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Sunday, April 14, 2013


how it works – ghost in the machine

if you stay unemployed long enough you get ‘promoted’ to the ‘work programme’.
my time has come and i have been shunted on to a work programme.

this isn’t quite the same as workfare. this isn’t about providing cheap labour to some of the largest companies in the country under the guise of training or pretending it will be worthwhile experience. no the work programme is where they shunt the long term unemployed out of the jobcentre and pass us over to private companies who will make us more employable.
well that is the theory.

it is one of those things that in theory is fine and dandy (as was work fare) but when it comes to people’s lives theory is one thing practice is another.

the last time i was referred to such a company it was a private profit making outfit called ingeus. i was given an advisor. he looked a little like simon pegg, was very intense and looked like he would rather be a hotshot city finance whizz kid, but was pleased he wasn’t an estate agent. i didn’t like him.
ingeus was one of those places that looked to push square pegs into round holes. they had a playbook and everyone was going to get treated the same way no matter how experienced, how old or how willing they were. that wasn’t going to work for me (or for quite a lot of people).
this isn’t to say that ingeus were not helpful.
my advisor knocked my cv into shape, he helped draft a cover letter, he got me thinking about what sort of work i wanted to do and just what i was capable of doing. most importantly they provided the facility for me to bombard potential employers with my cv – this came in the form of free printing, free envelopes, and free postage.
when i had an interview my advisor helped me with a mock interview and gave me tips and pointers as to where i could improve.
it worked.
the unsolicited letters got more response from employers than any official job application i’d done (there is a truism in recruitment that most of the available jobs never get advertised), but it is too expensive a method to use without the help of a company like ingeus.

fast forward to this current period of unemployment and the first thing i ask is: is there somewhere like ingeus i can go to in order to get help finding a job.
my jobcentre advisor looks at me as if i am touched in the head.
it is a look you get used to.
my jobcentre advisor seemed incapable of giving me any help at all. i would like to think that it was because their hands were tied. sadly i think it is because they don’t care about anything other than ticking boxes.

a year later i am about to go on a work programme.
but there is a problem.
i haven’t heard from the work programme provider.
i am conscious of the fact that if you don’t do the work programme you can have a sanction against you. (a sanction means you don’t get jobseekers allowance for a set period of time). i am also conscious of the fact that jobcentre advisors have ‘unofficial’ targets in penalising jobseekers by moving them onto sanctions.
i ask my advisor how long it will be before i am contacted.
a couple of weeks.
next signing on time still not heard. ask again.
a couple of weeks.
still not heard.
phone up the jobseekers helpline and they can’t tell me anything because it isn’t them but a private company dealing with it.
but they make a note of my call.
most recent visit to the jobcentre and because i am on the work programme i have a new advisor. but because i wasn’t given a new time to come in i don’t see my new advisor i see a deputy advisor. i mention my problem and concern to them.
they tell me that the work programme has been a bit of a failure. thanks that is a great comfort.
seems lots of people are in the same boat as me: not heard from their new provider.
shall i phone the company i ask?
why? they reply:  there are hundreds more in front of you.
if you are really concerned why not drop a line to the manager of the jobcentre.
thanks for your help.

and people wonder why some people abuse the system.

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