Gavin Newlands, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, in a letter from Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment, has won a concession from the UK Government that people from Bridge of Weir claiming Universal Credit should be able to use the Johnstone Jobcentre for all appointments rather than have to travel to Greenock.
If, by exception, anybody is asked to attend Greenock instead, their travel expenses will be reimbursed.
Mr Newlands recently highlighted in Parliament that some claimants living in Bridge of Weir had to make a roundtrip of over 20 miles for an appointment at Greenock Jobcentre, despite the Johnstone Centre being much closer. Mr Newlands called on the UK Government to end the unfairness of forcing claimants from Bridge of Weir to make this costly and lengthy trip to Inverclyde.
Unlike the rest of Renfrewshire, people from the PA11 postcode were included in the Inverclyde full Universal Credit rollout area, as a result, the claimants living in the area had been required to attend Greenock Jobcentre for their initial appointment.
Gavin Newlands, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, commented: “I was shocked to find out that some Universal Credit claimants from Bridge of Weir are being told that they have to make a 20 mile roundtrip to attend appointments at the Greenock Jobcentre, when there is a closer one just a few miles away in Johnstone. This means that claimants are having to spend up to 14% of their total weekly benefit entitlement to attend job centre appointments in Greenock.
“I welcome the fact that the Minister has accepted my calls and confirmed that people in this situation should now be able to attend Johnstone instead but at the very least have their travel expenses reimbursed if they are asked to attend Greenock. However, I’m still concerned that this instruction is not reaching the staff on the ground and therefore the Minister should write to all Jobcentre staff in Greenock and Johnstone, informing them that relevant claimants can attend Johnstone or have their travel expenses reimbursed.
“Universal Credit has been a shambles that continues to cause misery and hardship across the country as the rollout continues. I am glad that this issue has been resolved, making life a little bit easier for people living in Bridge of Weir.”
Natalie Don, SNP Councillor for Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, said:
“”I was completely horrified when some residents in Bridge of Weir first contacted me to say that they were forced to walk 22 miles, to and from, Greenock, to attend their job centre appointments. I am very happy that this issue has now been raised at a national level by the SNP and progress is being made by the UK government to sort this mess out. The roll-out of Universal Credit has seen a catalogue of errors by the DWP and has been plagued by problems across the country. Residents in Bridge of Weir have not escaped this but it is reassuring to know that these issues have been addressed by our MP and that no one from Bridge of Weir should now have to attend the Greenock Job Centre.”
“As a local councillor, I do worry about the looming full roll-out of Universal Credit across the whole of Renfrewshire. To this end, I was very happy that the Renfrewshire Council SNP administration devoted £800,000 to supporting those impacted by UK government welfare reforms, which includes the full roll-out of Universal Credit.”
“We have seen the impact that these changes have caused in other pilot areas in Scotland therefore we know that there will be consequences for Renfrewshire residents. As we have already seen in Bridge of Weir, problems do exist and this investment will help to support issues that people may face due to welfare changes in Renfrewshire. However, it is important that we understand that the UK government need to improve the way welfare changes and reforms are carried out. Local authorities should not have to ring fence money, due to mistakes and mismanagement by the Department of Work and Pensions and jobcentres.”
Photo: Gavin Newlands MP and Cllr Natalie Don in Bridge of Weir.