Universal Credit From The Inside: A Case Manager's View
I am a UC case manager and I wanted to offer some insight to my job and how us on the inside perceive the service we deliver.
Let me begin with the staff ourselves, there are a lot of dedicated case managers and work coaches alike who truly care about the people who we work with, who are ready to go above and beyond to make sure payments get made and vital 'to-do's' are cleared, who stay and work extra hours that they cannot claim for because some of us know what it is like to go through such circumstances, either because we have been through it ourselves or from hearing and seeing the stories presented in groups like this or through telephone calls with the very people whose claims we are trying to look after.
On the contrary though there are also a lot of staff who lack such compassion or experience, either because they have been rushed into the service or just don't seem to want to learn how to dp the job they are paid for properly, it can be a degree of luck as to whether you get a great workcoach/casemanager or if you get someone who is lacking these qualities, something which some of you no doubt have noticed but it is something that we also notice, especially when it comes to us having to try and pick up their slack, it can be quite the divide between staff in centres.
The benefit itself is ever changing and adjusting, largely for the better in terms of how we work. things are becoming more automated which means we can deal with larger and larger amounts of claims, though this is something which has also come back to bite us.
Local areas are being pushed onto UC without the service centres to keep pace with the volume of claims coming through meaning staff are becoming more and more overburdened. Mix into this the less than excellent case managers, which then puts more and more burden on those who are willing and capable to do their job. The discrepancy in number of claims per case manager can be huge, some dealing with around 100 claims, others up around 300 claims.
The rules and policy of UC itself are a major point of contention for staff as well, we look at some of the rules and legislation that has to be enforced or what we need to do on a claim and how we should work it (we get no leeway with how we work anymore, we have to follow a strict, regimented process, which has its pros and cons) and openly state that it can be quite unfair.
However because it is put in place by the government of the day, we have no way to contest it or change how something is actually done. We do have the ability to suggest improvements and features, though we can be left waiting months for a response to these if we even get one at all.
The budget we have for this new flagship seems to be getting cut all the time, recruitment doesn't happen in the numbers we need and resources do feel like they are quite mismanaged.
When I first applied for the job, I was sold on that we would be redesigning the welfare state and making it much simpler and straight forward. This dream is still alive with some staff who genuinely do want this reform to succeed, to make the state's resources more easily accessible to people in need in our society. however it seems that with each new budget cut and remix of how we are supposed to work, that this is becoming more and more of a pipe dream.
Today's vote was a huge relief to some of us at our office, we watched the result come in. Our system does need to be put on pause and some key elements have their design flaws ironed out, such as the initial 6 week wait. If it is given the proper resources and development it needs, this will be something great and a huge leap forward for us, however in its current state the system is trying to do too much with too little.
This piece was originally posted in a Facebook group - author name has been witheld for obvious reasons