Backbench Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:08 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:08 pm, 16th March 2017

The hon. Lady will understand that I am not going to stand up in Westminster Hall—nor should I—and talk about detailed proposals and plans for sites that she or others may put forward, but we are always open to talking about the range of opportunities. I am happy to follow up with her on the specific points she raises.

In every case where change is proposed, we have sought to minimise disruption and listen carefully to those who might be affected, but as a result of modernisation, the Department’s services are demanding fewer people to deliver. It is only right that we consider our options going forward. Delivering a modern and dynamic service to claimants requires modern and dynamic working environments, and that is what we are striving towards as part of our vision for DWP in 2020. Our aim is to maintain and improve the services offered across the country.

We recognise, of course, how important the DWP’s staff are to achieving that aim. They are our most valuable resource. It is as a result of their immense effort that the Department is able to provide such a high level of service to our customers. My colleagues and I have been clear that the proposals for the DWP’s redesigned estate do not mean a reduction in the number of frontline staff. In fact, we are recruiting and we expect to have more work coaches in every nation and region of the United Kingdom at the end of this process in March 2018 than we do today.

For staff across the DWP network who may be affected by the estate changes, we are currently working through options with each individual, identifying relocation opportunities in the event of closure, but most of all we are listening carefully to understand fully the impact on staff.