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East End Jobcentre Closures

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2018

The petition of residents of Glasgow East constituency.

Declares that the Department for Work and Pensions plans to close Jobcentres in Glasgow, including Parkhead Jobcentre and Easterhouse Jobcentre, will impact tens of thousands of people in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit, and that the consequences will be severely felt by some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people; have concerns that these closures will result in the poorest communities not being serviced by a Jobcentre and make it even harder for those seeking employment to get support, with people running a greater risk of falling foul of the UK Government's sanctions regime; and are further concerned that these plans will also impact Scottish workers who will be forced to relocate to other Jobcentres.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons to urge the Government to halt any move to close Glasgow’s Jobcentres, publish thorough Equality Assessments and go through a full and proper consultation before making any decisions on the future of the estate.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Linden , Official Report, 16 January 2018; Vol. 634, c. 851 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Ms Esther McVey):

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employs around 80,000 people administering the state pension and a range of working age, disability and ill-health benefits to more than 22 million claimants and customers. We do this from over 900 sites, of which around 700 are jobcentres. The way we interact with our customers is changing, as are their needs and expectations, and so we must change too.

In March 2018, the 20-year contract covering the majority of DWP current estate of over 900 sites comes to an end. This has presented an opportunity to re-evaluate what we need from our estate. The increased use of our online services in recent years, coupled with reductions in unemployment and improved efficiency, means that 20% of the rent currently paid by DWP is going toward space we are not using.

In response, we have sought to redesign our estate in a way that delivers value for the taxpayer. We would stress that this is not about reducing services, but about taking the opportunity to stop spending money on empty space so we can spend more on supporting those in need.

We want an estate that enables us to create more modern, digitally enabled, engaging environments which fit the ethos of universal credit and also reflect the falling claimant count. Our changes will lead to savings to the taxpayer in the order of £135 million a year, on average, for the next 10 years.

In 2015, Glasgow had 16 jobcentres—more per 100,000 of the population than any other similar sized city in the UK. These jobcentres were on average around 40% utilised. The jobcentres had built up historically within the four quarters of Glasgow, primarily within large housing estates. As a result, Glasgow had more smaller sites and as unemployment has dropped across the city, so has the use of some of these smaller jobcentres. These small, half-empty offices make it challenging to create a welcoming and positive environment. We proposed to bring these smaller jobcentres together into larger existing sites within the city’s four quarters. The larger sites are all geographically based in locations around the city that can offer better services to our customers.

An announcement made on Wednesday 7 December 2016 confirmed that eight of the 16 Glasgow jobcentres were proposed for closure. A detailed equality analysis was completed for each of these sites and the findings were used to understand the potential impact on both the people using our services and DWP employees. In addition, DWP carried out three public consultations, through which it gathered knowledge about each local area, including potential new journey times and costs for claimants.

DWP considered this additional information and changed its original proposal. In July 2017, we confirmed that two of the eight jobcentres originally proposed for closure would be retained (Castlemilk and Cambuslang) and that six Glasgow jobcentres would close and merge with larger nearby jobcentres. Four of the six mergers have already taken place—Anniesland, Maryhill, Langside and Bridgeton jobcentres. Easterhouse and Parkhead are due to merge with Shettleston jobcentre in February 2018. Even with the reduction to 10 jobcentres, Glasgow will still have the second highest number of jobcentres per head of population than other cities of a similar size.

Our Work Coaches personalise the support they provide for each claimant, taking account of individual need and circumstance, including capability, disability and caring responsibilities, when arranging any attendance. DWP has various ways of interacting with vulnerable claimants, including face-to-face, email, telephone, post and SMS.

Our Work Coaches recognise that following each merger, some claimants will be taking an unfamiliar journey. They will support them throughout the transition to their new jobcentre and we do not expect the changes to result in additional sanctions.

We have undertaken one-to-one conversations with all staff who have been impacted by these changes. In addition to gathering information about individual needs, such as caring responsibilities, those conversations also provided an important opportunity to discuss potential changes to each individual’s journey to work and allowed the opportunity to explore the scope to move to new locations.

Information gathered from those conversations was recorded and considered in each site equality analysis before the decision to close a jobcentre was confirmed. All DWP staff affected by jobcentre closures in Glasgow have been, or will be, redeployed to another jobcentre. DWP has consulted and worked closely with departmental trade union sides throughout this process.

As with all major changes delivered by DWP, we are implementing reorganisation of our estate in a staged and controlled way. We are taking this approach because there are a significant number of activities that need to take place to move our people, our claimants and the associated caseloads to the new jobcentre. In phasing work in this way, we can minimise the risk of any disruption to vital services.

The confirmed office moves and mergers are arranged as part of a much bigger, complex sequence of changes involving a number of suppliers and contractors. To halt the reorganisation of our estate in Glasgow now would be detrimental to claimants, taxpayers and the services we deliver.