Striking to save a community lifeline: Southall jobcentre

Ahead of a strike against the closure of Southall jobcentre on Tuesday (12 September) the PCS DWP branch sets out why our members are striking

In January, the proposed closure of Southall Jobcentre was subject to a public consultation exercise, as travel time to Ealing jobcentre was outside of the government criteria. Despite a high profile community campaign, the decision to close the office was announced 5 July.

The consultation exercise generated a large number of responses, including from local MPs, the council leader, councillors, the trades council, community groups, staff, claimants and PCS.

The main concerns were related to the race and deprivation impact of the closure. Southall’s residents are 93.74% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and in the top 10 most deprived areas of the country. The public responses highlighted genuine equality issues.

The decision shocked staff and the community who cannot believe that the government have ignored their equality duty. They have simply stated the closure is “justified” to save money but failed to give any detail on how they will mitigate against the adverse impact on equality.

 

Major impact

Southall jobcentre is important to the community, a lifeline for vulnerable people with complex needs. If the office closes in January 2018, the impact on the community will be major. Claimants will have a clear choice between paying the extra travel costs to Ealing jobcentre and eating.

There's a strong community spirit in Southall. Staff provide a unique service to claimants. They give back to the community, not just supporting people into work and with benefit queries but also raising thousands of pounds for local charities and doing regular food bank collections.

Southall staff voted to take strike action hoping that the government will sit up and pay attention to the significant equality impact of closing the office and sit down with PCS to attempt to resolve our dispute. PCS members feel that the government has made a mistake. They have not looked properly at the specific equality issues in Southall.

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