Dagenham Jobcentre closure puts jobseekers at risk, warn protesters
PUBLISHED: 17:04 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 November 2017
Closing Dagenham Jobcentre would hurt countless jobseekers in one of London’s most deprived areas, campaigners have warned.
The Chequers Lane office will shut in January - one of a third of branches across the capital to close.
Staff and claimants will move to the Barking site, along with some from East Ham, under plans the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says will cut costs and deliver a “more efficient service”.
Around two dozen protesters took part in this afternoon’s protest outside the branch, organised by union Unite’s Community Barking, Dagenham and Havering branch.
London Assembly member Unmesh Desai, councillors and union representatives were amongst those speaking out against the closure.
Claimants would struggle to access the other centres and risk having payments stopped after late or missed appointments, they warned.
“It’s not good for either the workers or the people who have to use it,” said branch secretary Christina Freeman, who used the centre after leaving school at 16.
“Workers and new workers will be forced onto zero hours contracts,” she added. “It’s a way of making people redundant without firing them, because they still, technically, have a job.”
Supermarket worker Stephen Holdich came down from Beckton to protest.
The centre helped him find work in Sainsbury’s 21 years ago, he said, and he’s been there ever since.
“Without those people, I wouldn’t have had a job,” he added.
There were 3,145 people claiming unemployment benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, in Barking and Dagenham last month, according to figures released on Wednesday.
Asked whether Barking Jobcentre would struggle with increased numbers of claimants after the closure, Mark Creasey, the customer service leader for Havering Jobcentres, said the centre “will be more than able to deliver a service” with more jobseekers dealing with claims online.
The DWP would “make sure no-one is left behind and that everybody gets the right service at the right time”, he said.
“It’s nice to hear that but we need a concrete plan of action,” added Unmesh Desai. “Campaigns can work – just look at what happened with Dagenham police station.”
Another protest is planned for Saturday, December 2.