Warning JobCentre closures will result in increased hardship for benefit claimants
Plans to close seven JobCentres in Glasgow will result in more claimants being sanctioned, anti-poverty campaigners have warned.
Campaigners say the locations targeted for closure represent some of the city’s highest areas of deprivation and will mean already hard-up claimants will have to travel further to outlying areas to claim benefits.
More than 74,000 people would be affected by the proposals which could add up to six miles onto the journey of some Glasgow residents to reach their closest JobCentre, it is feared.
The Poverty Alliance said the current sanctions regime has made accessing social security almost impossible for many people, particularly young people and this move is likely to put people off claiming the support that they are entitled to.
It is now calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to reverse its decision.
Peter Kelly, its director, said: “This is the latest in a long line of policy decisions which will impact negatively on people living on low incomes and young people.
“The UK government has pursued years of punitive measures aimed at reducing the number of people benefits, regardless of the outcome. If that wasn't enough, they are now further withdrawing the face to face support that can make the difference for so many people.
“We know that applying for benefits is already a difficult and daunting process for many, and this is yet another hurdle for people to tackle.
“If this is really not about reducing benefit take up by making it harder for people to apply, then the DWP should stop sanctioning people for lateness and build more flexibility into appointment times.
“People must also be provided with the money to cover their travel expenses in advance.
“We are calling on the DWP to reverse their decision and keep these job centres open as they are a valuable lifeline for communities.”
tens of thousands of people will potentially have to travel further at additional cost
Before Christmas Pauline Edmiston, vice convener of the Church and Society Council, the arm of the Church of Scotland which engages in political and social issues, said that the move was “fundamentally wrong and unjust."
Archbishop Philip Tartgalia said: “Sadly, Glasgow has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Scotland, and suffers high levels of deprivation as a result.
"Closing offices in some of the most deprived areas of the city, risks reducing access to support for those who need it most.”
“Tens of thousands of people will potentially have to travel further at additional cost to attend their appointments, while risking severe sanctions if they are even a few minutes late. I hope this proposal will be reconsidered in a way which respects the dignity of claimants and meets their needs.”
Denise Horsfall, the DWP's work services director for Scotland, justified the plans by saying it was now easier for claimants to access JobCentre services "whether that be in person, online or over phone."
She added: "By bringing together a number of neighbouring jobcentres we're continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer."
The closure plans will be subject to a consultation period and a final decision on them is expected within six months, before any final decision is implemented in 2018.