This story has been sent to us by an anonymous jobseeker who is angry at the poor quality of service he received while on the Work Programme. He has written in his own words to express some of the frustrations the Programme caused him, and to accuse the government of presiding over a system that fails too many, exploits the free labour provided and takes little account of each person's needs:
'I had worked in the Social Care sector for 14 years and at the end of 2010, my employment within a Mental Health Day Centre came to an abrupt end and the Centre closed shortly afterwards.
I didn’t have any option but to claim benefits. I registered with several reputable Health and Social care recruitment agencies whilst actively seeking work elsewhere. In the meantime, I volunteered in a local charity shop.
It was during this time the Jobcentre referred me to a Work Programme.
The Work Programme offered by Ingeus, treats all people in the same manner but in a negative fashion. Former high achievers, from backgrounds in admin and finance are expected to sit with those on low incomes and use the same CV Template.
I was then referred to Remploy by a Jobcentre Advisor who didn’t even take into consideration my employment history, my skill set, alternative career options or personality. He literally scanned a list in front of him, picked up the phone and made the referral; I didn’t have a choice and was told to attend.
At my initial assessment at Remploy, I felt misplaced and the organisation offered little for someone from a social care background. The work they had on offer was shelf stacking or domestic duties in large supermarkets. Although staff were friendly, their remit was to hit targets.
I wanted to mentor young people, but in order to do that, I had to be employed and receive the relevant qualification. I couldn’t afford to self-fund a training course.
The other option was to become self-employed. Grants, funds or loans to start up your own business are no longer available. I was advised that if I said I worked 30 hours a week, I could claim Working Tax Credits. Unfortunately, to claim this benefit, you could not be at the beginning of the road to self-employment.
The frustrations of being bandied about by both the DWP for WTC and Remploy led to a mini breakdown. I was doing everything I could to improve my chances of returning to work but the obstacles I was facing made me feel even worse.
My “tenure” with Remploy came to an end after 2 years at a cost of £14000 to the Taxpayer without any positive outcomes. Money that would be better spent to create a job for people like me or even help set up my own business from home.
I was then referred to a Community Work Placement (CWP)
“Seetec” is one of the main providers of CWP. I was informed that their specialism had been IT for about 30 years, and is very much Sales and Target driven.
At my induction, I was asked to provide a brief history of employment, what I had been doing to search for employment and what were the obstacles and barriers. The Advisor signposted me to Birmingham Youth Empowerment Project (BYEP) in Digbeth.
At BYEP, the environment looked like a classroom with the walls adorned with “positive and empowering” paraphernalia. It was full of 30 -40 people from all different walks of life, just sitting and talking between themselves. The Project Manager informed us that they had a “different approach”.
For those of us who had expectations of being placed for example in a charity shop, mentoring young people, tackle youth crime and gangs, carrying out manual labour or anything else deemed productive and worthwhile, would have the choice of the following:
· “Direct Sales and Marketing” – which meant leaflet dropping or carrying out surveys or
· “Community Clean Up” which meant litter picking.
If you didn’t volunteer for either of those roles, you could possibly face being sanctioned.
Lacking any meaningful or stimulating activities led to nothing but further inertia. The frustration felt in the room was immense although there are some who are quite happy to while away the hours doing nothing. Jobseekers are not gaining anything from sitting in a room all day.
It didn’t matter what initiative you may have to start a new project e.g. If you wanted to start an Art or Music Project, you had to “demonstrate that you had gained responsibility by leafleting”
When the CEO entered the room, he described an incident: a Jobseeker had disposed of the leaflets in the previous week. The language he used was not empowering and contradicted what was promoted in the publicity material.. He accused people of having “bird brains”, choosing to “skive off” and the possibility of Sanctions if anyone “dumped the leaflets again”. He was determined to “play fire with fire” and cause financial difficulties to claimants if they didn’t play ball.
The services on offer demoralises and de-personalises people and adds to the extra stresses and pressure. So how is talking to people in a derogatory manner supposed to help them feel better about themselves?
In effect, BYEP is functioning like a detention centre or a holding room. We were just told to wait. We came to BYEP with expectations of mentoring young people, But instead, we delivered leaflets into the community, offering a service for disadvantaged or disenfranchised youths, but none were to be seen within the Centre. The Government and Big Lottery seem to be funding a service that does not exist.
I found out that it costs £500 – 800 per person to be placed on this CWP. How is this financially effective? How can we stop this form of exploitation?
Work programmes and CWPs are ineffective and not working. Staff tend to have Sales and Marketing backgrounds and are driven by performance and targets. If we need change, to stop the “Benefit Culture”, we need staff that value people, can cater to OUR needs and treat us with dignity and respect by signposting us to placements which benefit not only the organisation, community or company, but most importantly, us and our self -worth and being.
After all, we are humans with delicate lives, aren’t we?'