Church condemns plans to close Job Centres

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The Church of Scotland has reacted with dismay to “unacceptable” plans to cut up to half of the Job Centres in Glasgow.

The Department of Work and Pensions is proposing to shut eight centres in some of the city's most deprived areas as part of a review that aims to reduce the UK wide number by 20%.

Pauline Edmiston, vice convener of the Church and Society Council, said: ‘The Church would want to strongly resist these proposals.

“For many people getting to their local job centre is already very challenging.

“To make that even more difficult would be fundamentally wrong and unjust.”

Abandon the plans

Amongst the eight Job Centres under threat of closure in the Glasgow area are those in Castlemilk, Bridgeton, Easterhouse and Maryhill.

It is feared the plans could impact on more than 74,000 people.

For some of those affected, the plans could add an additional six miles onto the journey to sign-on and an additional one and a half hours to get there and back by bus.

The Church of Scotland, along with colleagues from the Poverty Truth Commission and a range of other organisations, will write this week to Damien Green, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, asking him to abandon the plans.

They will also invite him to Glasgow to meet some of those who could be most directly affected if the proposals were to go ahead.

The proposals will be subject to a period of consultation before any final decisions are implemented in 2018.

A number of the churches serving some of Scotland’s poorest communities have already agreed to campaign together to seek to influence the outcome.

Anxiety

Ms Edmiston, who heads up a team of community workers supporting faith groups to undertake anti-poverty work in Glasgow, said: “Virtually every day we come across people who are looking for work but who are being badly treated by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“People, for example, who lose their benefits because they are a few minutes late for an appointment.

“Or others who are constantly anxious about doing something wrong and who are, as a result, less likely to have the confidence required to find work.

“These proposals will only make things harder.

They are simply not acceptable.

“If the DWP has to make savings then that should not be about punishing the poorest in our society even more.”