The PCS Union has revealed that around 40% of DWP staff who will be working on Universal Credit will be on the benefit themselves.
The huge re-orgainsation of both in and out of work benefits begins next April and will see Working Tax Credits, Local Housing Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance, all brought under control of Jobcentres.
Of concern to the PCS is that the new system will extend conditionality of ‘work related activity’ to part time workers who are in receipt of some benefits. All claimants earning less than the minimum wage for a 35 hour week will be forced to demonstrate that they are constantly looking for ‘more, or better paid’ work. Failure to comply could lead to workfare or in-work benefits being stopped.
Some part time workers at Jobcentres are likely to fall into this group, meaning that Jobcentre staff could be responsible for sending their colleagues, or even themselves, on workfare!
Whilst this will no doubt amuse some claimants, this is an opportunity to send solidarity to DWP staff who are often low paid and under huge pressure from management to police and harass claimants. It is true that in some parts of the DWP a toxic attitude towards claimants has developed, which has lead to some people on benefits being bullied or harassed by Jobcentre staff. It is equally true that Jobcentre staff often take a lot of shit from claimants.
But unemployed, sick or disabled people, and low paid public sector workers should not be at each other’s throats. We now all have a shared interest in bringing to an end the increasingly ruthless government policies aimed at those on low incomes, whether or not they are in work.
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