PCS members lobby MPs about “scandalous” plans to close Jobcentres as unemployment reaches 2.57m


Union members have protested at parliament over coalition government plans to close Jobcentres at a time of soaring unemployment.

They lobbied their MPs over the decision to shut 19 job centres and 22 benefit processing centres.

The consultation process was open for just six weeks over the summer, meaning many of those who had an interest were unable to respond.

And bizarrely, the consultation did not actually include the service users affected – just organisations the government thought might be interested – and no attempts were made to seek their views.

Jane Aitchison, who chairs the PCS Department of Work & Pensions group, told a protest meeting at the Commons: “There are 2.57 million unemployed people in this country and that figure is sadly rising.

“In Britain 21 per cent of our young people are already in that position, and among black youths unemployment shockingly stands at over 50 per cent.

“It is very clear that we need all the jobcentres we currently have and all the benefit offices.

“These staff currently provide a vital role in helping people get back to work and it is wrong and there is no point in adding them to the dole queue too.”

PCS vice president John McInally said bringing the private sector in to try to find people jobs was doomed to failure.

“It is a scandal that skilled employment workers with decades of service are being made redundant when their services are most needed,” he said.

He believed they could win the battle, as it was increasingly clear that chaos would result from people whose only values were to make a fast buck and privatise services so their banker friends could benefit.

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell said they should focus on how irrational these cuts were.

“The logic defeats me – we have the highest unemployment in decades and the biggest pressure on people to get work, and this flies in the face of everything they are saying about getting people back to work.”

The PCS, which represents around 58,000 members in Jobcentre Plus, said ministers had originally promised not to make anyone redundant.

But they have now said 350 staff in benefit processing centres are at risk at 13 of the offices.

The union says these centres are often people’s first point of contact with the DWP, dealing with new benefit claims, and changes in circumstances.

“The rise in new claims has already lead to pressure on staff who have complained about unrealistic management targets that are having a detrimental effect on the service they can offer members of the public.

If cuts continue, it will lead to a longer wait between people applying for and receiving benefits, and a worse advice service.

“For those already on the breadline and those who have recently lost work this could lead to missing bills and problems with loan repayments.”

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