The Plan runs from 2008 to 2011 and includes proposals to reduce staffing levels by 12,000 and close 200 more offices.
The exact details of the office closure programme is not yet known. The breakdown of job cuts are Jobcentre Plus 7,000–8,000. Pensions and the Disability and Carers Service 2,500–3,000 and the other Business Units absorbing the remaining 1,000–1,500 job cuts. These numbers do not include the Child Support Agency.
Despite the Department admitting they have not been set any headcount reduction targets, they claim the Plan is a result of the Government’s 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (5% administrative cost reductions). However other Civil Service Departments have shown there are alternative ways to reduce spending.
Users of the DWP and staff alike know there are already real problems with service delivery. There is an increasing reliance upon clients (including pensioners) accessing services through the use of the internet, an over-estimation of IT capabilities and the introduction of Lean processing for staff. These initiatives do not improve the client or staff experiences of the Department and can often waste money rather than provide savings.
The DWP has already lost 30,000 staff and 600 offices in the last three years.
In 2004, the then Chancellor for the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, said “to go further than that would put the delivery of services at risk.”
PCS has not been consulted about the current Plan and we fear it could have an abysmal impact on service delivery.
They suggest alternative ways to reduce spending including stopping -
The use of consultants and chauffeur driven cars
£2.67 billion being wasted on private contracts
The Department should be listening to the people who deliver the service, services users and their representatives – instead we risk the welfare state being run in the interests of shareholders rather than the people it was created to help.
Further privatisation comes as a huge blow to staff who are already in dispute over the imposition of a below inflation pay offer, which sees 40% of staff receive no pay rise this year. The Department needs to settle the pay dispute so it can keep hold of experienced and committed staff who can deliver on the Government’s priorities.
The DWP is currently charged with a number of high profile initiatives including -
Reducing child poverty
Achieving 80% employment rates
Introducing the ESA
Reducing fraud and error rates
Increasing recovery of overpayments
Introducing personal pension accounts
Reducing pensioner poverty
Setting up C-MEC
Implementing shared services for other Government Departments
Introducing the Flexible New Deal
Moving lone parents from IS onto JSA
Essentially, the DWP is being asked to deliver more than it has previously done with less staff and fewer offices.
PCS believes this is a recipe for disaster, and one that is avoidable if senior decision makers act now by reviewing the Business Plan.
Purely personal (and possibly unwelcome) comment
Come the day you need the services of a welfare agency, I'm prepared to bet that while you stand in the hugely long queue or wait several days for the phones to be answered, you won't be thinking, "Oh, yes, five years ago the government cut staffing and closed offices. That'll be why everyone here looks as if their dog's died and only have two minutes per client." You're far more likely to be thinking, "Why are the staff working for this outfit so crap?"
I've read comments - even on LJ - along those lines, and it just makes my blood boil.
So now you know.