Helping hand as reforms bite

A new Job Club at the Lomond Centre in Woodside is helping to ease the demand as welfare reforms take hold.
A new Job Club at the Lomond Centre in Woodside is helping to ease the demand as welfare reforms take hold.

Those experiencing the harsh effects of new welfare reforms and benefits legislation are now receiving a helping hand in the town.

For a new support hub offering access to computers, friendly advice and even a welcome cuppa, is now operational at the Lomond Centre in Woodside.

The set up compliments a number of similar facilities across the town that are dealing with increased numbers of the town’s unemployed facing having their benefits sanctioned due to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) legislation.

Councillors in April last year agreed to provide an initial £150,000 of emergency funding to cope with the increased demands and Fife Council’s JP Easton, who is overseeing the support, told the Gazette that the funding is helping to bring immediate and practical help in the town.

“The new Lomond Centre hub is the latest in a number of planned facilities,” he explained.

“Often people who are finding themselves unemployed for the first time after many years of working simply don’t know how to access the relevant job searches and legislative measures, that could see them immediately facing sanctions if they don’t comply.

“It’s often very stressful for those put in that position but we are offering as range of support that will get them though it.”

Mr Easton said the focus now is to get as many members of the public as possible to be digitally literate.

“Many of us already take computers and the internet for granted, but when the universal credit legislation really kicks in, it’s going to affect many more and we need to prepare them for that,” he explained.

“We have Job Clubs running in Auchmuty, the Exit Centre in Pitteuchar and at Glenwood library and we are still struggling to cope with demand.

“Having the Lomond centre now available now helps us to ease that demand.”

“Job club for two mornings a week is just the start” - say organisers

With the Lomond Centre Job Club now open two mornings per week (Monday and Tuesday), organisers are already planning to expand the network of support to help members of the public in that part of the town.

“The service here compliments what we are doing elsewhere,” said JP Easton, who is overseeing the project.

He added: “But in just a few short weeks since we opened our doors we have experienced a huge demand for help.

“People are often required to carry out daily job searches with the threat of immediate benefit sanctions if they default on that.

“If you have never needed to use a computer before then those demands can be understandably very worrying.

“We are on hand to make sure people don’t suffer those sanctions.”

With more volunteers being trained up, the service plans to expand further with the possibility of training groups other educational initiatives on hand for those accessing the facility.

“We are at the sharp end but this just the start,” said Mr Easton.