Plans to close half of Glasgow's jobcentres have come under heavy criticism in a debate in parliament.
In December 2016, it was revealed that the DWP intended to close 8 of the 16 jobcentres in Glasgow, drastically reducing employment support in some of the most deprived areas.
If the closures go ahead, claimants will have to travel further to the job centre, with extra travel costs and even the increased risk of sanctions, should travel disruption cause people to miss meetings. This will particularly affect disabled claimants and those with caring commitments but PCS is still waiting to see an Equality Impact Assessment on the proposals.
MPs said during the debate yesterday (18 January) that the plans would have a "far reaching and devastating impact on vulnerable claimants" and that they were "bereft of logic and bereft of compassion".
Halt the plans
Margaret Ferrier (SNP, Rutherglen and Hamilton West) called for plans to close the sites to be halted immediately until a full equality impact assessment has been conducted.
"What might seem rational on a piece of paper will have very real consequences on people's lives," she said. "Closure seems to have been the only option on the table, rather than one of last resort."
Natalie McGarry (SNP, Glasgow East) called the plans "bereft of logic and bereft of compassion" and an "ideologically driven cost-cutting exercise."
"Glasgow has double the national average in joblessness. This indicates that the government should be doing more to help, not less," she said.
PCS parliamentary group chair Chris Stephens (SNP, Glasgow South West) described the plans to close 50% of the jobcentres in Glasgow as a moral outrage.
Shadow Labour minister for employment, Margaret Greenwood (Labour, Wirral West) raised concern over the increased pressure on remaining jobcentres and the increased focus on digital service. She asked the government for a breakdown in the rise in caseload for the remaining jobcentres and to explain what would be done to help the staff dealing with extra caseload.
The people of Glasgow deserve better
There are also concerns about safety and capacity in the remaining 8 jobcentres which will have to take on double the number of staff and claimants. Shettleston jobcentre is expected to take on the work of 3 nearby job centres facing closure.
Since the announcement in December 2016, PCS has been working closely with the PCS Parliamentary Group, local Glasgow MPs and MSPs to campaign against the closures and scrutinise the government’s plans; meeting with the minister, raising questions in parliament and tabling two debates. The first debate in December heavily criticised the government for failing to understand the impact of their proposals.
PCS reps in Glasgow have also been raising the profile of the issue locally, giving media interviews and holding meetings in every job centre. Members’ views are being collected and fed into the government consultation which runs until 31 January.
There have also been a series of public meetings to involve claimants and local organisations. Members in Glasgow are encouraged to attend the next public meeting 11am-1pm on 18 February at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HZ.
Speakers include PCS president Janice Godrich, and Chris Stephens MP.
The attention on Glasgow appears to have rattled the government. PCS had expected to hear further site closure announcements as part of the DWP ‘People and locations programme’ which aims to reduce the DWP estate by 20%. Since the Glasgow jobcentres have received widespread media attention, however, there has been silence.
While silence over future closures may be a good sign, we are concerned that the government might keep their plans secret and then push through closures at short notice. We are clear that any plans to close DWP sites must be shared with PCS at the earliest opportunity and subject to thorough consultation and equality impact assessment.