Government threat to DWP office closures will impact on welfare of our members and vulnerable service users
PCS is opposing 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.
There are numerous welfare implications if these closures and relocations go ahead:
- Staff will face job losses, and in some cases, unreasonable travel journeys to and from work. Those with caring responsibilities, childcare commitments and access requirements will be particularly disadvantaged. Staff losses are coming at a time when Universal Credit is being rolled out, hampered by delays, IT failures and backlogs. DWP could redeploy staff to Universal Credit where resources are needed.
- The government has not consulted claimants who use these jobcentres on the closure plans. Many are in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation. Disability claimants, staff/users with caring responsibilities and vulnerable users must be given due regard in terms of the equality impact assessment and the disadvantage that they will face if offices close or are relocated. Having to travel further as a result of these proposals also means some users are unfairly out of pocket and run the risk of being sanctioned for lateness.
- The ministerial criteria for the proximity of a jobcentre to claimants is that they must be 2 to 3 miles distance or 20 minutes by public transport from the old to the new site. One striking criticism is that some of the journeys have been assessed as appropriate using Google maps. This has meant bus routes have been taken into account which no longer exist. Factors such as traffic and accessibility for disabled and vulnerable users has not been adequate.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people and forcing them to travel further is not only unfair, it undermines support to get them back to work."
We share many of the concerns raised by the Mayor of London who states that “plans to close jobcentres will hit the disadvantaged hardest”.