Benefit claims staff face job cuts

Hundreds of workers who process benefit claims face compulsory redundancy under cost-cutting plans by the Government's biggest department, a union claimed today.

The Public and Commercial Service union (PCS) said 350 staff in 13 centres in England, Scotland and Wales which are earmarked for closure, could be forced out of their jobs.

The union said the news was broken on the department's staff internet, claiming it was a breach of agreed procedures.

Affected staff in the centres were not informed in advance of today's announcement, meaning they learned of their potential fate online, said the union.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: "With unemployment high and expected to rise, it is reckless and provocative to cut hundreds of jobs in our benefits system, particularly when there are centres that can't cope and are recruiting new staff.

"Ministers should immediately withdraw this threat and send work to the sites at risk to ensure we have a properly resourced service to help people who are finding themselves out of work through no fault of their own."

A DWP spokesman said: "We are closing some buildings to make more effective use of our estates as part of the Government's transformation programme.

"We've made sure that all staff affected have the option of moving elsewhere in the organisation and have already redeployed the vast majority of them.

"We will continue to work to secure redeployment opportunities wherever possible for those who wish to continue their careers in the civil service."