Jobcentre Closures

Part of Committees – in the House of Commons at 9:07 pm on 5th February 2018.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 9:07 pm, 5th February 2018

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. Indeed, the issues he raises were the very motivations for our demanding that equality impact assessments be carried out before a decision was taken. It was obvious, though, that a decision was taken before the sham consultation that the Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to hold.

I have asked Ministers about the impact of the closures on disabled people, minority ethnic communities and women. For example, in a recent written question, I asked the Government how many disabled people used Langside jobcentre, which they closed two weeks ago. They told me that they do not hold those figures. If that is true for one jobcentre in my constituency, what is the answer for all the jobcentres across Glasgow? What is the answer for all the jobcentres that they are closing throughout the United Kingdom? This is a ham-fisted decision that has been handled in a ham-fisted way. The Government have relied on Google and do not know how the closures will affect huge numbers of people because they do not hold the data. I suspect that they do hold the data. I have to be honest: when I read that answer, I did not quite believe it. We would like to see the data and I can see no reason why the Government cannot give us the answers.

The other issue is that the Government have not actually thought through what they want jobcentres to do. I would have loved to have had a debate, when the Government announced the closures in December 2016, about how jobcentres can properly serve the people who use them and the communities in which they are based. The problem is that we were not offered that debate. We were offered a straight up choice: closure or non-closure. Rather than have a discussion about how jobcentres can, for example, better work with citizens advice bureaux and other employment agencies, perhaps under the auspices of local or devolved Government, all we were offered was a straight up closure programme. The Government did not even want to consult the very people who would be affected.