ONLY a few weeks ago the Tory Government sent its MPs into the House of Commons to talk out my Private Members Bill which aimed at limiting the damaging impact of benefit sanctions. They were aided by the failure of Labour MPs who did not turn up to the debate in nearly enough numbers.

I won’t go over the whole issue again but it will be interesting to see what happens when the widespread closure of Jobcentre Plus offices kicks in. Apparently the Tories are keen to reduce the number of these offices by around 20 per cent but in the case of Glasgow have earmarked 50 per cent of the Jobcentre Plus offices for closure.

We already know that people have been sanctioned for missing their appointments, even if they are only a few minutes late or have had transport problems getting their kids to school etc before signing on. If claimants are forced to travel up to an extra four miles to their nearest Jobcentre Plus I would suspect the number of sanctions will increase. We are talking about some of the most hard-up members in our community who may not be able to afford the additional travel costs to reach their new Jobcentre Plus office and will face a longer trek to sign on. Then there is also the impact on those who rely on these offices to get access to a computer to search for any job vacancies.

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Local MPs and the Scottish Government only found out about these closures via the press. This is especially worrying as the Scottish Government was meant to be working closely with the DWP to transfer new employability powers to Scotland – surely knowing whether there was going to be such a massive cull on Jobcentre Plus offices would have been relevant to such discussions.

It is also ludicrous to realise that the decisions on which office to close was apparently taken by someone using Google maps to see how far the next alternative Jobcentre Plus office was. Apparently, information from Google was more important than the impact these closures would have on claimants. Did anyone bother to check if there was public transport available – or even what that additional cost would mean to claimants (that’s if their bus arrived on time) or how shuffling claimants around these offices would impact on any family commitments and potential times for signing on?

I’m not claiming that my Bill could have stopped these closures but it may have limited the harsh sanctions which many more claimants may soon be facing.