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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Jobcentre staff fight cuts

On the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first Labour Exchange it was disappointing to see criticisms by the government and the Tories of the under-resourced services in Jobcentre Plus.

Katrine Williams, PCS DWP group vice president, personal capacity

We are experiencing the worst recession in living memory. PCS members have been continuously pulling out all the stops for well over 18 months to provide services with the rapid rise in unemployment.

Although officially the unemployment figures have dropped marginally, huge numbers of people are still making new claims for benefits and our offices are still packed with people needing help and support.

The government's cuts programme, launched in 2004, had a massive impact on our ability to provide quality services. 30,000 staff were cut from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by 2008 under Brown's plan to slash 100,000 civil service jobs.

Over 500 frontline offices have been closed since the creation of Jobcentre Plus. PCS argued continuously that the economic situation was likely to change and we needed space and experienced staff to deal with any increase in unemployment. Jobcentre Plus has had to rapidly increase its staff by 14,000, recruited on a temporary basis.

Ministers are quick to say that the economy is out of recession and so talk down the need to keep up full staffing levels. Before the recession the government plan was to cut a further 12,000 jobs in the DWP. We know that even when the economy recovers it will be a long time before the impact of the recession is over. We have 2.46 million people unemployed now and this figure will take many years to reduce.

The private sector companies who queued up to get lucrative contracts to help people on sickness benefits and single parents to get work have shown they clearly put profit before services.

They have been quick to demand more money, now that the economic situation makes it harder for them to hit their targets.

PCS is campaigning to show that our members working in Jobcentre Plus are the best people to deliver services to those on benefits and help people into work.

We need to be properly staffed and resourced to continue to provide the quality public services we want to deliver.

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In The Socialist 24 February 2010:

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