JobCentre staff face dole queue

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JOBCENTRE staff could soon be in the dole queue themselves after cuts were announced.

Jobseekers in Hartlepool could see changes regarding the way their benefits and calls are handled after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) announced plans to close its contact centres and benefit centres, including one in the town.

The move will affect thousands of JobCentre Plus staff nationwide as 22 offices - including the one in Wesley Square - have been earmarked for closure in an efficiency drive.

The Public and Commercial Services union says 2,400 workers will go as a result of the closures, though the Government says it has offered them all new roles.

The benefit-processing sites and contact centres affected will be shut over the next year, though it is not clear how many jobs will be affected in Hartlepool.

The union says the decision is “deeply flawed and dangerous”, warning it will remove vital support for the unemployed at a time when hundreds of thousands of public sector staff are losing their jobs.

A DWP spokeswoman said Hartlepool’s JobCentre would not be closing as a whole, and stressed that the contact and benefit centres are “back-office” functions which serve customers over the phone and online, rather than jobseekers visiting the offices.

The spokeswoman added: “We can’t afford to carry on paying for buildings which aren’t fully used.

“Frontline JobCentre Plus services aren’t impacted by this and we’ve made sure that all the staff affected have the option of moving elsewhere in the organisation.

“In tough financial times we have to operate as efficiently as possible.”

The PCS says JobCentre Plus has already axed more than 10,000 jobs since 2009.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ”Instead of cutting jobs, the Government should be investing in public services like these to help get people back to work more quickly and help our economy to get back on track.”