The DWP Grinch
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have shown themselves to be immune to the Christmas spirit of peace and goodwill. They have just recently announced plans to shut half of Glasgow’s Jobcentres. My SNP colleagues and I are doing all we can to stop these cuts. Those affected include Maryhill, Bridgeton and Easterhouse so will directly affect people living in Glasgow North East. Travel time to the Jobcentres will increase significantly and when you factor in any traffic delays or issues with public transport it undoubtedly will lead to people being late for their appointments so increasing the likelihood of sanctions being imposed.
My office met with the DWP shortly after the cuts were announced. In a very alarming meeting it became clear that there had been no equality impact assessment; that the travel plans were just based on Google map journey times from one Jobcentre to another and that there had been no consultation with other government bodies and agencies. It also emerged that the reason for the DWP’s plans to cut half of their premises in Glasgow was a break clause in a lease signed nearly 20 years ago which was due to expire in 2018.
These cuts are not about improving services for the citizens of Glasgow… or “customers” as the DWP styles them.
On Tuesday 20th December Glasgow South MP Stewart McDonald led a debate in Westminster Hall on this topic too. All Glasgow MPs are working together, alongside MSPs in Holyrood and the Scottish Government to press for these plans to be reconsidered. Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Employability and Training has written to the UK Secretary of State on behalf of the Scottish Government to outline their concerns about these swingeing cuts.
But it doesn’t stop there. The DWP have also been in the press after claims surfaced that they had told staff in Glasgow to stop dealing with any appeals or mandatory reconsiderations of benefit sanctions until a backlog of sanctions had been cleared. In effect all appeals were being suspended till after Christmas leaving wrongfully sanctioned people without funds for the entire period. This is appalling.
I’ve already told Ministers that staff speak of having targets, or in DWP-speak “aspirations” for the number of sanctions that must be handed out each week. What more proof do you need that this cruel system is not about getting folk into work – rather it is driven by a desire to punish some of the most vulnerable in our society.
I am absolutely gobsmacked by the callousness of the directions being given to DWP staff just before Christmas.
Nobody should have to endure the misery of having their benefits stopped at Christmas, let alone face an increase in the likelihood of a sanction.
All in all, we are seeing the true face of this Tory government, in the way they are insisting on treating our city and its citizens this Christmas.