The UK Government’s proposal to drastically cut the number of jobcentres and DWP offices across Scotland and, indeed, the UK, including in my constituency of Inverclyde, will have a profound impact on thousands of people desperately seeking work and the support to which they are entitled. It is an insult that there has been a distinct lack of consultation with the communities affected and with our Government in Scotland. That lack of consultation is against the principles of the Smith agreement. Can the Minister explain to me why no consultation took place before the announcement of the closures?
In my constituency, the proposal is to close Port Glasgow jobcentre and make people from Kilmacolm, Port Glasgow and the east of Greenock travel miles to access DWP services. Disappointingly, this model has been replicated across the UK. That is an utter disgrace and it could push vulnerable people further into crisis, what with the added travel distance and cost placed upon individuals, many of whom have little or no readily available funds to pay for that commute. What assurances can the Minister provide to my constituents that they will still have readily available access to Jobcentre Plus and DWP services?
This should be far more than a spreadsheet exercise. I ask the Minister to put people first. Many Jobcentre Plus staff work hard to build good working relationships with service users, and they are aware of specific issues and needs. Can the Minister guarantee service users the continuity and quality of those working relationships? If the Minister is so certain that the measures are required, will she at least halt their implementation until a full equality impact assessment has been conducted and a full consultation of all sites has taken place; and if not, why not?