The pretence that jobcentres are organised to find people work – and not just to discipline them – seemed to be wearing particularly thin last week as we listened to accounts of the hurdles the DWP puts in the way of any serious job search.
Jim has been doing voluntary work for a housing association for a couple of years; just the sort of thing the DWP usually pushes people to do to improve their job prospects. But recently he got a new ‘job coach’ and she was not happy. She claimed that the housing association was not a charity (she managed to overlook the statement at the bottom of its website) and Jim should have been paid for the work he had done. These non-existent payments would therefore be deducted from his benefit. Jim had to prove that he was indeed an unpaid volunteer. If he had not managed to persuade the DWP he would, in effect, have been made to pay for volunteering.
Julie had recently been sent for an interview at the chicken factory in Coupar Angus. It was only after she had got to the factory that she discovered there was no longer any transport that would make it possible for her to get to and from the work, so her time and bus fare had been wasted. This is a large employer so the jobcentre should have been aware of the problem, nevertheless, one of our activists recently had a similar experience. Luckily he asked his ‘job coach’ how he was supposed to get there before agreeing to the interview. The ‘coach’ noted that there was no public transport at the relevant hours, but suggested that he might be able to find a fellow worker who was driving to and from Dundee. What, our comrade asked, would happen if he couldn’t find such a person?
Coupar Angus Chicken Factory – not where you’d want to be stranded
Mike also told us that he had been offered a job interview that was at some distance. He was struggling to survive on his benefits and had no money left for the fare to get to the interview. He had asked the jobcentre to help him, but they had refused, claiming there was not time to do the necessary paperwork.
All these difficulties don’t mean that the DWP doesn’t want people to find jobs. It’s just that the limited jobs available get filled without the jobcentre’s help, leaving them free to concentrate on the disciplining bit.
Thank you to Gary, Norma, Tony and Duncan for helping at the stall.