DWP step up harassment and endanger claimants and workers by pushing for Jobcentre appointments – Resistance Needed!
The numbers in hospital and dying from Covid are rising, but the caring DWP bosses are pressurising their workers to arrange more face to face jobcentre appointments to quiz claimants about their jobsearch. By causing unnecessary social interaction and travel, the DWP are endangering claimants and jobcentre workers. And just as unemployment is growing, the DWP are increasing the threat of sanctions and destitution.
The jobcentre workers union PCS has denounced the “recent unacceptable drive to increase face to face interviews in job centres across many districts” and state “Jobcentre managers have come under increasing pressure to ramp up activity that we believe to be both unsafe and unnecessary.”
The PCS describe how DWP management are pressuring work coaches to call in claimants to Jobcentres for Claimants commitment appointments and for “labour market interventions”. This last means checking and “assisting” claimants with job search – with the implicit threat of sanctions if the jobsearch is deemed insufficient. “Claimants Commitments” are the “agreements” on what an unemployed claimant is going to do to seek work – and come with the threat of sanctions if the DWP consider you are not doing enough. The DWP seem to be especially targeting 18 – 24 year old’s for mandatory jobcentre appointments.
The latest news though is that due to rising Covid infections and deaths, the DWP bosses have been forced to suspend face-to-face jobcentre appointments in very high alert areas like central Scotland, Liverpool and Lancashire. It is not clear how long this suspension will last.
The DWP are also pushing for longer jobcentre opening. They want 270 Jobcentres and 21 Universal Credit Service Centres to have extended opening e.g. till 8 pm and on Saturdays. The PCS union oppose this and a dispute continues. A consultative ballot saw 80% vote in favour of industrial action.
Claimants – let’s get organised
If you are a claimant and have been called into the Jobcentre do let us know. If claimants are being unnecessarily called into jobcentres for no good reason we must oppose this. If you are called in to the jobcentre and you feel this is not in your interests, and it would be better to have a phone appointment – tell the DWP this. Ask if it is mandatory to attend the Jobcentre. Seek support from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty or your local group.
And remember – if you do have a face-to-face appointment it is important to insist on your right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews. Do get in touch to let us know your experience, we need to get a picture of what’s happening so we can resist effectively.
As the numbers unemployed are set to soar, claimants need to organise ourselves to resist the re-imposition of conditionality – that is the threat to withdraw benefits if claimants do not meet certain conditions – and to take action against any sanctions. This is in the interests of all working class people – the punitive benefits regime undermines all workers’ wages and conditions.
While the pandemic is growing again, the government is starting to remove the small aspects of humanity introduced into the regime for disabled claimants. Reviews and re-assessments of disability benefits like PIP have resumed.
The UK and all governments care more about the health of business and the profit economy than the health of the public and the needs of working class people facing wage cuts and sackings. We need to build a grass-roots movement with a capacity for practical resistance at short notice, as described in this excellent article by John Clarke, an activist in Canada. As he puts it – we need to prepare for class war!
We invite people to get involved with ECAP, for example by joining our regular stalls outside High Riggs and Leith jobcentres. All interested in ECAP are welcome to join our online organising meetings. The meetings are the second and last Thursdays of each month at 7 pm and usually last for 40 – 60 minutes. If you would like to participate please contact us in advance to get the zoom link.
Contact ECAP via firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on 0131 557 6242 (voicemail plus staffed Tuesdays 12 – 3.30 pm). And let us know if you would like to join the ECAP solidarity network email list – one or two messages per month.
PCS and DWP – news article.