PCS’ DWP mass lobby of parliament was attended by more than 100 people and saw more than 40 MPs participate in our event to fight the DWP office closures proposed by the government.
A packed committee room in parliament heard from a range of speakers yesterday afternoon before members lobbied MPs who were supportive of our campaign to stop the closure of more than 100 jobcentres and back of house offices, threatening at least 750 job losses, negative impacts on vulnerable users and damage to the local economy.
Attendants heard from a panel of speakers chaired by PCS president Janice Godrich, including Chris Stephens MP, chair of the PCS Parliamentary Group who said: "The decision making around some of these closures is completely flawed. The most vulnerable are targeted. More now than ever people need a human face not a digital option. We were told there would be no job losses… over 100 questions later… 750 posts will disappear in DWP. Some towns and cities are going to have their largest employer close. This Tory government started with how many offices they could close and worked backwards from that process. We are going to continue to fight this all the way.”
The closures have had no equality impact assessment, Debbie Abrahams MP, shadow minister for work and pensions criticised the “appalling lack of assessment on how this will affect disabled and vulnerable people.”
Addressing the members in the audience she said it was a “ludicrous suggestion that your workload is going to decrease” and that opposing these proposals was “about how we work together to hold the government to account for the appalling impasse they are having on some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary, said: “Since the financial crisis, we are confronted by a government in the process of dismantling the social gains made by the organised labour movement. A fundamental part of this campaign is to force the management to reveal their rationale for these closures, to show whether this is in the public interest. There is no regard for DWP members, claimants or local communities. We will use our power to expose the terrible social consequences of this closure program.”
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against The Cuts activist gave a harrowing and moving account of the personal impact on colleagues of government policies on disabled people, which has resulted in self harm, suicide and hospitalisation as a result of sanctions.
“Closures will horrendously impact on the lives of claimants and the support they need on PiP and Universal Credit applications," she said. "We will see sanction rates go through the roof.”
Paula questioned the switch to digitisation as one fifth of disabled people do not have access to a computer. She condemned the “ideological cuts”, which result in “a ramping up of suicide, hunger and poverty.”
Fran Heathcote, PCS DWP Group President said: “We are opposed to disgraceful cuts to DWP offices. Jobcentres have been picked seemingly at random with no proper consultation which seems to be drawn up by sticking a pin on a map. The ministerial criteria fails on a very basic point: none of us lives in the office. Removing back of house offices will decimate local economies. This government is creating a wasteland where even big cities are losing essential public services."
We need all members to help build on the momentum that has grown in parliament, including through holding this lobby.
Take 2 minutes to use our e-action to ask your MP to join more than 30 who have signed our EDM opposing the closures.