Job centre closures will hurt the poor - let’s help the DWP to see sense
Martin Johnstone says DWP proposals to close job centres make no sense and will be harmful - read how he proposes to #help the DWP
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) desperately need our help. #helptheDWP.
Its proposal this week to close up to half of Glasgow’s Job Centres leaves me almost speechless, and that doesn’t happen often, especially when I realised that the proposed closures are in some of our already most economically disadvantaged communities.
How much longer do some of the poorest in our society need to pay for the failings of others?
Perhaps a good place for the DWP to start would be to sit down and really listen to those who have seen what they have to live on reduce year on year as basic living costs continue to rise. The tentacles of austerity continue to reach into the already empty pockets of the poor.
Sometimes, just sometimes, people do listen and common sense does prevail
Erik Cramb, who many years ago was a Church of Scotland minister in the east end of Glasgow, used to tell the story of a new health centre that was planned for the area. There was a public meeting, the plans were revealed by a smartly dressed town planner who, having spoken at the gathered audience, asked if there were any questions.
An elderly lady put up her hand and said that she had two questions. The first was: ‘Did the town planner have a car?’ The second was whether he had corns. The town planner looked confused. These were not the questions that he was expecting. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘he had a car.’ ‘No,’ he stated, ‘he did not have corns.’
‘I though not,’ said the lady. ‘Only some daft eejit (those may not have been her precise words!) who has a car and doesn’t have corns would ever think that it was a good idea to build a new health centre there!’
Borrowing unashamedly from the wisdom of that Glasgow woman, I would say to the secretary of state for work and pensions: ‘only an idiot would think that it is a good idea to close job centres in communities where transport is so difficult and where ill health is often a primary reason why people struggle to find work. If you have to make savings, then think again.’
I think that we should offer to help the secretary of state out and that we should also enlist the help and support of those who work in our job centres as well as other organisations that genuinely support people who are looking for work. Most importantly we should learn from those who have to sign on. They are the people who now face the prospect of that becoming a more difficult and complicated journey.
The DWP has said that it is embarking on a period of consultation about the proposed closures.
Let’s engage in that consultation with all the wisdom, energy and creativity that we can muster. And let’s show them that there are so many more sensible ways of addressing their problems that they face. We can #helptheDWP.
By the way, as far as I know the health centre was never built in its proposed location. So sometimes, just sometimes, people do listen and common sense does prevail. We can always hope.
Martin Johnstone is secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church & Society Council and is involved in a range of anti-poverty projects across Scotland.