Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray and Mid and Upper Nithsdale Councillors Jim Dempster and John Syme has welcomed the partial U-turn by the Department of Work and Pensions(DWP) over the services it offers users in Kirkconnel.
As a result of cuts by the UK Government, the Department of Works and Pensions scrapped job centre services in Sanquhar and Kirkconnel which meant claimants were forced into a 30-mile round trip to sign on and access job-related services in Dumfries.
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray and local Labour Councillors have been campaigning for a reinstatement of services in Upper Nithsdale. Under the DWP proposals, from October there will be an outreach service in Kirkconnel on a Monday from 9.30 to 12.00 then to 13.00 to 15.30. Claimants would need to attend a jobcentre once per month(with the choice of Dumfries or Cumnock). Attendance at a job centre would be limited to a maximum of three times in the first 13 weeks.
On the proposals, Elaine Murray said:
“The UK Coalition Government's cuts in services in Sanquhar and Kirkconnel made no sense, in particular at a time they are presiding over such high levels on unemployment in the area . A regular outreach centre in Kirkconnel and only having to go to the job centre once a month with a choice of Cumnock or Dumfries will make life easier for claimants. The previous arrangement of Dumfries only was making life too difficult for too many people.”
“However I have written back to the DWP questioning whether or not these arrangements will apply to those on “youth contracts” very often what is available as part of an outreach service doesn't cover the young people and they still have to go to a job centre. It would be disappointing if this does not apply to them because the cost of travelling to Dumfries can be a huge burden for young people relying only on unemployment benefits ".
"Ultimately what people really want is not somewhere to sign on but a job. This move doesn't hide the fact that there are still far too few job opportunities being created for people in upper Nithsdale."
Mid and Upper Nithsdale Labour Councillor John Syme added:
“For months we have opposed the DWP’s plans to scrap services in Kirkconnel. Following a series of intense discussions with the DWP, I am glad that they have finally listened to the local community and reversed their decision. This will help the unemployed of Kirkconnel as instead of spending time on buses to Dumfries with all the costs that go with it, they can spend time looking for work or adding to their skill set. With the Kirkconnel unemployment rate at 8.7%, we should be offering claimants as much help as we reasonably can. Hopefully these proposals can be confirmed as soon as possible. "
Fellow Mid and Upper Nithsdale Labour Councillor Jim Dempster said:
“This U-turn on the services in Kirkconnel is welcome news but it’s only half the story. We need the DWP to reinstate services in Sanquhar as well so local people there get a fair chance of the support needed to get back into work. "