Almost 700 DWP staff are taking part voluntarily but the minister said hybrid working would allow ‘retaining skills’ | Aici

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Nearly 700 civil servants at the Department of Work and Pensions have accepted voluntary redundancies in a wave of office closures, according to the department.

But Social Mobility Minister Mims Davies said using the hybrid working model would allow the department to maintain core competencies.

Of the 8,400 staff affected by the closure of more than 40 DWP offices, around 685 have received severance packages so far, Davies said.

The figures indicate that the majority of workers who have been offered voluntary redundancy have so far accepted it. About 800 offers were made over the summer, after the office closure program was announced in March.

A further 430 civil servants are still at risk, Davies said in a letter to parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee. These figures appear to be in line with the second round of voluntary suspension offers announced in November.

Officials must be given the option to receive a salary in retirement if there is no other office to which they can move within the maximum distance specified in the contract. A total of 28 of the 41 closed offices have suitable alternative housing in the neighborhood, Davies said.

Around 80% of those affected by the move are set to move to another DWP site near their original office – with Davies saying there are some who have agreed to go “outside the move”. agreement”. All these have been proposed for the organization of hybrid work.

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“This is a strong demonstration that hybrid working supports the retention of DWP’s expertise and capabilities and offers a more flexible and adaptable workplace to meet the needs of our staff and customers,” the minister said.

As of November 15 – the latest count – 5,200 staff have moved to other DWP sites, taking their jobs with them. A further 256 have taken up new roles elsewhere in the DWP or in other government departments.

Campaigners argued that the closure of the office, which was announced in March, would have a negative impact on services offered to people seeking benefits or other services.

MPs on the work and pensions committee have questioned plans to close Phoenix House, a job center in Cumbria that is home to a team of specialist welfare workers. people who have suffered injuries at work such as those caused by exposure to asbestos.

The PCS union, meanwhile, said it came at a time when the DWP was struggling to recruit staff in “understaffed” areas such as personal independence pay, child maintenance and pensions. .

In his letter, Davies said the changes would have a “significant impact on our people” but reiterated the DWP’s assertion that “this is not about downsizing”.

The property divestment program will reduce “capacity more than,” he said – noting that while the department needs space for around 90,000 employees, its portfolio of buildings has place for 158,000.

He said moving away from less energy-efficient buildings would make the DWP’s assets more sustainable and better to work with, and consolidating some back offices into larger buildings would save money and be more efficient. more.

The program is set to save £3.5bn in capital savings over 30 years, saving between £80m and £90m a year from 2028-29, he said.

He added: “Retrenchment will be a last resort when all efforts to retain, train and retrain colleagues, whether within the DWP or other public services in the region, have been exhausted.”

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