Tory plans to close half of Glasgow’s Job Centres demonstrate the lack of respect the UK Government has for some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.
The plans have earmarked eight Job Centres in Glasgow to close, including one in Maryhill in my constituency.
These closures will hit vulnerable people – who struggle to access services – the hardest. They’ll face increased transport costs and additional travel time.
My constituents will need to travel from Maryhill to Springburn – a costly round-trip that could easily take over two hours. On the cost of travel, one constituent put it to me starkly: “you’d be taking it out your child’s mouth”.
And, concerns over Job Centre closures go far beyond the practicality and cost of getting there. For many people they have worked hard to establish a relationship and trust with a benefits advisor – something that is crucial in getting vulnerable people back into work. With these closures, they are likely to lose their existing advisor. That relationship will be dismantled and much of the trust will be shattered.
On the prospect of losing their work coach, one constituent told me “I’ve got one in there and they are absolutely brilliant. She knows I’ve got the weans and tries to help. I’ve built a relationship with mine. With others the trust falls down”. Another constituent told me “you don’t want to keep retelling your story. It’s often very personal and your existing job coach knows you”.
We need to improve the support we provide vulnerable groups – not make it worse by taking away vital services. We need to help people into work – not throw up barriers.
Glasgow’s elected representatives across all parties can see the clear deficiencies in a rushed and threadbare consultation on Job Centre closures by the Department for Work and Pensions. A consultation that treats the most vulnerable in our communities is nothing more than an afterthought.
It is clear that the decision is being driven by the UK government’s ideological obsession with austerity – and it is deeply concerning that these closures represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tory cuts. The SNP will stand up to these cuts at both Holyrood, Westminster, and through the Scottish Government.
Bob Doris is SNP MSP for Maryhill and Springburn