I wanted to set out the discussions I had yesterday with senior management as part of a regular teleconference.

Discretionary Support

I have forwarded detailed information separately on discussions with management but it is the case that a number of areas have been identified initially to provide support to DS staff in dealing with the significant number of claims being received.

These are members in Benefit Security, Debt management and parts of Child Maintenance Service. We have sought to ensure that these workplaces are safe through proper distancing, cleaning regimes and rotas with members by and large working out of their normal offices.

If there are any queries regarding safe working environments, please raise with local TUS or through the seconded officers in the first instance.

UC Fresh Claims

You may be aware that UC received 15,000 claims last week, up from the 10,000 received the week before and plans had been introduced to stand up 25 staff from two offices in each region to assist in dealing with these claims. However, given over 3,000 claims were received on Monday and there being no signs that these numbers will fall, management have now decided to stand up additional staff in other offices to try and meet the demand. If there are any queries regarding safe working environments, please raise with local TUS or through the seconded officers in the first instance.

Circulation Space

I raised concerns that while some managers had now implemented the 2-metre rule with regards desks, there were still some staff at risk as other staff walk pass in close proximity to their desks. Good practice has been introduced in Child Maintenance Service whereby safe distancing includes circulation space to allow staff to move around the offices without placing other colleagues at risk.

We have asked that this good practice is introduced across the department.

Staff with a Vulnerable Person living at Home

We continue to push for a review of the NICS HR guidance on this matter and have raised concerns with the current guidance with the DfC Senior Management, the DfC Minister, NICS HR and with Ministers from The Executive Office. Staff with a vulnerable person living at home should not be asked to place that person at risk and the current NICS HR advice is not sufficient.

Free Public Transport for NICS Essential Workers

The NIPSA General Secretary has written to the Minister for Infrastructure to ask that the same provision introduced for health staff should be introduced for other NICS essential workers, the majority of which are in DfC. I am aware that the DfC Permanent Secretary has also engage senior NICS HR staff on this matter also.

Number of DfC staff at work

We have been tracking the number of DfC staff in work. On Tuesday, out of a staff total of around 8,500, 1,556 were on site working with 1,060 working remotely.

The figure for those in work is likely to increase as more staff are brought in to assist DS and UC and other priority areas but we will continue to monitor them.

I will continue to engage senior management on your behalf but it important that any issues are fed through the seconded officers.

Dooley Harte
Assistant Secretary