Employability Minister to press case directly with UK Minister.
UK Government Ministers have a duty to meet Scottish people who use Jobcentre Plus to get a full understanding of how potential office closures could affect these ‘vital services’, Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn has said.
Mr Hepburn will today meet UK Employability Minister Damian Hinds, and ask for clarity and assurances about the future of Jobcentre Plus facilities in Scotland, ahead of responding to a debate on the issue in Parliament.
The UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions announced last month, without giving any prior notice to the Scottish Government, that it was proposing to close half of Glasgow’s Jobcentre Plus offices as part of the 20% of cuts it was making across GB services.
It gave no indication whether other facilities across Scotland would also be cut, and while eight Glasgow offices will be affected it is only consulting on the closure of three – Bridgeton, Castlemilk and Maryhill.
Mr Hepburn will urge the UK Government to meet the Scottish Government’s employability networks, stakeholders, and the Scottish public who use these services, before any decision on the future of the services is made.
Mr Hepburn said:
“The UK’s Employability Minister has a duty to go out and meet people in Glasgow who use and rely on their local Jobcentre Plus. He needs to get an understanding of how cutting these vital services could be harmful to the future prospects of people who are looking for support to find a job.
“I fear that by reducing access to Jobcentre Plus, we will only increase the risk of benefit sanctions, pushing them into crises and desperation, and make it more difficult for people to find employment.
“I am also deeply concerned that one month on from the announcement we have seen no evidence of any meaningful discussion or consultation with those affected and have still to receive any clarity from the UK Government on whether the 20% of proposed cuts across the UK will affect other parts of Scotland, outside of Glasgow.
“With Scotland set to launch its transitional employment support services in April, we need to be in a position where we can offer people support; not see the UK Government take it away from them.
“I would urge the UK Government to visit its services and meet with our employability groups, so that any changes to Jobcentre Plus reflect the views of Scottish communities.”
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance and Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman will also meet Mr Hinds in Edinburgh today.
More information on Scotland’s new employability powers is available at: http://news.gov.scot/news/employment-support
On 7 December DWP announced plans to close eight out of the 16 Jobcentres in Glasgow. JCP staff in Glasgow were also notified on this date. Under the plans:
• Castlemilk and Langside Jobcentres would close and move to Newlands Jobcentre
• Parkhead, Easterhouse and Bridgeton Jobcentre would close and move to Shettleston Jobcentre
• Anniesland Jobcentre would close move to Partick Jobcentre
• Maryhill Jobcentre would close and move to Springburn Jobcentre
• Cambuslang Jobcentre would move to Rutherglen Jobcentre.
The eight offices remaining operational are: