomes DWP decision to continue measures adopted in December 2021 in response to rising number of Covid-19 cases

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has reported that work coaches are to continue to offer telephone interviews where, due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, claimants do not feel 'comfortable or safe' to come into the jobcentre.

Having advised DWP staff on 17 December 2021 that work coaches based in jobcentres were being instructed to contact claimants to check if they were comfortable coming into the office and felt safe to do so, and to offer telephone interviews as an alternative, the PCS has confirmed that the DWP has decided to continue these measures from 10 January 2022, with the situation to be reviewed again on 26 January 2022.

The PCS adds that -

'We have reported to DWP that we are still getting inundated with reports from work coaches that they don't have the time to carry out the pre-calls and they are being refused support in making these important calls. DWP have confirmed that this should not be happening, and a collective effort is required to make these pre-calls. 

PCS repeats our advice that any work coach who doesn't have time to make these calls should contact their manager and ask that other arrangements are put in place to ensure the pre-calls take place.'

NB - responding yesterday to a written question in parliament on whether the Department has plans to issue guidance to jobcentres on conducting interviews online or by telephone as part of the introduction of Plan B Covid-19 restrictions, DWP Minister Mims Davies said -.

'In line with current public health guidance, and with safety measures in place, jobcentre work coaches are continuing to book face-to-face appointments for those claimants who are required to attend mandatory appointments as part of their conditions for receiving universal credit.'

For more information, see 10 January 2022 onwards in jobcentres from pcs.org.uk