Save our DWP offices – no cuts to public services!

To the House of Commons

The petition of residents of the UK.

Declares that the proposals put forward by the Department for Work and Pensions, to close in excess of a hundred offices by the end of March 2018, and dozens more in the period up to 2023, put at risk the public services provided by DWP, and do not take into account the views of staff, the claimants they serve, other public organisations whose services interlock with those of DWP, or the communities in which all of these services are based.

The proposals will hurt claimants. Claimants will be forced to travel further to get help to look for work. Claimants will be forced to pay more to get help to look for work. There will be fewer services in the remaining Jobcentres, as there will not be the same space for customer computers, interview rooms for employers or spaces for outside organisations to run job fairs, alcohol and drug advice services and many other things which help claimants move towards work.

There is a significant risk that having to travel further will make it more likely that the most vulnerable will face sanctions. The proposals do not take into account that the majority of claimants currently claim Employment and Support Allowance, with many having disabilities that will make travel harder. Some claimants of all benefits will also speak English as a second language or will have cognitive and learning disabilities that make it hard to respond to the government’s consultation, which has been poor.

The proposals will hurt staff. PCS union, representing the majority of DWP staff, have identified eleven sites where there is a critical risk of compulsory redundancies because of the unreasonable distances which staff are being told they must move. Lengthened commutes mean increased costs of travel for staff, including additional car parking costs, as basic facilities like car parking have not been prioritised by DWP. Extra time travelling also has an impact on the right to a family life.

The proposals will hurt communities. Many DWP offices exist in deprived communities, where local businesses depend on the staff to spend money, in order for the local businesses to survive. DWP’s proposals overwhelmingly involve the centralisation of services, and this will take money out of communities. Numerous small business owners have indicated, in the press and through correspondence with PCS, that without this trade, they will be forced to close.

Ministers have not done enough to take into account these concerns, many of which will be totally missed by the unnecessary restrictions placed on consultation either with the public or with DWP’s trade unions – PCS, FDA and Prospect.

Not every office closure is subject to consultation with service users and the public. Only Jobcentres where claimants will face additional travel of 2-3 miles AND 15-20 minutes by public transport. This is a break with the Ministerial Criteria of 2011, which established that consultation would take place when either closures involved extra travel of either 2-3 miles extra OR 15-20 minutes extra. DWP have made this worse by calculating travel distances using Google Maps, which is inaccurate.

The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to:

  • Instruct ministers to delay the implementation of any proposals until a full public consultation has been carried out for all Jobcentres; to instruct ministers to write to every claimant to ask for their views; to diversify the method of claimants submitting their views to include public meetings organised by DWP in the communities affected; to extend the consultation period to 26 weeks.
  • Instruct ministers to immediately account for all services delivered in each Jobcentre proposed for closure, and to account before the House of Commons, or one of its committees for how these services will be protected, either by replication at a different site or by the provision of “footprint” outreach services, as laid out in the Ministerial Criteria of 2011.
  • Instruct ministers to consult with the Scottish and Welsh governments, local authorities, local business leaders, trade unions and people from affected communities about the economic impact on local communities of removing jobs from that area, whether by closing a public-facing or staff-only site.
  • Instruct ministers to immediately rescind plans to close the 11 hotspot offices identified by the Public and Commercial Services union as being at risk of compulsory redundancies; Barrow, Cumnock, Coatbridge, Poole, Llanelli, Bishop Auckland, Annesley, Wembley, Holborn House, Birchwood and Porth and instruct ministers to work through all proposals, including for the 17 sites for which plans have not been released to ensure no compulsory redundancies in DWP.

The petitioners remain your humble servants.

 


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