by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
In the second part of our interview with a Jobcentre adviser we talk about sanctions and the Work Programme. Read the first part of the interview here.
Have you ever experienced any use of target culture for sanctioning? If not, what are you told about sanctioning? If yes, how are you told to sanction and by who?
“This is the type of thing that would not be out of place in the novel ‘Catch 22’. We are constantly told by managers ‘there are no targets, only expectations.’ However, the expectations are based on the highest performing local offices or Districts. So, say I work with a colleague who sanctions because they get some sort of sick power kick from it (I do know some people like this, there are some in every office). They might refer 7 people for a ‘doubt on their actively seeking’ per day. In your team meetings or one-to-one, it will be mentioned, and staff will be asked why they haven’t got as many. Regardless of what the DWP official line is, nobody is ever reprimanded for referring too many. The only time that would come up is if a large amount of the referrals were allowed (not sanctioned) by the Decision Maker because they were poor quality – i.e. the evidence sent over was poor or the person had actually shown they had done sufficient searches for their Jobseeker’s Allowance. Some staff are getting scared that they aren’t doing enough and they will be marked in the ‘must improve’ category. Enough warnings and you could be out of a job. So Iain Duncan Smith will tell you that there are no targets and if any manager is still using the term target they will get a reprimand. However, I have seen the District tables which clearly show the direction an office is travelling in with regards to sanctions and referrals. Offices which are lower than the highest performing office will be told they must aim towards similar numbers or else. They are too crafty to put anything in an email, or at least most of them are.”
What have been your experiences of the success/failure of the Work Programme? Have you referred many people onto it?
“I have referred hundreds. I am unable to emphasise enough what a massive con and waste of taxpayer’s money this is. Daily, I speak to those poor souls on this mad scheme and many who have returned after a 2 year stint. How journalists have not scooped this, I do not know. The payment by results contract is an incentive to do nothing. Look at it like this; you are a private company paid to get people into work. You have a financial investment. Who do you invest that money in? Mr Jones who is highly educated and has only recently been made redundant? Or Mr Simpson who has been out of work for years and needs everything from numeracy and literacy training to PC skills? Mr Jones may only need a £50 interview suit or most likely no intervention at all – he will find work on his own. Bingo! The Government will pay you £2,500 if he starts work and stays there for 6 months. You could invest a hell of a lot of your staff resources and profits in getting Mr Simpson to a job ready state, but it’s a huge gamble. You get a higher reward but your losses are higher if he doesn’t find work. Private companies do not like this kind of risk. This is why it is now without question that Work Programme providers ‘park’ the harder to help customers. I have seen this relentlessly for the past couple of years and I do not think anyone could deny this is what happens. I ask customers what the WP is doing for them and they tell me they are lucky if they get a phone call every few months. But, if this person finds a job on his own (which does happen) the WP provider could get £12,000+.”
5) Are you told to give a full description of the help the jobcentre can provide in the form of money for travel expenses to job interviews, or courses that are available? If so, how many take this help up? If not, why not/by who?
“It is not advertised openly. The hope is that the jobseeker will fund expensive training themselves. If they ask then we will put the case forward to pay it. The District fund for this is finite so each case must be looked at on merit. Sometimes the procurement process is so slow the jobseeker will borrow the money from relatives to gain the training they need. The travel to interview expenses have never been openly advertised, as it is hoped that they will fund this themselves. I must say that the chances of funding from DWP are a lot better than for those on the WP.”
What one policy would you change to help jobseekers?
“A tricky one. I couldn’t nail it down to one thing as so much is currently wrong. You see most of the things we do are dictated by Ministers and Senior Civil Servants. At most, they pop in to sit by you for an afternoon to see what you do. They then think they know how to improve or change things but they don’t. It’s all half-arsed hair-brained back of a beer mat type stuff. No one feeds back up the line when something is not working. The DWP is full to the brim of yes men. Take Universal Jobmatch; staff have been saying that it’s garbage since it was introduced. Staff locked out of it, jobseekers and employers cannot use it. It’s loaded with duplicates and non-jobs but we are told by DWP Press Office that it has revolutionised the way people look for work. We are told we must use it and must sell it to Jobseekers.”
“But back to your question, I would scrap the Work Programme. I would invest the millions spent on this into real training for Jobseekers.”