It’s that word again: “modernisation”.

They used it when they closed down the Royal Mail delivery offices.

They used it when they closed down the Whitstable police station, and then when they tried to close down the Crown Post Office and move it as a franchise into Somerfield supermarket.

Now here it is again, being deployed as an excuse for shutting 78 Job Centres across the country, including those in Whitstable and Herne Bay.

It is always portrayed as something that we should be grateful for.

“At the heart of everything we do is our customers,” says the Department for Work and Pensions. “We have made it easier than ever for people to access our suite of specialist services.”

What they don’t tell you is that if a job seeker is late for their signing on appointment, they can be sanctioned, and could lose their benefits.

This can often have horrific consequences, as anyone who has seen the new Ken Loach movie, I Daniel Blake, will testify.

People who have lost their jobs are vulnerable, and often depressed. They feel insecure, and uncertain about the future.

There are known cases of suicide following sanctions, so the loss of the Job Centres is not just a matter of a minor inconvenience: in some cases it may be a question of life or death.

As for disabled people, the bus journey itself will be complex and stressful and would certainly lead to discomfort and possible trauma.

As many as 1200 job seekers over the two towns may be affected.

In April 2014 the Whitstable Job Centre was threatened with closure, but a successful campaign by the Whitstable and Canterbury Stop the Cuts group managed to keep it open. There’s no reason why another campaign can’t also be successful.

The current campaign is supported by the PCS union as jobs will be threatened.

The public consultation ends on the 28th of February. Here is the address:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposal-for-the-future-of-whitstable-and-herne-bay-jobcentres

Or put “Proposal for the future of Whitstable and Herne Bay jobcentres” into your search engine.

We need to protect the vulnerable in our society, not cause them more distress.

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