The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has revealed that the DWP is considering making claimants wait even longer for an answer to their calls for help with universal credit (UC) because of a serious lack of staff and “massive use of overtime”.
In a bulletin giving details of a “Potential dispute in Universal Credit, October 2018” the PCSU paints a picture of a system already at breaking point due to lack of resources.
UC case managers who should be dealing with 45 calls a week are actually handling 75 or more each week
PCS claims that, as a result of the overwhelming volume of work, the DWP is relying on “massive use of overtime” by case managers to keep UC from grinding to a halt.
However, they say that the current attempts to deal with the workload are self-defeating:
“If a case manager doesn’t have enough time to clear journal entry tasks, then this makes it more likely that claimants will ring us. High volumes of telephone calls then further reduce the amount of time that case managers have to clear tasks. This cycle puts massive pressure on staff, who are dealing with unhappy claimants, and who know that vulnerable people are being poorly served by DWP.”
PCS says that the DWP have refused to go back to ministers and discuss delaying the rollout of UC to the final 100 Jobcentres.
Instead, the DWP are “considering increasing the average speed to answer time, i.e. increasing the amount of time claimants wait before having their call answered. This, they believe, would reduce the pressure on staff taking calls. Managers are also considering how they can provoke a “channel shift”, i.e. to stop claimants calling in by encouraging them to rely on digital communication.”
Making it even more difficult to get through to the DWP on the phone will undoubtedly reduce the pressure on staff taking the calls. The increase in the suffering and distress of vulnerable claimants whose UC claims are at risk of failing that bthis will cause is clearly not something the DWP is concerned about.
You can read the full PCS bulletin here.