Job Centre Plus closure plans branded a disgrace
Published on 8 February, 2017
Controversial proposals to shut down half of all job centres in Glasgow have been branded a “disgrace”.
Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, Secretary to the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said the UK Government plans were “unjust, ill conceived” and an “attack” on some of the most vulnerable people in society.
He is giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee which is holding a special session this afternoon to scrutinise the potential impact of closing eight Job Centre Plus facilities in the city.
Speaking ahead of the session, Dr Johnstone said: “The current plan to close up to half of Glasgow’s Job Centres is a disgrace.
“It is an attack, intentional or otherwise, on some of the very poorest people in our country, living in some of our very poorest neighbourhoods.
“Amongst the Job Centres currently targeted for closure are Bridgeton, Castlemilk, Easterhouse, Maryhill and Parkhead – communities that are synonymous with the struggle against poverty.”
Dr Johnstone said the Church of Scotland was present in every community with a specific concern to work alongside people in the very poorest communities.
“The Department of Work and Pensions points to the falling number of people claiming benefits and the move towards digital services as part of the rationale for the closures,” he added.
“However, it is perhaps worth noting that although the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has fallen in recent years, it is still roughly the level that it was in the late 1990s, the time when many of these Job Centres were opened.
“Even more worrying, given in the 1990’s virtually everyone who was entitled to claim unemployment benefits did so, today only around half do.
“With the planned closures it is likely that that figure will further increase.”
Dr Johnstone said people were being forced into destitution by a system that is meant to support and protect the most vulnerable in society.
“The Church of Scotland in seeking to faithfully follow Jesus who deliberately chose poverty over wealth, is standing alongside those who will suffer most from the planned closures,” he added.
“And to say loudly, and clearly, to the UK Government - these plans are unjust; they are ill conceived; and they should not go ahead.”
Dr Johnstone had written a more lengthy article on the issue, which is also being discussed in the Scottish Parliament today.