400 benefit office workers in London were on strike this week,
following the government’s decision to remove protection screens
for benefit offices.
move, part of the government’s Jobcentre Plus scheme which merges
Jobcentres and parts of the Benefits Agency, is designed to create
an interview-friendly environment.
people working in benefits offices fear they will be more
vulnerable to attack and decided to take action when builders began
removing protection screens from offices in Brent and Streatham in
London, where Jobcentre Plus is being piloted. The dispute is
already into its third week.
spokesman for the civil service union PCS said: “Over the last 12
months attacks on people working in benefit offices have doubled to
over 5,000. Recently a worker in an office in Wakefield was hit
with a hammer. We’re talking about serious injuries.
all very well for managers to say they want to create a less
hostile environment. But the point is some people on benefits have
drug, alcohol or mental health problems, which means they can’t
control their behaviour.”
spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said they were
fully aware of staff concerns, and that each office would be
risk-assessed and measures taken to ensure staff safety. These
would include security guards and CCTV cameras.
will act as a personal adviser to each client – they can’t do that
or create that kind of relationship from behind a screen,” he