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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 April, 2004, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Q&A: The civil service strike and you
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What effect will the 48-hour walkout on Tuesday by up to 82,000 civil servants in the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have on benefit claims and pension payments?

Will pensioners be paid their state pension?

Both the DWP and the union involved in the dispute, the PCS, told BBC News Online that there should be no interruption to the payment of pensions and benefits.

More than half of benefits and pensions are paid direct to bank accounts. The rest are paid over the counter at post offices.

I am claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA). Will I still be able to sign on for benefits?

JSA claimants are supposed to sign on at their nearest job centre every two weeks.

There are 892,100 people claiming unemployment-related benefits.

The DWP told BBC News Online that job centres would remain open.

"We are confident of a near normal service and have contingency plans in place to minimise the impact of industrial action on customers," a DWP spokeswoman said.

However, the union says the dispute will close most UK job centres, stopping people from signing on.

What will happen if I can't sign on?

The DWP says job seekers will continue to receive benefits.

However, it declined to comment on its contingency plans, for fear of alerting fraudsters.

The union said the usual practice when job centres closed was for claimants to continue to be paid benefits without the need to sign on.

What will happen to claims for pension credit?

The DWP said the Pension Credit helpline would remain open.

However, the union said it had a lot of members in the Pension Credit call centre and they would be stopping work on Monday.

On claims currently going through the system, the DWP said managers would be moving workers from other duties to deal with any backlog.

What if I am in urgent need of assistance?

Social security offices administer the Social Fund, Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans.

The Social Fund can help with urgent maternity, funeral and cold weather expenses.

Community Care Grants are designed to help people leaving institutional or residential care.

Crisis Loans are intended to help with expenses in an emergency or as a consequence of a disaster. Crisis Loans are discretionary interest-free loans.

The DWP said people in dire need would still be dealt with on merit, despite the strike action.

"It is extremely unlikely that all social security offices in a community will be closed. However, in very extreme cases, if no other option is available, people are advised to contact social services," the DWP spokeswoman said.

For all other questions relating to benefits, the DWP advises people to contact the social security office dealing with their claim.




SEE ALSO:
Further rallies in pay dispute
30 Jan 04  |  Northern Ireland
Pay dispute on talks agenda
29 Jan 04  |  Northern Ireland
DWP civil servants put off strike
28 Jan 04  |  Business


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