Jobcentre Plus to abate fears with safety review

Jobcentre Plus is carrying out a safety review to ensure its staff in
benefits offices and job centres are secure following concerns over the removal
of security screens from some offices.

The review, which is being carried out in conjunction with the Public and
Commercial Services Union (PCS), starts this week and will be under the
direction of Jobcentre Plus’ new safety director Kevin Pharoah.

An estimated 65,000 PCS members took more than 300,000 days strike action
between September 2001 and April 2002 before an agreement was reached on the
safety of the new open-plan Jobcentre Plus offices, which don’t have protective
screens. The agreement included plans to carry out the security review.

Clare Dodgson, chief operating officer for Jobcentre Plus, said the new
open-plan Pathfinder offices benefit from panic buttons, CCTV and security
guards, who can intercept potential trouble-makers before they are allowed in.

She is optimistic the review will reassure staff who have concerns over
their safety.

The safety review follows a survey published last week by PCS, which finds
that job centre and benefit staff are more worried about threats and abuse at
work than any other workforce in the UK. The research claims that only public
transport workers are more worried about physical attack.

It shows that three-quarters of Jobcentre Plus staff working in constant
contact with the public had experienced violence at work in the last 12 months.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "This important research
will feed into the Jobcentre Plus safety review, which PCS members secured
through more than six months of industrial action."

By Ben Willmott

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