Steven Livingston, one of Labour’s candidates for Langside ward in Glasgow at next year’s local election, says Tory cuts to Job Centres will damage unemployed people’s life chances and could make them more likely to suffer sanctions. This article was first published by Glasgow Labour.
The Labour Party exists to represent working people in Parliament. As well as representing those in work it is our duty as a society to help those out of work back into employment. The Tories claim this is the underlying objective behind their welfare reforms. In practice, however, their policies make finding work even more difficult for unemployed people and punish those on low incomes with their brutal sanctions regime.
Last week the Tory government announced that it would be closing up to half of Glasgow’s 16 Job Centres in the city – including in my own ward of Langside – meaning service users will have to travel further to access employment services.
Yet again the poorest in our communities are to take the brunt of cuts as a result of the failings of the Tory government. Any money saved by the Department of Work and Pensions as a result of these closures will only in turn put the financial burden on service users who are already on low incomes. These people will be forced to resort to making expensive phone calls to DWP call centres and will face increased travel costs getting to and from appointments.
Many people in our communities lack the necessary skills or do not have access to a computer or the internet in order to apply for work or benefits. There is a requirement for job seekers on Universal Credit to search for employment for up to 35 hours a week, and this is something many will struggle to do without access to computers at their local Job Centre. Failing to fulfil this requirement could lead to job seekers being sanctioned.
People often don’t have the time or money to afford to wait on hold – for hours in some cases – to speak to a member of staff at the DWP. These people tend to be among the most deprived and financially vulnerable. They rely on access to the face-to-face support that local Job Centres provide.
For people in Langside – and those who rely on the other seven Job Centres due for closure in the city – it will be difficult to travel to the new location due to public transport being expensive and inadequate. To travel to Newlands Job Centre from the centre in Langside requires two buses there and back, at considerable cost. And with buses remaining unregulated we can’t control these costs in order to help people get to appointments. The unreliability of public transport could also lead to people being late for appointments, and could lead to them falling foul of the harsh sanctions regime which is fictionalised in Ken Loach’s latest film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ but which is all too real for many people in Glasgow.
I’ll be campaigning with Scottish Labour Party colleagues, local residents, trade unions and other organisations against this heinous attack on Glasgow by the Tory government. We must protect our local communities and save our city’s Job Centres from closure.