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DR UK concerned at plans to close almost one in 10 jobcentres

06 July 2017

The DWP has announced plans to close almost one in 10 Jobcentres and to make around 750 Jobcentre staff redundant.

Announcing the office closures, Minister for Employment Damian Hinds said:

"We will always make sure that people have the support they need to get into and progress within work. These changes reflect the fact that more people access their benefits online resulting in many of our buildings being underused.

We’re merging some offices and locating other jobcentres with local authorities to make sure that the welfare state and our employment support works for those who need it and those who pay for it."

Disability Rights UK however is concerned that the DWP plans may result in a worse and reduced service to those claimants who are disabled or have long term health conditions.

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights Adviser said:

“That more people are accessing benefits online is as much a reflection of the DWP forcing people to do so as personal choice.

For example, it is nearly impossible to make a claim for Universal Credit other than online.

Many disabled people have difficulty using the internet due to the nature of their disability, and others have problems accessing it due to resources and finance.

In addition, those with mobility problems will find it harder to travel greater distances when required to attend Jobcentre appointments.

Reducing the number of Jobcentres will mean that more disabled people will be only able to contact the DWP by telephone that is again a source of difficulty for some disabled people.

While the DWP says it has undertaken equality analyses for each site closure it has not published these.

These equality analyses need to be made public so that local communities can be assured that the needs of disabled people have been considered in every case. “

Following this announcement an Urgent Question from Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Margaret Greenwood was raised today:

“(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to make a statement on his plans to close Jobcentre Plus offices, and the impact on local communities and Department for Work and Pensions jobs.”

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke argued that the closure of offices would allow for a more efficient service. He ignored requests from both Margaret Greenwood and Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) to publish DWP’s equality analyses.

Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds) (Con) asked:

“What arrangements are being made to help vulnerable claimants to access jobcentres? I am thinking particularly of those in rural areas, for example by offering help with travel.”

To which Mr Gauke replied:

“My hon. Friend raises an important point. There are steps that we take to assist more vulnerable claimants, such as being able to make visits, where necessary, in particular circumstances. That will continue, but it is absolutely right that we require those who are able to visit a jobcentre to do so.”

Other questions were also raised about the possibility of sanctions for claimants late to appointments because of jobcentre closures. No concrete promises were made. None of Mr Gauke’s responses alleviated our concerns.