The human cost, the sheer human cruelty, of the moves to close half of Glasgow’s jobcentre were chillingly related to us before we set off on Monday on the second of our Scottish Green Party walks to highlight the reality of these Tory cuts.
Maryhill Jobcentre, accessed by many in my council ward of Canal, will close under the proposals. All service users in the west of the city will be ask to relocate to Springburn. We made that trek by foot to demonstrate the challenges created by both the distance to be covered - more than six miles - and the time required to do so - over an hour, one way - would create for those with mobility issues, the elderly and parents with children.
As we prepared to start our walk, a mental health support worker who currently brings service users to Maryhill Jobcentre for assessments approached us to express his fears over impact the move to Springburn would have on his most vulnerable clients.
Trips to the centre are a stressful experience already for this group. Even small changes can have a major effect on their health. He is deeply concerned as to how they will cope with a move to a remote, entirely unfamiliar centre. Compounding that is the fact Springburn, already one of the busiest Jobcentres in the UK, will have to deal with a hugely increased caseload. He believes this can only make it a worryingly more hostile and stressful place for his clients.
Another person told us how service users from as far as Glasgow’s border with Bearsden would now require to make their way to Springburn. Those so affected would be outside the four-mile radius that the Department of Work and Pensions have claimed would be the greatest journey length for any service user.
With a patchy - and at more than £4, expensive - bus service, walking to Springburn Jobcentre from the north west will be a necessity for many. A network of busy main roads, awkward back streets, and various inclines make the journey a challenge that will add to the weight borne by those already coping with some of the heaviest burdens. The very people that any sociey purporting to be just and fair must never turn its back on.
One woman spoke to us of “aggressive” attacks on the vulnerable. The DWP notably have been coy about the scale of any savings from the cuts. As she eloquently put it, the closures, then, appear nothing other than “punishment just for existing”.