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Jobcentre Plus (Closures)

Volume 621: debated on Monday 20 February 2017

13. For what reason his Department did not carry out an impact assessment prior to the announcement of the proposed closure of Jobcentre Plus estates on 26 January 2017. (908769)

We have been mindful throughout of the impact on staff and customers. Analysis and local knowledge have informed the proposals, which are all subject to consultation with staff and, where appropriate, the public. A full equality impact assessment will be carried out.

Following the Minister’s advice, I went to see the regional manager of my jobcentres last week, but she had absolutely no information on the number of employment and support allowance or income support claimants that will be affected by the proposed closure in my constituency; the plans for outreach in relation to what will replace my jobcentre after its closure; the amount saved by that closure; the necessary spend on increased capacity at the alternative centre; or projections of footfall at the centre destined for closure. I hope that such work has been undertaken internally, so will the Minister commit to publishing all that information not only before a decision has to made, but preferably before the end of the consultation period?

First, ESA and IS claimants are not required regularly to attend the jobcentre in the same way that JSA claimants are. We want to look at outreach and other opportunities in working with partners. As the hon. Lady will know, the consultation closes on 28 February. On the overall approach for the city of Sheffield, this is about consolidating the amount of available space and using that space better to get a better deal for the taxpayer, while being able to provide enhanced services for customers. It will raise utilisation across Sheffield from 51% to 69%.

In 2010, there were three jobcentres in my constituency. The coalition closed one in 2012, and now the Minister’s Government want to close the remaining two. Just under 3,000 people—not an insignificant number—have to access the jobcentre in my constituency at least every two weeks Why did his Department not conduct and carry out the full equality impact assessment before the closure of the consultation?

The proposals will raise utilisation across the city of Liverpool from 66% to 95%, which will make better use of buildings. Where movement from one jobcentre to another involves travelling less than three miles or 20 minutes by public transport, we consider it is reasonable to ask people to make such a move.