Following months of uncertainty, the people of Glasgow yesterday learned that of the 7 job centres threatened with closure at the beginning of the year, only one is to be retained.
When announced, the proposed closures attracted such strong criticism that Damian Hinds MP, Minister of State for Employment was called to the Scottish Affairs Committee to explain the Department’s reasoning. After hearing evidence from the Department, the Committee concluded that they had heard nothing in support of the closure that “backs up the UK Government’s insistence that it is a result of carefully thought out, long-term planning and not just an opportunistic cost cutting exercise.”
Only last year the Poverty Truth Commissions report “Names Not Numbers” spoke of the importance of dignity and challenged public bodies to develop services to listen to people living with poverty; This decision shows an appalling disregard of the views of those who are reliant on local access to the centres for essential support and brings into question the purpose of a public consultation process.
The UK Government remains intransigent on the issue however, continuing to fail to consult with the Scottish Government or publishing an Equalities Impact Assessment on the proposals, insisting that the negative impact will be minimal as Universal Credit brings much of their work online. While this may be the case, it is only thanks to the ongoing support of grassroots community organisations working hard to ensure that people are not negatively impacted by the move to digital. One claimant told us their views on the reasons for the increased uptake of digital services; “This is due to the fact that it is not easily accessible to make a new claim over the phone or at JCP as everyone is directed to make a claim on line and not offered the support to do so.”
We are very concerned about the impact these changes will have on those more vulnerable members of our community, and we are shocked and saddened by the government’s refusal to reconsider their plans in light of public opinion.