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11/12/16 00:01

Clarity sought over Jobcentre Plus closures

Employability Minister requests further information from UK Government.

The UK Government must provide further clarity around proposals to close Jobcentre Plus offices, the Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn has said.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mr Hepburn has asked how these changes could reduce access to services, and possibly increase the risk of sanctions which are applied around the need to attend the facilities. He has also asked for urgent advice on the future of Jobcentre Plus facilities across the rest of the country.

This latest request follows Mr Hepburn’s letter to the UK Government last week, which expressed Scottish Government concerns over the announcement.

Mr Hepburn said:

“The closure of half of the Jobcentre Plus offices in Glasgow, announced last week, could make it more difficult for people to access these vital services. We urgently need the UK Government to clarify their plans for centres across the rest of the country and whether we should expect further planned closures.

“I am disappointed that there was no consultation with the Scottish Government on this issue, which is contrary to the spirit of the Smith Agreement and it’s particularly frustrating given how closely we have been working to ensure there is a smooth and effective transition of our new employability support powers.

“My first concern is to understand how the UK Government assessed how these proposed changes would impact on their customers at a time when they are increasing the level of Jobcentre Plus based support in favour of reducing funding for devolved employment provision.

“We also need the UK Government to confirm how the remaining Jobcentre Plus facilities will meet the increased demand being placed upon them, and how the additional costs of people who have to travel further to access these services will be met.

“The UK Government needs to properly consult on any changes to ensure the views of communities in Scotland are fully reflected in any decisions.”