I am going to buck the trend today and agree with a CiF article.
Okay, all recovered from our attack of the vapours? Good, then I shall begin.
Cait Reilly gives us an account of her experience as a jobseeker claiming JSA. She was recently sent on work experience/training with an employer as part of the conditions of continuing to draw her JSA. So far, so good. While this was not what she wanted to do as a career option, she went along with it as she accepted that it was part of the conditions and, importantly, at the end of the two weeks she was promised an interview with a possible job offer – a job offer that if made, she would have accepted while she sought something more suited to her career plan. Now, it seems that like me when claiming last year, she is willing to take anything in the short term while continuing to seek a more suitable role in the longer term.
You would think, would you not, that I wouldn’t have a problem with any of this. After all, it is reasonable that those claiming JSA do all that they can to get back into work and are no longer being supported by the taxpayer. Well, in principle, yes, I do think that.
There are, however, some problems as Cait points out. Before we go there, let me make an observation from my own experience. In order to claim JSA the jobseeker must be available for work. So, while you can do some voluntary work, for example, or even up to 16 hours a week paid part-time work, you cannot attend full-time training even if this is going to increase your employment prospects. I was offered some training early last year and the Job Centre advised me that in order to take it up, I would have to sign off. Not telling them was not an option as the course would run into two weeks so I wouldn’t be available for the Thursday signing on. Cait Reilly managed to arrange some work experience in museums where she would like to work eventually. So she is clearly self-motivated into doing all that she can to enhance her job prospects.
Our heroine is now offered “training” via the Job Centre – her own arrangements, like mine don’t count. The “training” as it turns out isn’t training at all, it is stacking shelves for two weeks. Given that she was doing this, she was not available for interviews and other job seeking activities. So we have a situation whereby it is okay for the Job Centre to send people on training/work experience that may be entirely useless to them, but if they have the self-motivation to sort out some training themselves, they are punished. Kafka would be proud.
Upon reading the article, one is reminded that whenever the public sector gets involved with anything, they manage to create unintended consequences. These people really couldn’t manage a fuck up in a whorehouse. They send the jobseeker on a two week assignment with an employer, yet there is no effective oversight into the quality of the outcomes. For this “training”, she receives her £65 per week JSA paid by the state. The employer then uses her to stack shelves. At the end of which, the interview and potential job prospects do not materialise. The employer simply takes another where that one came from and the cycle starts again. So, the employer gets free labour funded by the taxpayer and the jobseeker works for a pittance compared with her fellow workers.
If there was any form of accountability in this dire situation, the job centre would be conducting audits to ensure that there was actual training going on, interviews actually happen and that at least some of the applicants do, indeed, get job offers and that for the period of the work experience, the job seeker is paid the going rate for the task – even if it is a slightly reduced training rate. As it is, we have employers ripping off the taxpayer and job seekers being exploited. Of course in Guardian-world, they are always being exploited – usually by evil Tories in top hats. However, on this occasion, they happen to have a point.
So once again we have a situation where the public sector takes on what started out as a sensible idea and completely and thoroughly fucks it up, turning it into a Kafkaesque nightmare. Cait Reilly is taking it further. A judicial review no less. I have a feeling that she is pissing in the wind, but good luck to her anyway. If my experience with this dreadful process is anything to go by, she has my sympathies.