“I’m 62 and they threaten me with sanctions.” More stories from the jobcentre

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent time outside jobcentres with the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group talking with people who are on JSA about their experiences. We’ve been talking about sanctions, about the realities of trying to find work with jobcentres (a month in and I have yet to speak to anyone who has) and about having to fall into line on all fronts or risk having your benefits cut. Am posting transcripts from those discussions here as I work on a bigger project.

Last week, we went to the Lisson Grove jobcentre at Marylebone – a jobcentre that quite a few people we’ve spoken to seem to dislike intensely. Once again, we talked to people who were tired, angry and sick of the whole JSA regime. Don’t forget that the only crime people have committed here is being unemployed. Anyone could end up in that situation.

This is what happens if you do:

We began by speaking at length with one man who had been sanctioned for some months. He really wasn’t sure why this had happened. English wasn’t his first language and he was struggling to understand the story that he’d been told, or the steps he should take to get his sanction lifted. He said that the jobcentre said that something had happened to his records when he moved from one part of London to another. He showed us payslips from his most recent job – he seemed to have been working on and off in light industry. Now without income, he was relying on family to survive.

“It’s embarrassing to me,” he kept saying. “I have to go to my sister-in-law for food and for somewhere to sleep. I have no food, no light, no electricity. I don’t like that I have to rely on her.” He stayed and talked with us for quite a while. People offered to go back into the jobcentre with him, to try and find out more about his situation. He seemed completely stuck. A lot of people we talk to outside jobcentres seem completely stuck. They say their problems aren’t being resolved at all.

We’ve talked to plenty of people who are furious about that. At Lisson Grove, I talked to Penny*, aged 62. She was angry all right. She said that she’d worked in the voluntary sector until August last year, when she was made redundant, because of budget cuts. She was particularly angry about being told by the jobcentre that she wasn’t trying hard enough to find work.

She said:

“Some of us in our previous lives actually taught jobsearch. We actually took people through to the point of appointment, so [it’s very hard] to come here and be told “why are you late, you’re not doing proper jobsearch, that’s why you haven’t got a job,” when you’re 62 years of age. I’m being told this by people who are half my age. I’m being told that if ever I arrive late, they are going to cut the whole of my benefits.

“They have threatened me [with sanctions]. Next January, I can retire. Right now, I must come here every week and I’m on JSA – fair enough. But to tell me at 62…. Really, what I would like to do is discuss what my options are at my age.

“I’d love them to find me a job – but what are the options at my age other than voluntary work without pay, or going to do a job in Tesco for about eight or nine months? My point is that I think the jobcentre advisers ought to be given better training than they are – to be more sensitive and more alert to the job needs of the people that they are getting to sign on the dotted line. Because that’s all they’re doing.

“They can make you come in every day if they want. I’ve actually come in today to tell them that I can’t come in on Friday, because I’ve got a discussion [about a job] through my own network, possibly about doing some job share. I’ve just had to walk here to tell them that I can’t come for the Friday interview. I don’t come, they’ll sanction me. It’s just policing really.”

Next, we spoke to a younger man who said he’d just been told to apply for 25 jobs a week. He also seemed very unsure about the information he’d been given and how he was supposed to go about meeting his signing-on requirements. Like a lot of people we’ve spoken with, he usually found his own work – he’d never been placed in work by a jobcentre. He used the jobcentre and signed on between short-term call centre contract jobs that he found himself. We’ve spoken to person after person in this sort of situation – people who are in low paid, insecure jobs and must sign on and off when those jobs start and end. We’re seeing major failings of the labour market here. I haven’t met very many people who have been on JSA for the longer term. The majority of people so far have been on JSA because they’re between short-term, low-paid, insecure jobs.

He told us:

“They said you have to apply for 25 jobs a week. But really, it should depend on the person. It should be all about customising [jobsearch] for people, rather than just saying a generic 25 for everyone. They might get people who might be mentally unwell, or who are caring for people, so they might not have the time [to look for 25 jobs]. The reality is that the jobcentre needs to be a bit more compassionate to people and really look at their situation – rather than just saying a blanket [number of job applications] for everyone, regardless.

“For me, the new system of Universal Jobmatch [is time-consuming]. When I signed on a few months ago for a few weeks, I was told – “you’re going to get a [sanctions] warning.” When I said to them – “look, you can look at my inbox. I’ve got like 30 applications.” They won’t accept that. I feel that they are making it more difficult for people. “I said – I’ll bring you a printout.” They won’t see it. They want to see Jobmatch.

“I’ve been working in call centre management for the last ten years. At the moment, it’s quite difficult. I just went through a whole month-long process [to apply for a job]. You go through one first stage interview, then a second stage interview and in the end, there was two of us and the other person got the role. Then for me, it’s a case of [telling the jobcentre] that I’ve tried all this and you’ve got the evidence – but no. You’ve still got to apply for 25 jobs. I think the advisers themselves need to be trained better…there’s not support from the jobcentre. Hopefully, it’s [nearly] over. I’ve got another job offer hopefully on the table today, so for me, it’s not a big issue. I have the ability to go out there and get my own work, but it’s more the people who don’t have the skills to find their own work, specially when it comes to interview skills. There’s no support in that way.

“I pay my taxes. I’ve been working for 15 years. In the industry I work in, it’s varied. At the moment, because [the workplace] is so saturated, the difficulty is getting to the interview stage. Once you get there, it’s all about personality. You have to shine through on the phone, or in a face to face conversation, or they are not going to take you on.”

*Name changed. I’m not putting names up at the moment in case people are sanctioned.

Previous transcripts:

First story from outside the jobcentre: Kilburn
Second story from outside the jobcentre: Neasden

22 thoughts on ““I’m 62 and they threaten me with sanctions.” More stories from the jobcentre

  1. My friend has had problems too. No money for 6 weeks because she is caring for sick Dad. Can’t sign on, can’t get carer’s allowance till 31st March as that is when her Dad will get his money. No income support till she gets carer’s allowance. Therefore no money. Living on handouts from her daughters, Dad’s savings and friends. An absolutely ridiculous and inhumane system. She has lost weight due to lack of food as she doesn’t want to ask for too much money. She says, jokingly, that’s the only positive thing to come out of the whole situation. I know that she was trying to make light of the situation so that I didn’t worry. I am very worried about her. What sort of country are we becoming?

    • We are becoming the country the Tories want, a flexible powerless workforce that flies in the face of what modern civilization should be about .

    • My friend has now had a very rude call from the work scheme office that she used to attend. They said that she had to go in to explain why she wasn’t attending the office any more. She explained the reasons over the phone but his reply was that he would sanction her if she didn’t attend. She told him to go ahead. He called her some names, to which she replied back, so she put the phone down. How can they sanction someone who is getting no money due to their rules? She can’t sign on due to their rules. How incompetent are these people? It is all just a money making scheme(scam) for private companies to make money from the poor.

  2. He 62 year old man would be eligible for pension credit he needs to see a welfare rights adviser at the CAB as soon as possible. Pension credit is another £74.60 a week

    • It depends on when his or her Birthday falls they have changed the rules on pension credit , I my self am sixty and they have told me i won’t get my pension or pension credit till 26th January of 2020 that 5 months before my 66th Birthday

  3. Thanks again for this, Kate.

    The matter of quantity of job applications over quality has been one I’ve had to tackle in the past, particularly when I was an intern at a dreadful jobcentre-funded training company called ‘Direct Computer Training’ in Central London in 1998.

    There, the threat from the Head of Jobsearch was not of being sanctioned, but of being “terminated from the course if you don’t submit a weekly jobsearch portfolio telling of a minimum of 16 job applications in that week. You will then have to go back to the jobcentre and explain to them why ”

    We were told that we should send photocopies of a CV rather than a customised CV. Meanwhile the training company processed four classes per day through each ‘machine room’ and the DCT jobsearch advisers were semi-literate and ill-educated. A trainee who was a single mum in her 30’s had a degree in Marine Ecology and asked for help in getting a placement relevant to her degree. “What’s ‘Marine Ecology’, came the reply.” They were also lousy at spotting their own spelling errors in general announcement posters.

    It was extremely difficult for those of us who had no home PC access to get a CV done, but I persisted by hanging around the ‘machine rooms’ to get as much fine-tuning in on a customised CV that got me an interview. But then I was told that that interview-generating job application that had also included six handwritten drafts of an application letter over a weekend was not enough jobsearch!

    Regarding quality over quantity, Abraham Lincoln said that he could speak about just about any subject for an hour at length upon request, but thaf for him to write a decent and memorable 3 minute speech could take him several days. How much time does a recruiter take on first inspection of a CV to separate the bin-fodder from the shortlist fodder?

    Anyhow, I kicked up a fuss through my MP that led to an investigation in which, of course, Head of Jobsearch lied by saying that jobsearch portfolios were ‘not mandatory’ but only a recommendation, and then followed that up with a ‘confidential memo’ to the ‘machine room assistants left behind when I was booted out to make way for more of their own trainees who they could not place anywhere else. (I had initiated my formal complaint before being booted out and after starting a ‘mail merge’ facilitated campaign that upped my output to 16 applications per week to a list of especially selected disability friendly agencies. Three of those letters got me interviews with the agencies.

    And I got a much better ‘ride’ when interviewed at the jobcentre than was threatened by the Head of Jobsearch, though that was admittedly in a period when the smear stories had not brought in the ‘climate’ that makes sanctioning a reality. None the less, the stress of what I had been through later led me to contract chickenpox in my 45th year.

    And I’m glad that I did not get a job from that first job interview for several years, that, come to think of it, actually took place in Lisson Grove very near the jobcentre that we were leafleting last Wednesday. For the interview was for a job with a then barely known company that was expanding its operations from Sheffield into London. The company’s name? A4e!

    Swheatie of the KUWG

  4. The staff in Job Centers are snotty, condescending, and the way they talk down to people its only a matter of time before it all goes t**s up for someone working there and their family are wondering wtf happened

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  7. We should stop being sheep and stand up to these people and the government.The jobcentre is being rediculous.i have been sanctioned also-it could eventually lead to homelessness.How can I get a job when the jobmarket is flooded with east Europeans who work for a lot less than what I need to survive.Building sites employ loads of East Europeans.Someone should organize a protest march in London.

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  9. I have had the same problems at Bromley job centre.
    I am 62 and was made redundant.I was told this week I should be applying for 10 jobs a day even if I have no experience in that field of work.
    I have had my money stopped for 4 weeks. also I do all my searching from my email account and they told me I have to do it on there site.

    • Sorry, but some of the people who works for Bromely job centre are just a joke. I have been told to apply at least 8 jobs a day using their Universal job match which I found absolutely useless,instead I use various recruitment site to look for jobs.

      But the thing is, even though they treated you a sanction if you don’t do what they tell you to do, however, they don’t even check how many jobs I applied for or what kind of job I’ve applied. They are simply a job to be frank.

  10. I have just down loaded a site that may help the jobseeker over 62yr olds
    Look up (yearly signing for 62yr olds on J S A) Citizens Information first
    paragraph click on :Special provisions for older jobseekers:once you have done that you will find what you need.

    • I sign on at hemel hempstead JOBCENTRE.
      I also will be 62 at the end of this month.
      Anyone having trouble with sanctions who have a reasonably good case should contact there local M P.Myself am speaking to my adviser
      about yearly signing which according to the website i have given has no sanctions for over 62 yr olds

  11. I detest hAvington to sign on for jsa as a 60 year old single female.I always thought that retirement kicked in at 60 oh no this government put it up to 66. I feel suicidal

  12. hi,
    i myself had to sign at 63 until recently, i took the first job I could find, cleaning but I have poor health and its taking a toll on me but anything better than the job centre. my advisor would scrutinise my job search booklet with her finger, make me wait ages and try to give me silly appointment times.
    I think that the Citizens Information First site is Irish and sadly doesnt apply in England. I have certainly never heard it mentioned when I was signing on but if is an excellent idea if we could have it here would make so much sense for the over 62s I have worked all my life and I want to retire while my health is still reasonable. No one over 60 should be made to go to a job centre

  13. Pingback: job seekers over 62 – Hbthz

  14. I’m 65 and 6 months just been made redundant ..should here about pension in about March March .universal cr credit have told me to find work or get money stopped of I got look for work is this right at my ageage.

  15. I have recently been made redundant and have got an appointment with the universal credit tomorrow. I myself am 62 and I have been working most my life. I am dreading it coz I know what to expect as last time I got so angry with them. I don’t want to go to job shops or for 8 weeks at a time doing work xperience or voluntary again its just so annoying😩

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