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Monday, 20 February 2017

Employability minister condemns plans to close 23 Scottish Jobcentres

Written by The Press Association

Plans to close more than 20 Jobcentres in Scotland will heap stress on some of the most vulnerable, employability minister Jamie Hepburn has said.

He was speaking in advance of meeting UK employment minister Damian Hinds in London to raise concerns about the proposals face-to-face for a second time.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wants to close 23 Jobcentre Plus sites north of the border.

Mr Hepburn will press for more detail on the outcome of a consultation on the plans and proposals for co-location, as well as reassurances that the needs of Jobcentre Plus customers will not be ignored.

He said: "Through my meetings with the people and organisations who most rely on Jobcentre Plus, it's clear that there is a fear that closures will increase the risk of sanctions and put more stress on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

"The Scottish Parliament has united in its opposition to proposed closures and has voiced its concerns on the impact it will have on single-parent families and people with health conditions and disabilities.

"At today's meeting I will urge the UK Government to visit the communities and people affected by these closures in order to truly understand their concerns.

"We need clarity on the timetable for consultation and closures, and for UK Government ministers to honour the principles of the Smith Agreement, and not take services away and make them harder to access."

A DWP spokeswoman said: "The fact is that people increasingly access our services over the phone and online, and we're consulting on the changes in areas where JCPs are moving more than three miles.

"The changes we've announced will ensure we can still provide the service that our customers need while saving millions for the taxpayer. Sanctions are only ever used as a last resort."

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