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19 January 2017, 07:20
Scotland's Employability Minister has urged his UK counterpart to meet with those who use Jobcentres threatened with closure before any decision on their future is made.
Jamie Hepburn issued the challenge ahead of meeting UK Employability Minister Damian Hinds over plans to close half of the Jobcentre Plus offices in Glasgow.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the move, which will cut the number of Jobcentres in the city from 16 to eight, will save money and provide more efficient use of DWP premises.
Mr Hepburn will seek reassurances on the future of services across Scotland before MSPs debate the issue at Holyrood.
The proposals outlined for Glasgow will see the Castlemilk and Langside Jobcentres move to Newlands Jobcentre; Parkhead, Easterhouse and Bridgeton will move to Shettleston Jobcentre; Anniesland will move to Partick Jobcentre; Maryhill will move to Springburn Jobcentre; and Cambuslang will move to Rutherglen Jobcentre.
Mr Hepburn said: ''The UK's Employability Minister has a duty to go out and meet people in Glasgow who use and rely on their local Jobcentre Plus.
''He needs to get an understanding of how cutting these vital services could be harmful to the future prospects of people who are looking for support to find a job.
''I fear that by reducing access to Jobcentre Plus, we will only increase the risk of benefit sanctions, pushing them into crises and desperation, and make it more difficult for people to find employment.
''I am also deeply concerned that one month on from the announcement, we have seen no evidence of any meaningful discussion or consultation with those affected and have still to receive any clarity from the UK Government on whether the 20% of proposed cuts across the UK will affect other parts of Scotland, outside of Glasgow.
''With Scotland set to launch its transitional employment support services in April, we need to be in a position where we can offer people support, not see the UK Government take it away from them.''
A DWP spokesman said: ''Our plans to bring together a number of neighbouring Jobcentres will allow us to modernise our operations, while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer.
''We're holding a number of events this month with our partner organisations as part of our public consultation which runs to January 31.''