Senior officials working at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have reportedly been ordered to report to Jobcentres to provide crucial assistance to staff in the wake of the Coronavitus outbreak.
Reports suggest that people are already beginning to lose their jobs as businesses are forced to lay-off workers, despite assurances that the government will pick up the cost of up to 80% of employee wages.
Senior DWP officials, including finance and policy experts, have been told they will be sent to cover “frontline roles” to shore up services and provide vital services to people who have lost their jobs and whom turn to the welfare system for financial support.
The Independent reports that staff will be “matched” with individual Jobcentres, based on need, as the DWP prepares for a deluge of new benefit applications – the majority of whom will be signposted to the widely criticised Universal Credit system.
An internal email seen by The Independent from the DWP’s permanent secretary Peter Schofield admits that the department “need to go further and faster to support the increasing numbers of people who are turning to us at their time of need”.
Mr Schofield adds: “This is an unparalleled public health emergency, the likes of which we have never seen”, whilst reminding staff that the DWP provides “critical services to our customers who rely on us to survive.”
It comes as the Resolution Foundation thinktank warns that the UK is facing “unavoidable job losses“, with the possibility of a new global recession becoming increasingly likely.
Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation said the latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statement suggest the UK is facing a prolonged period of job loses.
He said: “While the last few years have been spent discussing record employment, the focus for policy makers now must be rising unemployment.
“The absolute priority is much stronger action to cushion the living standards blow from a sharp economic shock.
“The shock to family incomes will go much broader than that driven by ctual sickness itself, so the government should urgently build on welcome measures announced in last week’s Budget to support smaller firms, by ramping up the level of support for those losing or at risk of losing their jobs.”
The government is facing mounting pressure to support low-income workers and, in particular, the self employed who may not be legally entitled to sick pay if they are unable to turn up for work due to Coronavirus.
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards is one of around 170 MPs who have urged PM Boris Johnson to introduce a temporary ‘Universal Basic Income‘.
This would incolve the government proving a guaranteed weekly or monthly payment to everyone working-age adult, with experts claiming this is the easiest and best way to put additional money into the pockets of millions of poor and vulnerable people.
Writing in The Telegraph, the Plaid Cymru MP argues that if politicians can bail out the banks, they should also be able to bail-out workers through the social security system.
“The richest thousand people in the UK have a combined wealth well over £600bn, he writes. “More than enough to make sure the other 60m can have food on their tables via a basic income.
Mr edward adds: “The richest thousand people in the UK have a combined wealth well over £600bn.
“More than enough to make sure the other 60m can have food on their tables via a basic income.”