Wigan Job Centre 'putting public at unnecessary risk of Covid exposure'

Complainant accuses staff of allowing a customer in the Brocol House building on King Street without checking if they had any symptoms of the virus

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 7:00 am

Wigan’s job centre has been accused of “putting the public at unnecessary risk of Covid exposure”.

The member of the public, who has asked to remain anonymous, said the incident happened on Thursday at Brocol House on King Street.

They accused staff of deciding to keep the building open despite knowing that they allowed a customer in without checking if they had any symptoms of Covid-19.

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Brocol House in King Street was closed for a deep clean after 17 Covid cases were confirmed
Brocol House in King Street was closed for a deep clean after 17 Covid cases were confirmed

Staff also failed to take any tracing information, according to the complainant, who said the customer subsequently informed staff that he should be isolating as he had the virus.

It comes after the office was closed for a deep clean after 17 Covid cases were confirmed last month.

The centre subsequently re-opened but the Public and Commercial Services union raised safety concerns amid increasing reports of the Delta variant across the North West.

The town’s MP, Lisa Nandy, has also written to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for clarity on the department’s plans for safer operations at job centres.

The DWP insisted that colleague and customer safety remains at the “centre of its response to provide vital support to those who need it.”

But describing the situation as “shocking and totally unacceptable”, the complainant said: “This has exposed a number of customers of Wigan job centre to a totally unnecessary risk of contracting Covid.

“Worse still, it was refused to close the job centre to protect the public and staff from risk despite a number of requests from concerned staff and union reps. “

Later in the day, the complainant also said that a staff member reported testing positive, having spent the day seeing customers.

But they said that, again, a decision was delayed to close the building to protect the safety of the public.

They added: “This is a shocking and totally unacceptable situation that has now put a large number of public and staff at risk of contracting Covid at a time when infection rates in the borough are already rocketing.

“This following on from the same office recently having 19 staff falling ill with the Covid D variant in one week.

“I can only describe the attitude of DWP as totally reckless when it comes to ensuring the safety of its customers and the staff who work there.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Colleague and customer safety remains at the centre of our response to provide vital job centre support to those who need it.

Job centres will always act upon any reports of positive cases on site and take the necessary steps to ensure rigorous health and safety measures are followed in line with public health and Government guidance. Health and safety is kept under constant review.”

The spokesman said COVID secure measures include rigorous cleaning regimes, strict social distancing and the rolling out of lateral flow testing for colleagues at larger sites.

They said that colleagues and customers also have access to the free testing kits made available by Government.

They added that it continues to work closely with the unions, as they have done throughout the pandemic, on the health and safety measures in place on their sites.

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