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The Opposition strongly oppose the Government’s latest plans for the closure of one in 10 jobcentres in the UK. What assessment has the Department made of the impact of these closures on claimants, in terms of travel times and additional costs? Will the Department consider issuing guidance to staff to take into account increased travel times when issuing sanctions? Accessibility is a major issue for many disabled people. The Government have said that they aim to halve the disability employment gap in the lifetime of this Parliament. How do the planned closures fit with that aim?
From this April, lone parents will be obliged to prepare for work through interviews with work coaches once a child is three years old, rather than five years old as is currently the case. We are particularly concerned about the impact on women, children and people with disabilities. Will the Government publish an assessment of the impact of these proposals on equality issues?
The Government continue to roll out universal credit, and, for the first time, people who are actually in work will have to attend interviews at jobcentres. Will the Government delay their plans to reduce their estate until they have a clearer idea of what the demands on jobcentres and staff will be under universal credit? The Government’s hope seems to be that universal credit claims will be made and managed online, but many people are not confident using IT and they may not have access to a PC, laptop or tablet. What provision will be made for claimants who have difficulty using PCs and the internet in areas where jobcentres are earmarked for closure?
These plans have simply not been thought through, and they will have a damaging impact on the way in which vital employment support is provided. The Government should think again.