The Department’s priority will be to retain, retrain and redeploy colleagues either within the Department for Work and Pensions or within other Government Departments in the area, and with no reduction in the overall services people receive.
The plan to close Phoenix House in Barrow will result in more than 40 specialist jobs leaving the area. This matters because the people there are the only team in the country able to deal with the really complicated industrial disablement benefits that they process. Only recently, largely due to our industrial heritage in Barrow, we were confirmed as having the highest rate of mesothelioma in the UK. The team at Phoenix House help not just Barrow residents but people across the UK with such complex diseases. I have written at length to the Secretary of State about this, with detailed testimonies from charities, service users, staff members and third-party organisations that want to keep the centre open. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can find a way to make this work?
My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner for his constituency and for the wider area, and the jobs that he is concerned with, and I give him great credit for that. I am not the responsible Minister, and I know that that letter has only recently arrived into the Department, but I will ensure very definitely that the Minister in respect of this particular decision will meet him in the near weeks so that there can be a proper discussion in respect of the situation for impacted staff.