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Is Jobcentre Working? Dispatches reports…

By Maeve McGoldrick

By Maeve McGoldrick

If you have a spare 30 minutes I really recommend you watch this Dispatches programme on Jobcentre Plus, called ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats.’ It was aired this week and has received a lot of comments in various places. I read the comments before watching it and so assumed that it was an attack on all unemployed people and that I would find it infuriating to watch.

After watching it I think the title is quite misleading and in actual fact it really scrutinises the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus.

At a time when there is a job shortage due to an economic crisis, and a consistently large number of people who have been out of work for 10 years or more (in many cases they have never been in work) an effective employment service is critical. Luckily in the UK we have a state run service to do this, paid for by the taxpayer.

After watching this programme I’d be interested to know your thoughts; would you still be happy to pay for the existing service or, do you think money is being wasted by an overly bureaucratic, incompetent top down system? Do you think we, the taxpayer and potentially an unemployed person in dire need of an excellent employment and support service should be demanding more for our money?

I didn’t actually find this programme infuriating to watch but I did find the responses from state officials in the programme quite infuriating. I thought Dispatches did a really good job of holding a service to account. It didn’t question the capability of the front line advisers, instead it really questioned why government were not acknowledging that the processes in place were poor and the overall customer experience seemed to be very negative.

If you experienced this type of service in any other area of life such as banking, health, education etc would we be as dismissive of it, or would we either demand an improvement on the basis that this is simply unacceptable – or else we pack up and go elsewhere?

4 Responses to “Is Jobcentre Working? Dispatches reports…”

  1. Opinionated says:

    I agree that JCP is not fit for purpose, maybe because the name is misleading and it should now be re-referredto as the DOLE office. One of the ways they can continue to operate under that title is because they have become a sign-posting sevice who pay out £££’s each year to other profit making companies like A4E, Next Step, Standguide, to name a few. These organisations offer services like cv writing, job searching, and 1-2-1 advice but are also open to abusing the system and defrauding LA funding and that of the government too. I have personal & professional experience of the above and have actually been aided by a JCP staff member who lied to another department whilst acting on my behalf, to assist me in making a claim for a crisis loan as my claim to benefits had been unjustifiably stopped without warning. At this moment in time I do not think that any positive/ useful changes can be made to JCP as it will probably cost far more than it can save in the process. There is always more people unemployed than the figues show, because they do not account for people who are not earning any wage. Students are not accounted for as they do not claim JSA, but increasingly they have to look for work to survive!

  2. Paul Treloar says:

    Whilst I certainly agree with the sentiments of what you’ve written, I do have genuine concerns that the government’s answer to the issue would be the same as their approach to “helping” people back into employment i.e. the Work Programme, with it’s system of prime contractors sucking down huge sums of public money, in what seems to be a largely unaccountable way.

    Indeed, one of the main failings of Dispatches was, in my opinion, the lack of clarity about what the primary purpose of Jobcentre Plus is, which is in fact simply to administer fortnightly signing-on sessions for JSA claimants. Due to repeated cuts to their funding, which has reduced staff numbers greatly as well as the number of offices, it is almost inevitable that we see the kind of service delivered in the programme.

    I worked in a DSS office a good few years back and it really was a thankless job then, with vitriol from claimants about rules imposed from Westminster, senior management who often cared little for the well-being of frontline staff and derisory pay. Most staff tried to do the best that we could, although there were certainly a few who had an almost pathological contempt for the people we dealt with.

    The current rhetoric on welfare won’t change such a system for the good, perceived as it is for s shirking malingering bunch of work shy scroungers. I’d like to see a discussion about the welfare system as a whole, so that some kind of consensus can be formed on a more positive footing. Until we do so, I think the Dispatches revelations will continue regardless.

  3. IAS says:

    I could have found other and much more important ways to scrutinise the Job Centre, or the policy decision making that controls its outdated functions. If the title of this Dispatches programme may be misleading, it seems to me that they failed from the outset to create a trigger-point of what is at the heart of the Job Centre problems that fails to connect as a Hub of our communities.

    How could there be a lack of innovative-thinking by Ministers to create new and refeshing strategies aimed at re-igniting Inspiration and Encouragement to those desperately seeking work, including the correct attitudes that assists them in this area?

    I have always said “the Job Centre is selling something. But yet, it does so seemingly quietly and without any real enthusiam and thus fails to ignite a will to Inspire”. With an attitude like that, we shoudl not be surprised when we are greeted, not by the Jobcentre ‘welfare to work’ staff, but by security guards.

    Policy failings is at the heart of the Jobcentre’s downfall. It fails to promote awareness, fails to look objectively at securing positive outcomes, fails to build strong relationships with jobseekers and fails to connect powerfully with the community. It lacks viability, in its current form.

    With a strong managerial background in retail franchising, business development and Creative & Strategic problem solving, I would welcome an opportunity to be part of a team that is responsible for changing Jobcentre for the better.

    It seems to me that not only do Jobseekers need to be Inspired by the Jobcentre, but also Jobcentre staff too. There has to be a proactive and progressive feeling about the jobcentre that takes advantage of its hungry footfall.

    While our economic depression continues to act like the driving force of psychological depression, it seems lazy and unfulfilling for jobcentre staff to simply be paid, but not to be INSPIRED.

    I thought the ‘big society’ thesis was to encourage practices that strengthen Listening, Engagement and Empowerment. Does the Jobcentre in its current form achieve such goals?

  4. Engelbert Smith says:

    As someone with recently diagnosed Asperger Syndrome, I find the JobCentre and their DEAs (Disability Employment Advisors) completely clueless and incompetent.
    I don’t particularly want to work because I’ve been patronized/verbally bullied by so many co-workers in the past (both pre and post-diagnosis) that I don’t want to ever go through that again. That’s not to say that I’ll turn down work if offered, just that I’ll be getting out of bed every day dreading going to work. What life is that? I’m not afraid of hard work, long hours or unsociable hours (I’ve done all three), but I simply hate working with nasty/ignorant people – and there’s a lot of them about. And unless you’re an author, or have another job that involves a low level of involvement with others, you’re going to be working with people, many of whom are lazy and don’t pull their weight. (I realize the irony here, since *I* am the one who’s considered lazy by many for not working).
    The JobCentre doesn’t provide (or know of any) supported employment schemes for people on the autism spectrum.
    A JobCentre employment advisor once asked me what I meant by “supported employment”. My heart sank. I thought “How can you of all people not know that?”
    A DEA once said they only provide a signposting service – and said in such a way that she thought I was being unreasonable wanting more. Her signposting consisted of her say “What about XXX?” – for XXX replace any organization or company that has anything to do with autism. She had absolutely no idea if any of these organisations had supported employment schemes or not. I, on the other hand, did. And none of them do. She was just clutching at straws. And that was the DEA – that’s the Peter principle at work for you.
    All the JobCentre offers is mickey-mouse CV writing courses – I know how to write a CV.
    The help I require as someone with Asperger Syndrome is far more complex than learning how to write a decent CV (which I could learn online in half an hour if I didn’t know already).
    So all in all the JobCentre is totally inadequate and has done absolutely nothing to help me find & keep a job.
    I have done plenty of research off my own bat to try and secure supported employment, but none exists in my area.

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