Today I saw three things happen at the Jobcentre. It’s a bit weird that this happened just after I finally launched the ebook. I wasn’t trying to observe anything, it was just a routine interview. I wasn’t even expecting to see anything because my advisor is fine and so, if I were the sort of person who would covertly record, I would have long ago stopped secretly recording Jobcentre staff every time I go. Again, if I were that sort of person, I would only have recorded this particular advisor twice, compared to the 16 or 17 covert recordings of other staff members which I would have if I had ever audio recorded in the Jobcentre.
At about 11:35 Work Coach ‘Allen’ was on the phone to a Work Programme company.
“I’m taking action against him,” he was saying, “Because he hasn’t done a job search in the last two weeks…no this was from a long time ago…12th May.”
Now I’m not disputing that according to DWP policy, this guy deserved the sanction. But it seemed as though Allen was treating the fact that another human being would have no money for two weeks, and thereafter only around £30 a week for months, in a very casual manner. He seemed unaware that this guy would not have enough food to eat or any way to pay for electricity and gas. I didn’t record this.
Then I had my advisor interview and went on the computers to look up the Civil Service Movement Into Work Scheme (work experience placements in government departments which JCPs can refer you to) which I previously used to observe the Jobcentre and write the ebook. I was trying to get my advisor to refer me. She didn’t even know that the Scheme includes all Civil Service agencies and not just the Jobcentre, which shows the sterling quality of Jobcentre training. This is the second time a Jobcentre staff was unaware of Jobcentre initiatives. The first time, I was told that the staff member didn’t know about it until I was on the Work Programme (and therefore not eligible) because “it’s up to you to get off your arse and do things for yourself”. I felt like I was being blamed for researching internship opportunities myself and expecting professionalism and support from Jobcentre staff. When I worked my bosses would never have let me get away with the kind of disorganisation that they get away with. (Come to think of it, my advisors were keen to try to push catering courses and workfare on me, but didn’t deign to breathe a word about the Scheme or internships that would’ve actually been useful.)
Then she found out I’m no longer eligible anyway because I’m now over 25. Though it is great to be not allowed to work for them on the ground of age instead of the ground of which country’s name is on my passport, when that is entirely the fault of the government itself for withholding citizenship from me when I was born- born here, but apparently not British enough to even harass people in the Jobcentre. (Only UK citizens can work in the Civil Service- including in Jobcentres- but anyone can do the Movement To Work Scheme). But I digress. Anyway, the age thing shows how damaging the Work Programme can be. When you’re on the Work Programme you’re excluded from all Jobcentre courses, opportunities and funding. If the Work Programme didn’t exist I could have taken advantage of the Movement Into Work Scheme, perhaps even more than once, doing placements in different departments.
Another pointless rule was explained to me today after I used a JCP phone to call a court about doing work experience there (I have a Law degree). My advisor says that if I do intern in the court, the DWP will only pay my travelling expenses if I’m referred to the placement through the Jobcentre. Otherwise they won’t, and I can’t do it, because it’s over two hours away so it costs too much. The Advisor Discretionary Fund (now combined with the Flexible Support Fund) which provide funding for things to help you back into work only pay for things arranged through the Jobcentre.
But to get back to the story: there I am clicking away at an unnecessarily oversized monitor paid for with taxpayer money, when someone pops in to ask Allen why she was sanctioned. Allen says it’s because the Jobcentre didn’t receive her job search. She explains about a mix-up, a conversation which I’m not able to hear well because of other loud conversations taking place. Allen appears to accept her explanation. He tells her to call the decision maker and explain it to them. Which means she was sanctioned by mistake. It’s unbelievable. (Didn’t record this either.)
Then a man came in and sat at another computer. Lauren (who first appeared on this blog in this delightful interaction) told him to move because that computer was only for making new claims. She repeated this a few times in a rude manner. He pointed out that he was indeed making a new claim. Lauren told him to leave and he asked to be allowed to make the claim. They then argued about him having to sign on at another job centre. He asked her for the bus fare to travel there if she was making him go to another JCP. She kept refusing to pay his fare. So he asked to make the new claim here and she said “Go and come back when you’ve calmed down. Go or I’m calling the police.” He went. (If I was inclined to take videos, I don’t think the video’s audio quality would be good enough to justify posting it on here or on YouTube- I was filming from a distance).
Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, here’s a completely unrelated video of a completely unrelated place.