To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the evidential basis is for the jobcentre services in Scotland meeting the Government's criteria of three miles or 20 minutes radius travel distance for claimants to reach a jobcentre; what modes of transport his Department used in its assessment of travel time; what consultation his Department has carried out with claimants affected by proposed jobcentre closures; and what additional support or funding his Department plans to provide to claimants with additional travel costs.
Guidelines around the movement of jobcentres, referred to as ‘ministerial criteria’, have been used for many years across the whole of the UK network. They originated from a desire to standardise the circumstances when considering the movement of one jobcentre to another. They do not reflect the travel times for all claimants, many of whom routinely travel much further or longer to reach their nearest jobcentre.
Jobcentre distances and journey times were calculated using a variety of methods to ensure as accurate an assessment as possible, recognising the number of variables that might factor in claimants actual journeys. This included online tools and timetables, information collected on local public transport routes, and input and scrutiny from local DWP colleagues and management. Whilst there is no statutory requirement to do so, DWP opted to carry out a public consultation to seek the views of everyone with an interest in the closure Jobcentres that were outside of the ministerial criteria.
Jobseekers who have been claiming Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than 13 weeks can apply for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card, which halves the cost of pay as you go bus fares.
Furthermore, the Flexible Support Fund can, where appropriate, be used to help claimants with travel costs of undertaking various work search activities (for example formal training) or job interviews.
The reimbursement of travel costs is available to claimants when they are required to attend the jobcentre for appointments other than mandatory fortnightly signing appointments. In addition, those claiming Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support are not required to attend their local jobcentre on a regular basis.