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Jobcentre posts cut by 2,400 as coalition plans to axe a fifth of staff


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http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/12/job-centre-posts-cut-2400

 

Nick Clegg and David Cameron's efforts to reunite after a fortnight of infighting suffered a setback when it emerged that the loss of 2,400 jobcentre posts is to be announced today, just a day after they jointly announced a £60m youth unemployment initiative.

 

The Guardian has learned that the job cuts at Jobcentre Plus over the next 12 months include the loss of 17 benefit processing centres and five contact centres, representing nearly 20% of staff.

 

The losses are part of a drive to rationalise properties in the jobcentre estate. Officials said that no one would be made forcibly redundant and that no high street jobcentres would be closed.

 

The Department for Work and Pensions said: "We will not comment on leaks. When making any announcement to staff we do so in the proper way."

 

The revelation comes the day after Clegg and Cameron came together for the first time since the battle over the AV referendum to announce a package of measures to fight youth unemployment.

 

Meeting at the Olympic Park in east London, the prime minister and his deputy announced a £60m programme to boost work placements for 16- to 18-year-olds.

 

A subdued-looking Clegg said the government could not "wave a magic wand" to create jobs, but it could "intervene at critical points". He announced a pilot, involving 50,000 youngsters over two years, of six-week intensive periods of support – including help with training, childcare and presentation skills – with a guaranteed job interview at the end.

 

Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, denounced the job losses. "Days after the Bank of England warned the economy is slowing down, the government is cutting the very people helping get Britain back to work."

 

He added: "Nick Clegg tried to relaunch his credibility with a promise to get young people back to work. Why didn't he tell us his scheme was paid for by sacking jobcentre staff?"

 

Clegg and Cameron worked hard to give the impression of a government back on track and functioning as normal, despite suggestions of a more businesslike atmosphere between the coalition partners.

 

After the Lords defeated directly elected police commissioners on Wednesday night, Clegg said he would overturn the Liberal Democrat-inspired decision. The government was defeated largely due to a small group of Liberal Democrat peers voting with Labour. Clegg vowed to overturn the defeat in the Commons, telling his party it had a "duty" to implement policies – even if Tory-led – that were in the joint programme.

 

One frontbench Lib Dem peer, Lord Bradshaw, said he might resign as transport spokesman rather than back down.

 

Giving evidence to the Commons political and constitutional reform committee, Clegg said his commitment to reform was undimmed despite defeat in the AV referendum.

 

He stressed that his imminent proposals on an elected House of Lords will be designed to create an all-party concensus, adding he did not intend to change the powers of the Lords in relation to the Commons. Clegg said: "I am very clear we should not seek to change the functions and role of the House of Lords. It should remain a body of scrutiny and review."

 

He also said he favoured an update of the coalition agreement in the mid-point of the parliament, and would like to see a focus on better work-life balance, as well as a greener government.

 

Some Liberal Democrats fear another coalition agreement will do little to help the party rebuild its identity. Others argue it would be a chance to demonstrate Lib Dem influence on policy.

 

With some polls now showing his party's support dipping below 10%, Clegg said: "Polls go up and down. People's popularity goes up and down, parties' popularity goes up and down.

 

"At the end of the day, how will we be judged? We will be judged about whether we have sorted out the mess we have inherited and restored a sense of optimism, of prosperity, of jobs for this country. It is a job we have started and we are going to see it through."

 

Privately, Liberal Democrats remain shocked at the extent to which they have taken a hit in the polls while Cameron has remained unscathed. The prime minister insisted voters should judge the success of the Tory-Lib Dem partnership on what it had delivered after five years, and not day-to-day "fripperies".

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I'm sure we have all encountered one or two whom we won't feel sorry for...

 

I've never experienced it YET but have heard stories from my family and read even worse on here, its a shame but lets hope they use this to get rid of the rotten apples

 

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Just wonderful.

 

Even more delays in the processing of applications, the answering of phonecalls, and significant increases in error. They obviously haven't learned any lessons since the last cull of Jobcentres. Rewind a couple of decades, before the mass culls on offices and reductions in staff. A claimant could go into a Jobcentre or a Social Security Office and get everything dealt with in the one appointment. There were issues as there always will be, but few. Welfare Rights Organisations were not as well known about because there was little need for them.

 

Now, a claimant has to phone a contact centre to initiate any action, and deal with a different Benefit Delivery Centre and a different number for practially every query. If they go to a Jobcentre they are often referred back to the contact centre as the Jobcentres are not allowed to help them if the query should be answered at the contact centre, and if they do not have an appointment. They then have to wait for a Benefit Delivery Centre to make a decision. The decisions are often delayed because of the lack of resource, and/or because the contact centre that completed the application has not completed it properly. In between all of this, they are phoning several times a day and can't get through. Errors are made because the low staff resource means staff don't have the time to spend on things like they used to but are expected to do the same amount of work as before so they often miss things. Messages are lost in the system, post is lost in the system, documents are delivered to the wrong office and Welfare Rights are at their busiest.

 

A few years ago, before the mass cuts, it was nothing like this. Claimants were personally known by their local Jobcentre and Social Security Offices. They got a far more personalised service. Now they are just people in the system chasing up contact centres and benefit delivery centres all around the country. The local Jobcentres don't have the time to spend with the customers - take Flumps here, an example of a 'good apple'. She is keen to help people so much so that she comes to an online forum in her own free time to help people. In her day job, she probably doesn't have the time to give all the information she would like to, her appointment times will be restricted and as a result, the time she can spend with a claimant. Training of staff is at a bare minimum because of no resources which results in more errors.

 

Welfare Rights funding is also being drastically cut - many centres have already shut down. Who is going to help the vulnerable claimant where there is no Welfare Rights Centre and they are getting nowhere with DWP because they can't get through, or their claim is severely delayed? Appeals? Pah. They will take even longer to be sent to the Tribunals Service, because DWP have to do a reconsideration first. And guess what? There is no legal time limit for how long it takes for an appeal to be processed by DWP and sent to the tribunal service. Some people are waiting just short of a year as it is.

 

Unfortunately there are rotten apples in just about every office. They're not picking a few staff who aren't up to the job to get rid of here, they are picking entire offices whether there are good or bad staff there. They won't be able to pick and choose good staff to keep, more's the pity. The staff - good apples or bad apples, will be able to move on, find other jobs - some with redundancy packages. It's the claimants facing even longer delays, errors and frustration that I feel sorry for.

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Agreed, Erika. When I was a JSA processor 10 years ago, I had a box that was all new claims from m-p (I think), there was a direct dial number to get to me, and when there were issues with a claim, I called or wrote to the claimant myself, and they were able to call me back. Problems could be sorted out quickly, we were based upstairs at the jobcentre, and if needed could go down and see a claimant to help identify the right paperwork, or even help complete a form for someone with special needs. It was rare for a complex claim to take longer than 2 weeks to process. Even if it was complex, the claimant or representative could phone me or even come in person and see me to sort the issue out. The person who handled all change of circs for the claims I processed sat 10 feet from me, and the person who dealt with appeals, about 8 feet away. I felt great job satisfaction, I was helping people at a time of difficulty and need and making the process as painless as I could. If for any reason I couldn't award benefit, I would call or write to the claimant myself explaining why, and pointing them in the direction of help.

 

I left just before the changes took place, and although I was still involved in helping people claim benefits, didn't have much direct contact with the DWP for 3 years. Then I became a benefits caseworker with a welfare rights organisation, and was astonished by the complexity that had been created in just trying to get through to the person dealing with a claim - on average it would take three call centre calls to get a decision maker to call back, and in some cases (particulaly ESA) the decision maker was so useless that then I had to wait for a team leader to call back, sometimes several times before the matter would get sorted. So maybe 6 phone calls whereas before the matter could have been sorted out with one.

 

I had 6 months training to be a processor and in order to pass training you had to have less than 5% error rate. From what I've seen, the error rate is far more than 5% now. I wonder how long the training is, and I don't blame the staff - working in a terrible environment with poor training, lack of support and no job satisfaction must be incredibly demoralising. And that's not even counting those who are just plain bad at their job - the terminally incompetant.

 

And as for Welfare rights staff. The place I worked for is reliant on legal aid funding, it has other small funders, but legal aid is probably 80%. They already are suffering under the changes to the way legal aid work for benefits is paid - only on case closures - which means the complex work they take on leads to a slower closure rate and huge pressure on finances and caseworkers. When the legal aid funding is withdrawn for this work they will have no option but to close, and welfare rights advice will be lost for the whole county. The local cabs now only take on less complex work, and so with no one to fill the void, those with the most need - those with difficult cases, appeals etc, will have nowhere to go. I was one of the least experienced advisers there - only having been there 4 years, others there were like Erika, with encyclopaedic knowledge of legislation and caselaw, experts in their field with very few job opportunities once the service closes, and claimants desperately in need of help with nowhere to go.

 

Its a travesty, and it shouldn't be allowed.

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Given some of the delays, how is this going to help? I was told in November that the job centre I attend, they have 5,000 people sign on per week. Although I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be many waiting around to sign on in the afternoon.

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Is anyone on here not clued up as to whats happening here? Firstly of course doing this isn't going to help, but then the government aren't trying to help anyone but themselves. The current government want to hand over all service to private contractors, so of course to do this they're going to start crushing the life out of government run depts like the above.

 

It's a times like this that people need to band together and complain about whats being done. Try and fight back in whatever way they can. I'm sure the DWP unions aren't happy about all of and of course nor will the claimants once they get a taste of whats to come.

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Ok, I've managed to get hold of a confirmed list of offices that will be closed. I haven't been given specific dates for closures, only that they will be closed in the next twelve months apart from two which will close in 2012 or 2013.

 

Benefit Delivery Centres (that process benefit) to close in the next 12 months are as follows:

 

Arbroath

Ayr

Broadstairs

Cannock

Caslteford

Cheter

Exeter

Halifax

Huyton

Lincoln

Luton

Mansfield

Sutton in Ashfield

Totton

Yeovil

 

Benefit Delivery Centres (that process benefit) to close in 2012 or 2013 are as follows:

 

Carlisle

Hartlepool

 

Call Centres (that take your calls when you phone in) to close in the next 12 months are as follows:

 

Caerphily

Clydebank

Grimsby Europarc

Liverpool

Preston

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against

forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.

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This was embargoed for all staff until 10:00 am this morning as the staff affected were supposed to be informed first thing this morning.

The list posted by Erica is correct.

Oh well I know it makes sense but at the same time you cannot get blood out of a stone and if staff cannot cope with the workloads now how are they going to cope with even more work imposed on them? I hope people are prepared for increased waiting times for claims to be processed and also for changes affecting their claims to take longer to be actioned. My workload is steadily increasing I will disappear under a pile of paper soon too no doubt!

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if staff cannot cope with the workloads now how are they going to cope with even more work imposed on them? I hope people are prepared for increased waiting times for claims to be processed and also for changes affecting their claims to take longer to be actioned.

 

I'm wondering the same thing too.

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It was embargoed till this morning?! If I was in their position, I think I'd be more than a bit annoyed if I found out the press knew about it before I did. I assumed the staff were already aware.

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against

forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.

(exceptions for prior authorisation)

 

 

 

 

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No I was aware before anyone in the office as the email we had wasn't received until after lunch time!

I knew thanks to this site and even made our union reps aware of the info before we were officially advised.

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No I was aware before anyone in the office as the email we had wasn't received until after lunch time!

I knew thanks to this site and even made our union reps aware of the info before we were officially advised.

 

Now that is truly shocking!

 

S.

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Deal with your debts:

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***** SERIOUSLY IN DEBT, DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO, TRY NationalDebtLine's MoneySteps *****

 

 

IMPORTANT: Please take my advice in the spirit it is given and on the basis that I am expressing my opinion, These opinions are not endorsed by CAG in anyway and are offered informally without prejudice or warranty of any kind. These opinions are solely based upon the knowledge I've gained from this fantastic site and life in general. I have NO legal training.

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Well, my old office is on that list, so the people I used to work with will likely be losing their jobs. Most of them have been processors for over 20 years, and still work there.

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