Memorandum submitted by Public and Commercial
Services Union (PCS)
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union
(PCS) is the largest trade union within both the civil service
and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). PCS represents
over 330,000 people including 90,000 staff working in the DWP.
2. PCS welcomes the select committee's timely
evidence session and is happy to supplement this written submission
with oral evidence.
3. We would also like to provide supplementary
memoranda once the Government's Green Paper on the reform of incapacity
benefits is published.
4. PCS believes that one of the key issues
facing the Benefit Reform agenda is the Department's ability to
keep its head above water, and it is currently struggling to do
so. PCS is concerned that the implementation of the budgetary
and staffing cuts announced as part of the Government's efficiency
drive will have a disastrous effect on both PCS members and customer
services. PCS believes the Department is not in a position to
manage these staffing reductions without seriously damaging its
levels of performance and service delivery.
5. This submission covers the following
PCS welcomes initiatives that
assist disadvantaged members of the community, on a voluntary
basis, into work.
PCS opposes the decision to
make it compulsory to participate in the scheme.
We are concerned that the programme
is seen as a cynical way of reducing the numbers of customers
claiming Incapacity Benefit.
The Incapacity Benefit Reform
Programme can be damaged as a result of the Jobcentre Plus cuts
The associated problems with
the IT systems.
The need for adequate resourcing
of the Department.
6. PCS has engaged with DWP management on
the Efficiency programme for the Department since its inception,
offering our analysis and advice as well as raising a series of
issues about its impact on jobs, operations, planning, terms and
conditions and service delivery.
7. The development of the programme in Jobcentre
Plus is bound up with what is going on in the other Business Units.
On 13 January 2005 PCS DWP Group Officers wrote to the Secretary
of State and set out what had previously been stated in a meeting
with him (see attached letter).
8. PCS stated that the jobs cuts programme
was likely to have a negative and damaging impact on service delivery
and we asked for a moratorium on the cuts in order to allow a
breathing space so that a solid platform for change might be established.
PCS stressed that we do not oppose change and also accept that
change can mean the restructuring of staffing levels but that
any such process must be properly planned and managed.
9. It is in this context that Jobcentre
Plus introduced the Incapacity Benefit (IB) Reforms pilot in 2003.
It was initially a voluntary pilot in three Jobcentre Plus Districts
from October, becoming compulsory from 22 December 2003, aimed
at those customers newly moving onto Incapacity Benefits. From
April 2004 a further four Districts joined the pilot. 14 more
Districts will be rolling out as follows; four in October 2005,
seven in April 2006 and three in October 2006.
10. In 2004 the Budget announcement included
extra funding for the pilot Districts from early 2005 to extend
the compulsory Adviser interview regime to existing customers
who had started claiming an incapacity benefit in the two years
before the pilot started in their area.
11. Jobcentre Plus management have met with
PCS regularly throughout the pilot and provided us with a report
dated 3 February 2005 that gave details of the outcomes and performance
of the pilots up to late 2004.
12. PCS welcomed the proposals contained
within this initiative as we saw many positives in the extra support
that could be given to our customers. In particular we welcomed
the involvement of medical experts from the NHS in the Condition
Management Programme (CMP) and the extra programme provision.
We do, however, believe that customer participation should be
13. In practice our members involved in
the early pilots reported that customer response had been very
positive about the initiative. This led, in turn, to greater job
satisfaction for our members.
14. We believe the decision to make it compulsory
to participate in the scheme will have a negative impact on the
relationship between the Adviser and the customer. PCS has consistently
opposed the use of compulsion to force customers who claim benefits
to participate in programmes. We believe that compulsion has a
detrimental effect on our Business and the relationship between
the customers and Jobcentre Plus. In this case in particular we
have concerns that we are dealing with customers suffering an
illness and compulsion sends the message that there may be doubts
that their illness is genuine.
15. The first part of the process involves
a Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) that determines the level
of incapacity and therefore entitlement to the benefits due. This
often leads to a decision that the customer is not entitled to
Incapacity Benefit and the customer is refused benefit. The vast
majority of customers affected in this way then claim Jobseekers
Allowance (JSA), with a large majority of those appealing against
the decision to refuse their claim to Incapacity Benefit. PCS
has anecdotal evidence that the majority of these appeals are
16. The next stage for those customers whose
claim continues is a mandatory Work Focused Interview (WFI) eight
weeks after making a claim to IB. At this first interview, Advisers
are meant to use a specially designed Screening Tool that "screens
out" some customers.
17. Those customers who are not "screened
out" then have to attend a further five WFI's at four week
intervals. At these interviews, customers are given access to
"Choices". They are a range of programme provisions
aimed at improving labour market readiness and opportunities.
Key aspects are the New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) and the
18. The CMP's are run in co-operation with
local NHS Primary Care Trusts with the aim of helping the customer
manage his/her condition more effectively so that they can get
the job they want.
19. Customers who find work during the programme
can also access a Return to Work Credit (RTWC). This is a weekly
payment of £40 per week for 12 months if their salary is
below £15,000 pa. These options allow the Adviser to offer
the customer more flexible support and a more intensive and productive
20. Jobcentre Plus already has a network
of trained and experienced Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs)
who have invaluable local and national knowledge. The intention
is that these Advisers will work closely with the IB Personal
Advisers and the NHS Trust to identify the best outcome for their
customers. This means, of course, that the DEA workload will increase.
We already have evidence of some DEAs resigning from their post,
or seeking transfers because of the unacceptable pressure being
put on them and there is a fear that this trend will be exacerbated
without further staffing resources being invested in the IB Reforms
and Jobcentre Plus Advisory structure.
21. As stated earlier, PCS welcomes initiatives
that enable our members to help our customers into work. However,
we are not convinced that it is appropriate for the IB Reforms
programme to be compulsory and we have anecdotal evidence that
the PCA is seen as a cynical method of reducing the number of
IB claims by moving customers to JSA while their appeal against
a negative decision is heard.
22. The "off-flow" figures show
that there has been an increase in off-flows at six months of
8% (this being a 25% increase). Off-flow is the number of people
no longer claiming the benefit after six months. This is to be
welcomed but historical off-flow figures have been running at
30%, so it is difficult to state categorically that the programme
itself has made the difference.
23. Having said that, PCS believe that there
are elements of the IB Reforms pilot that are valuable. Unfortunately
we also believe that these will be damaged or prevented by the
ongoing cuts programme in Jobcentre Plus.
24. The IB Reforms process is very resource
intensive and takes up more Adviser time, pro rata, than
other Advisory processes. Jobcentre Plus is in the middle of a
massive jobs and estate cuts programme. This is leading inexorably
to an organisation that is disengaged from our customers. The
requirements of the IB reforms initiative will create massive
problems for the proposed Jobcentre Plus organisation from the
point of view of Adviser availability and accessibility.
25. PCS has raised our concerns about the
lack of accommodation for Advisers. We were told at a meeting
in May 2005 that the decision to rollout the IB reforms pilot
to more Districts had created difficulties because the Jobcentre
Plus Rollout programme had used a formula known as the Front of
House Desk allocation Model (FOHDAM) to allocate the number of
desks. In Glasgow this has led to the situation where there were
no spare desks for IB Personal Advisers, thus hindering the planned
26. By the end of 2008 Jobcentre Plus intend
to close 577 sites, and PCS has just discovered that there are
now proposals to close a further 124 sites, many of them small
offices in rural areas. PCS believes that this huge reduction
in offices would make it very difficult to deliver the Pathways
to Work programme in Jobcentre Plus. Even if it remains possible
then customers (who by the very nature of their inclusion in the
pilot are likely to be less mobile than most) will find themselves
forced to make difficult journeys to attend mandatory interviews.
The Department recently made a decision to defer the closure by
Atos Origin of 21 Medical Examination Centres. Atos Origin won
the contract to deliver medical advice and assessment services.
The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers along with PCS launched a campaign
and Early Day Motion 450 was tabled. We would argue that the same
concerns (about the accessibility of services to customers, that
claimants might miss appointments and so be deprived of the benefits
they need) apply in both instances.
27. The ongoing reduction in staffing resources
also makes it difficult to envisage how Jobcentre Plus can continue
to deliver the service it currently delivers, let alone introducing
new processes. This will only add to the pressure on the existing
28. Early reports from the pilot areas indicated
that there were difficulties with the IT interface and accessibility.
As the IT system in use is the Jobcentre Plus Customer Management
System (CMS) we believe that the problems will continue. The Committee
has previously heard evidence about the ongoing problems with
CMS so we ask that our concerns about its use and the impact on
the rollout of the Pathways to Work programme be noted.
29. In conclusion, PCS believes that the
continuation of this programme could be of value to Jobcentre
Plus and our customers. However, this can only happen if it is
adequately resourced, both in terms of staffing and estate, and
with sufficient investment in training. Finally, there must be
a fully developed and tested IT system in place.