Thursday, 17 June 2021

Henley YMCA could house Jobcentre Plus

Henley MP John Howell
A JOBCENTRE Plus outreach service could be set up at the YMCA in Henley.

John Howell has agreed to raise the issue with the Department of Work and Pensions following a meeting with the charity.

The Henley MP visited the YMCA in Lawson Road and spoke with residents about the problems they face reaching the nearest Jobcentre branch in Reading.

At the moment, those claiming unemployment benefits have to pay £4.60 for a return train or £5.20 for a bus in order to collect their £53 a week.

Sometime they have to attend several additional appointments to look for jobs or discuss their circumstances.

They can choose which office they visit but the only alternatives are in Didcot or Oxford.

The YMCA has offered to host an outreach service so the claimants do not have to pay to travel.

Angela Healey, the charity’s chief executive officer, said it would be open to the public.

She said: “This has been a long-running issue for some of our residents and it can cause a serious problem.

“There was one resident who was required to attend every day for two weeks, which they couldn’t afford but they risked having their benefits stopped if they didn’t. It’s not realistic in cases like that.

“Not all our residents are unemployed but we want to support those who are struggling and in some instances are quite vulnerable.

“We don’t have enough staff to accompany them to Reading but if it was here we could help them with forms and things like that.

“It would take a lot of the worry away for people who are just getting on their feet and perhaps getting used to living independently for the first time."

Mr Howell said: “Young people seeking to sign on have to spend a disproportionate amount of what they receive on fares. The obvious answer is to have a Jobcentre Plus outreach in Henley.

“We have a very successful local economy. There are very few young unemployed who are claiming job seekers’ allowance, for example. However, that does not mean we can simply ignore those who are signing on and are struggling.”

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