What exactly is the jobcentre for?

17-04-27

It’s been a long time since jobs were advertised in jobcentres and you went there to look for work, but a jobcentre actively intervening to stop people’s own efforts to find a job places it firmly in the category of worse than useless. It’s not just that they’re making people waste time with pointless exercises. People are telling us about ‘work coaches’ making them stop doing things that would be genuinely helpful.

Frank has been trying to find bits of work through advertising his services locally – and was amazed as well as angry to be told to stop. Susan has recently completed a science degree as a mature student. We know that after three months on unemployment benefit you can be made to apply for all sorts of jobs even if they don’t match your skill level, but Susan had been specifically told that she was not to apply for graduate level jobs, and that the time she was taking putting together these more testing applications was being misspent. We reassured both Frank and Susan that they were quite correct to feel that the jobcentre was acting unreasonably and outwith the rules, and that they should insist on continuing with what they were doing.

Donna’s situation was very different, but her ‘work coach’ was equally unhelpful. We accompanied her to her interview because she was worried about being sanctioned for missing an appointment. She is six months pregnant with multiple health problems, and new medication had made her so ill she had just forgotten the date. As it turned out, she had informed the jobcentre as soon as she realised what had happened and her excuse had been accepted, so she suffered nothing more than a few days unnecessary worry, but her work coach is known for her thoroughness, and the interview was doubly uncomfortable. First, the work coach was keen to make sure that all the details they had about Donna’s situation were up to date, which sounds fine until you realise that meant Donna being asked lots of intensely personal questions by a stranger in an open plan office. The second part of the interview was frankly bizarre. Having ascertained that Donna was not only on ESA – so currently not fit for work – and due to give birth in three months, but also a recovering drug addict who needed a support worker, the work coach proceeded to ask her to sign up to Universal Jobmatch, the DWP’s notoriously useless job website. Donna protested that her main concern at present is proving that she is fit to keep her baby, and I made sure that it was clear that Donna would not actually have to do anything towards preparing for work until the baby was one, and wouldn’t have to look for work until she was three. The work coach accepted this, and that it wasn’t actually compulsory for her to sign up to Universal Jobmatch – but insisted that it would, nevertheless, be helpful for her to get into practice!

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5 thoughts on “What exactly is the jobcentre for?

  1. If the Jobcentre spent as much time helping people as they do harassing them, it would be a good thing. The whole Jobcentre / Jobseeker relationship has been poisoned by the so-called ‘welfare reforms’, the vicious sanction system, and the endless conditions and run-arounds that have to gone through now to even make a benefit claim.
    Everything has been dumbed-down , e.g. ‘Work Coaches’, as further evidence of official contempt for the benefit claimant. But in the end of the day the Jobcentre are all about enforcing the new system. No more just looking for work. Now forced workfare and compulsory take up of low paid insecure employment. Of which the zero-hour contract is the worst example.

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  2. Cruella De Ville at it again. Treating people like inanimate brainless objects. Shame on the robots carrying out their abusive jobs. Where have their hearts gone?

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  3. Let’s hope the Tories U turn on Austerity in all its multifaceted terrifying forms. Treat humans as humans & equals.

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  4. I had a similar experience. On ESA following a stress induced breakdown, I was put into the work activity group. My work coach is fine, a very nice woman, but her manager put pressure on her to make me apply for retail jobs. I have specific skills in the media and a career of more than 20 years at a high level. I pointed out to my work coach that as a recipient of ESA, I was not required to apply for any job, nor to do anything I was not able to do. And I also pointed out the futility of applying for jobs I have absolutely no chance of getting. My work coach agreed with me of course. But had I not been so aware of the legal position, that ESA does not have the same level of conditions as JSA, I may well have felt pressured into doing as asked. Left to my own jobsearch, with support if I needed it, I have managed to find the right job for me starting in a couple of months time. Needless to say that recovery from mental health issues and a stress free path back to work, go hand in hand. But it might have been very different had I not stood my ground. I think that meeting targets has superceeded the actual service of genuinely helping people back into work. And that culture of meeting targets is pressure put on from above, by people who never meet those that are at the receiving end of those targets. Anyone on ESA (and long term on JSA as well), needs tailored help, that compliments any treatment they are receiving, and genuinely considers their needs and abilities. This is just not happening in too many cases.

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