Some people may think I’m being naïve, and possibly I am, but I thought the aim of Job Centres is to support people back in to work, however this letter from Peter Jamieson; District Manager for the DWP regarding the early closure of the Norris Green Job Centre seems to be contradictory to this, despite promises of working closely with local communities
- No explanation as to why the closure date was brought forward has been offered.
- According to the letter ‘Ministerial Criteria’ has been met, including the requirement for public consultation, this criteria seems to be an on-line public consultation paper, notices and posters displayed in the job centre, I’m sure we all agree one of the main barriers for claimants is lack of digital skills, with many having limited literacy skills.
- The letter also states that an Equality Impact Assessment has been completed, this has not been shared, but the DWP recognise that some claimants will be taking an unfamiliar journey and in such instances Work Coaches will provide support duting this transitional period what does this mean? Will the Work Coaches accompany these vulnerable claimants to the new location? Either on the bus, which for many living with poor mental health can be traumatic, and that is if they can afford to travel by bus. How long do the DWP consider a ‘transitional period’ to be?
- Claimants can request that they attend a job centre nearer to their home, however with the closure of Norris Green, the two alternate options, Everton Rd and Eaton Rd are the nearest, this means a round trip walk of 5 miles, for Croxteth claimants this could rise to a round trip of 9 miles, for those claimants unfortunate to have no fixed abode, this could be a daily walk. No financial assistance for public transport is available outside their minimum requirement of attendance and no provision.
- The proposal to relocate to the Library has been rejected, for the following reasons/ excuses; the timing of the submission being too short (despite it being the DWP that brought forward the closure date) Mr Jamieson being on leave, and the space not meeting their service delivery requirements although they have not informed us of their requirements. There were 24 staff based in the job centre and an offer of space for 30 desks would be available in the Library.
- The opportunity to relocate to the library offers so much to claimants, access to computers within the library, access to the One Stop provision, access to training opportunities and support from local community organisations, which has always been available at the Lorenzo Drive site. Moving to Everton or West Derby could mean that these opportunities will be missed as community partners are often limited in their postcode delivery and smaller community organisation that currently work closely with the DWP will be limited in the support they are able to offer to claimants i.e the Bridge Centre ‘listen and support’ service. The impact and benefits of partnership between community partners and the DWP cannot be underestimated, I myself am a prime example of this, eight years ago this was my job centre, my advisor had good local knowledge of learning opportunities provided to improve my confidence and give me new skills, this led to me being employed under the FJF and then full time employment and eventually becoming a Ward Councillor, there are many case studies I could quote if there was more time, but I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of keeping this service local. This abject refusal to take up the proposal is, at best, a total disregard for community partnerships, and at worst a cruel attack on the most vulnerable members of our community.
I started this speech by saying I’m possibly naïve, I’d like to finish by saying that maybe I’m being cynical, but is it that the local approach offers too much support for our community.