Bullying at jobcentres

A few thoughts on bullying at jobcentres:

I get the feeling that there is an adviser at the North Kensington jobcentre who over-enjoys, if I can put it that way, the power that jobcentre advisers have over JSA claimants. We’ve spent a few weeks now talking with JSA claimants outside that jobcentre and a lot of them mention this person. They certainly did last week. Here are three quotes I took. Two of them are from or about people who tried to say No to an instruction from an adviser:

“There’s a woman in there who signs people on. She is bullying people. She is the worst one. She ain’t there today, but she’s really horrible to people and she ain’t doing her job properly. She shouldn’t be working there.”

“There’s a woman in there. She’s a fucking cunt. All the other advisers – I have no problem with them. But she’s saying that she’s going to put me on an IT course, even though I’m signing off soon. Every day there’s an argument with her.”

“Yes, she said that to a guy who is 60…They had cut him off [sanctioned him] for four weeks, because he wouldn’t go on the computer course. But he’s in his 60s, retiring soon anyway. So he’s off for four weeks and they do that to a lot of people.”

So. This is the terrible power imbalance at jobcentres. On one side of the equation, you have advisers with the power to cut off people’s JSA money then and there. On the other side, you have JSA claimants who must hope that staff don’t abuse that power to stop money and/or aren’t under pressure to sanction. It isn’t much of an equation, particularly if you’re on the claimant side of it.

Some jobcentre advisers are reasonable – they’re trying hard to do an impossible job in an appalling environment. Others are not. As I wrote last week, a lot of the people we meet at the North Kensington jobcentre must sign on daily now – an utterly pointless exercise where people have to travel to the jobcentre every day at a different time, tell the adviser they see that they’re looking for work and then leave again. They also must hope like hell that they see a reasonable adviser each day. Your chances of seeing a vindictive one surely increase when you must go in daily. I think of all this when people tell me that so-called back to work schemes like traineeships are voluntary. I wonder what happens when you try to say “No, I don’t want to/can’t do that” to some advisers and managers at this jobcentre. I think jobcentres should be opened up to spot-checks and scrutiny from campaigners, journalists and MPs, so that we can all go in and find out.

36 thoughts on “Bullying at jobcentres

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  2. Daily signing – I still find this really shocking and pathetic. Totally vindictive, stupid and as you say pointless.
    It’s so clear that this policy is designed to harass people and to undermine their personal dignity.
    It also must get to the Job Centre staff – endlessly having to do the same pointless procedure. These are the people a sensible government would want on their side, to help people.

  3. Pingback: Bullying At JobCentres | Same Difference

  4. Some JCP bullies have FB pages and are not shy of their animosity toward claimants. It’s not right that hate crime legislation protect some groups but not others -currently, it’s perfectly legal to harass and vilify the disabled and poor!

    I Hate Benefit Scrounging Workshy Bastards
    https://www.facebook.com/scroungersssss

    #makingsurecheatscupboardsareemptyforchristmas
    https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/makingsurecheatscupboardsareemptyforchristmas

    Stop benefit scroungers
    https://www.facebook.com/StopBenefitScroungers

    Spotted. Benefit fraudsters | Facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spotted-Benefit-fraudsters/634477056593642

    Support workfare. Make benefit scroungers work for their money | Facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-workfare-Make-benefit-scroungers-work-for-their-money/561542143915046?fref=ts

  5. This is a common-told story and part and parcel of what claimants have to put up with across the UK. People on Twitter have said to me before there are one or two to avoid in every jobcentre. People who sanction at the drop of a hat or make them do jobsearch tasks which get more difficult each time, or go on training that is unnecessary in order to wear them down. I’ve also had DWP staff saying they see colleagues going power mad, but there is nothing they can do because managers praise and reward this behaviour.

    There is one in my jobcentre whom people warn others about. She sanctioned me on my first meeting. With hindsight the warning signs were there as she had a stack of photocopied ‘doubt’ letters on her desk.

  6. Let me give examples of the last 3 courses I’ve been on, all resulting in sanctions to others mostly from Brent, Ealing, Kensington and Hammersmith boroughs.
    In January 2014 a second scheme (the previous being the Work Programme that left me with a 6 month sanction although advisors were the ones not holding their meetings) called “ECDL level 2” (learning Microsoft office etc..) went wrong from day 1, signed a two day contract, but told sanctioned if we did not go for 5 days.
    Once it started we find they have not got the computer discs we have to learn from!!!
    It is a self learning/teaching course with no tutors. Threats of sanctions (made by provider not jobcentre) and so on followed our complaints, accusations of not paying attention made to other claimants etc…. (who do you not pay attention to if there are no tutors?). By now I had learned from the Work Programme course to wear a wire and record what happened, so I was not sanctioned, but the others were!

    A third course followed, this time the provider claimed not to have the funds to reimburse our fares, and wanted us to pay £38 a week up to go to Tottenham for work placement. Again wired and recorded all this and was not sanctioned, many others from Ealing and Brent were sanctioned however.

    Fourth course was a CSCS card course, did the course, sat all relevant exams, and the provider again was so dysfunctional that no-one ever found out if they passed the exams or not. Including builders etc.. just there to replace their soon to expire CSCS cards. http://urbanfutures.org.uk/?services=cscs-training

    In all of the above our local Jobcentres kept claiming they have no liability over the courses that they send you on, even when you are sanctioned if you don’t attend, most were sanctioned because they DID attend.
    I can understand those who choose a life of crime, prison gives you a meal every day, unemployment no longer does.
    You end up so angry that you just want revenge etc.., that’s why people turn to rioting and looting, most have no other option once their anger spills over.
    and for this I put the blame squarely on the current government.

  7. the tories know there are not enough jobs to go round as many are skilled or require years of experience, its all about wearing the claimant down to sign off or commit suicide, they don’t care which as long as they can run to their media cronies and say ” look, unemployment down again”..and sadly, the sheeple believe the lies.

  8. There is a woman at the Wood Green Job Center exactly the same
    I would not take it any more, thankfully my doctor was sympathetic and has enabled me to go on ESA till Nov 28th
    I dread the thought of signing on again and getting the same adviser – apparently I can say no to been given her again as shes not working in my best interest. I genuinely want a gainfully job but have had NO help so far

  9. Got 1 of this ilk at my local JCP.
    1st encountered her when using JobPoints (located about 10 ft from Reception desk, where she was working that day) shortly after she began working there in 2010, & couldn`t help overhearing (she has a voice that carries) conversation with security guard re:the Scrounger Narrative in full flow.
    After silently fuming for 20 mins, & mindful of the fact that she was heavily-pregnant at the time, I finally took a deep breath & walked over & asked, “Excuse me, but I have a question: is it just the pregnancy hormones or are you always a b*tch?”.
    After explaining how I`d had no choice but to overhear the conversation & being told snootily that it was a private conversation, I replied, “Indeed. Maybe you should have held it in private, instead of in the public areas? And incidentally, I don`t think it`s particularly professional of you to be running-down the people you`re supposed to helping, advising &, more importantly, supporting in their efforts to find employment.”
    Surprisingly, I`ve had no problems with this staffmember (who has gone on to become a supervisor/team leader at this branch…talk about setting out your stall/knowing which way the wind is blowing, methinks).

  10. Two months ago, I asked the UN to open an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctions regime; my letter to then High Commissioner Navi Pillay can be found here: http://twishort.com/AAigc. A newly announced inquiry into how the benefit sanctions regime is administered is to be mounted by the Department for Work and Pensions select committee. There is also an urgent need for a moratorium on benefit sanctions as a result of the tragic death of David Clapson (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/killed-benefits-cuts-starving-soldier-3923771).

    Not only are Jobcentre staff and DWP decision makers incompetent and medically unqualified, they are under severe pressure to strip claimants of their benefits.

    Matthew Oakley’s independent review of JSA sanctions (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/335144/jsa-sanctions-independent-review.pdf) was limited in its remit to improving the way sanctions were communicated to claimants. His recommendations are relatively cosmetic and minor; that’s why the DWP has agreed to implement them. On the whole, I’ve labelled his review a ‘whitewash’, for it ignores inappropriate sanctions, Jobcentre targets to take away benefits, and serious accusations by a whistle-blower of benefit claimant stitching-up.

    In my opinion, Jobcentre staff are knowingly engaging in conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation. I strongly suspect that the DWP is involved in a cover-up of egregious or inappropriate benefit sanctions.

    Furthermore, I recently wrote both Nick Clegg and Rachel Reeves, requesting that their respective political parties adopt as official policy the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendation that sick and disabled people be paid while they wait for benefit decisions and while the DWP clears the benefits backlog. It’s a sensible proposal based on humanitarian grounds and to prevent further tragic suicides, like this one (http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/crime/epileptic-man-hanged-himself-after-his-benefits-were-stopped-1-6825510), from occurring.

    Full disclosure: Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis for Britain’s sick and disabled. (My list of welfare-related deaths of UK’s sick and disabled can be found here: http://twishort.com/0x9gc.)

    (Montreal, Canada)

  11. Appreciating the series of posts on experiences of JCP and collaborates with some mistreatment of my own. I would quibble asking a 60yold to take a course in ICT is unreasonable though. It’s about capacity, not age. In my current role in a call centre we regularly have people who are 80 + able to navigate their way through online systems.

  12. Hi all I would point all who are having problems to :

    http://intensiveactivity.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/guide-to-stopping-harassment-from-the-dwp/

    Myself from the same page experienced the following.

    “Had a HEO for the past year using his lower level staff into pressuring me to allow access to UJM. Was having none of it after seeing Channel 4 and issues they raised plus horror stories of 300 jobs being dumped into an account and by missing just 1 meant being sanctioned. Finally [luckliy] the HEO in question did my interview recently and tried it on [this was seven weeks after I presented a letter laying out the law on Data Acccess and requesting a written explanation – I of course have never received one].

    I Accidently recorded the events, how stupid of me, being the trusting person that I am. I demanded a written explanation again. He said he did not need to, then changed his mind. Strangely I have not received the written explanation.

    Submitted a Harrassment letter naming the Area Manager but did not send it up to her just gave it to the HEO and for my file. For some reason its gone quite. Been asked to submit a Complaint via their internal system. Fully intend to do so in a week or two. But will also go via the harrassment route as well. Lets see how they like it when the boot is on the other foot and the person pressing this rubbish and the others in the chain of command are also in the line of fire. I have been recording from Day 1 of signing on. Why? I’m ex civil service & know not to trust ANY structure – Accept but Verify is my Motto. And Have Proof.

    Unfortuntely, had to sign off sick currently.”

  13. I am also experiencing bullying, abuse of power at the Tottenham Job centre on the third floor

    I am over 50, I hold Master’s degree in philosophy, and educational leadership. I am by profession a coach, mentor and the director and founder of social intervention for destitute youth in the london area. I have been actively seeking work while volunteering for the destitute youth for over 2 years, working hard, unpaid and without funding.

    the job centre mandated me to attend REED for two years. I have completed my ”probation” with no success of accessing employment.

    I have also been referred to Ingues for a year, and again with no success.

    I have also done my mandatory unpaid community work with SEETEC and Bridge to success company, and again with no access to paid employment.

    14 novembre, the advisor referred me to a low level course, at REED again, called ” employment course” how to write a cv, and how to do job search, this is way below the level of my education, experience and expertise since I am the expert in cv writing, coaching and mentoring.

    I am also the author of several not yet published books on the psychology of success.

    I am promoting my services of mentoring and coaching programmes to other countries, however, due to this daily signing on and unecessary courses I am being referred to, I am no longer able to attend meetings with potential employers, funders, and employment groups.

    I was told by the advisor and manager that if I attend any of those meetings, I will be sanctioned.

    this has deprived me of my rights to accessing employment, my rights to freedom, and marketing my services.

    is there anyone in the law business who could represent my case? please

  14. Pingback: Daily signon and workfare: they don’t think of us as human beings | Kate Belgrave

  15. Pingback: Recordings of how JSA claimants are spoken to – and why the DWP must be stopped from arresting witnesses | Kate Belgrave

  16. My Adviser is really horrible to me, she makes jokes and snipe comments about my job search thinking i ain’t doing enough. She can think again because i have to go to trainee ships, volunteer work, sign on (everyday) and job search everyday. One day i made a mistake by not remembering to do job search(i only found 5) then she started having a fit at me like saying mean things about my confidence, learning difficulties and what i do on the computers. She even started talking in a cocky way saying i can’t just sit on computers watching the world go by like wtf is her problem i did do job search even saw what i was doing on the computers. I fucking said the reason why i have no confidence is because i got bullied a lot in school not because I’m dumb. Shes even sending me to a doctor witch is out of order. Theres nothing wrong with me medically i just get nervous when i go to see my adviser(i wounder why) and i am actually a friendly person towards everyone. She expects me to change in to a confident person like in 1 day. What happened to me in school is gonna have a long effect on my confidence its gonna take more than 1 day to change me.
    Has anyone had the same problem as me?

  17. what you said rebecca is what is happening to me at forest hill jobcentre, the advisers there about 3 or 4 of them bully me ,and make rude,nasty comment to me every time ,and like you i am a friendly person to people ,and it does get to you,and one times i change to a jobcentre ,but the govenment change ,close down that and i had to go back to the forest hill jobcentre .and they are still bullying me,because they can get away with it.all i can say rebecca is don’t give up ,and good luck.

  18. I totally sympathise. Im at the Enfield branch and have just officially complained about my adviser as she was so rude and obnoxious to me and ive had enough. I was on the ridiculous reed work programme there and treated like a piece of s##t there too. Ive been offered a job which I found myself and because I dont have a start date they want me to go in daily to do a job search for two hours even though excessive use of computers gives me a migraine. And I could go on. I want to work and do what im told yet ive been sanctioned because of their mistake, so without money and they treat me like crap. Just not on.

  19. I know the feeling of this I’m having bullying and harrasment from Seetec at the moment so I know how you feel theirs always one of them that feels that they can bully you because they are part of the DWP they think nothing bad can happen to them but that’s not the case.
    I would suggest trying to take it to a tribunal that’s what I’m going to do if the poor treatment continues at Seetec I’ve had it for the past year and it’s affected my health due to it I have severe depression because of them.
    And I don’t think they realize how much they affect people’s lives because of how they bully and harass people.

  20. Don’t do this right wing and white pride nonsense even for a joke, the unemployed and low wage workers need to stick together, united we stand divided we fall. If you want to be ‘in their faces’ do it legally, the only way to fight them is to be equally bureaucratic and stick rigidly to the rules.

  21. While searching the Internet to see how I can change job centre adviser I come across this article describing the actual adviser I’ve got. She is still there making people’s lives an utter misery. Vile person who is allowed and supported to behave like this.

  22. I just changed job centre today. I have always done everything I was asked to do by the jobcentre. I’m never late, never miss appointments etc… the new advisor I just saw made me feel bullied. He seemed to “enjoy” drawing up a very extensive list of things I’m required to do, despite me telling him I just started the work program. One example of the way he tested me is this:
    I told him I’m not a lazy person, I actively look for work every day, he said ” you have already said that. I will find out for myself.
    Ohhhkayyyy…. then he said what’s wrong, you look very flustered??
    After reeling off all the things on his new “revised claim and commitment”
    I was being very polite and out going, but it made no difference to this man. He asked me what I do to look for work, so I showed him multiple emails, an app for job searching with my CV uploaded … but suprise it’s not good enough. I was very polite and engaging but it made no difference at all, he was thoroughly enjoying his lists and conditions and his power. I left there feeling very vulnerable and worthless, and to be honest frightened of my next encounter with this man. I’m too frightened to ask for a change of advisor or to make a complaint. I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG!
    He was enjoying it, that much was obvious.

  23. 3 years later (now 2017) and nothings Changed. I am currently being persistently bullied by JCP Adviser/dole clerk into doing voluntary work, even though i said Im not interested she won’t stop pushing it, going on & on about it at every signing on appointment. Im sick of the silly bitch. It’s really getting me down & stressing me. I have Borderline Personality Disorder & am highly susceptible to Stress. I have done lost of voluntary work & unpaid work placements in the past, my cv is full of it, i worked at Oxfam only last year, but this Adviser is never satisfied No matter what i do. I do regular daily jobsearch, I apply for lots of jobs every week, I record all

  24. I record all my Activity on ujm & have given DWP permission to view it, but the Adviser never bothers to read my Activity so whats the point in me recording it all? She just goes on & on none stop about voluntary work. If i want to do voluntary work i will do, if & when i feel like it, but Im not going to bullied into it by her or anyone else! I would Still have to do my daily jobsearch even if I was doing voluntary work, & that is too

  25. I very reluctantly had to claim jsa… things were going ok with a work decent coach. He was on holiday 1 week at easter & i saw front desk person (once before on front desk the same person told me she couldnt help or advise me on what i was entitled to; despite working there for 40 yrs & another on front desk was v rude to me also inputing my details incorrectly after i asked if we could record the conversation…) she refused to allow me to sign on, told me she couldnt go any further without a completed paper leaflet (that my coach had not asked for once in 6 months), and the fact i had missed 1 non sign on appointment (they were forcing me to go every week instead of fortnight) which i emailed & explained reasons. When i told her the paper leaflet was never used & not required as i had a spreadsheet of job applications she went & got a manager who stood over me, berating & talking down at me. I didnt like this so stood up & calmly stepped at least 2 metres away from her at which point she told the guards that i had to leave?!
    When i wrote to them complaining & enclosing print outs of a few big & reliable agency news articles about bullying, suicides etc of clients due to this bullying culture, i have since received a unsigned ‘warning’ letter with no way to talk to anyone about it or what actually occured from the Government Legal Department telling me i am abusive & must stop etc etc!
    I am left with my payments cut off & keep receiving threatening letters from various faceless dwp offices around the country that do not accept incoming calls or email same as the other one invoked by the bullies at the Bracknell job centre.

  26. Good Afternoon People

    Equality Act 2010-Human Rights Act 1998

    The coffee is hot and I am losing the plot!!

    Just wanted to say:

    Has anyone else expereienced this ???

    ” I turn up to the Job Centre and feel “victimised and bullied” because of a lack of “customer empathy” between Client (The Govnt) and Customer ( Myself).

    It is really awful to have to talk out negatively about experiences in these places but I do feel uncomfortable speaking up and challenging Job Centre Staff in these offices.

    I do not want to create a negative impression but they don t have an understanding of my mental health, mood, experience and objectivity..

    They are employed to validate the appointment and the system itself.

    I feel bad today saying this.

    Keep on trucking and keep it real!!!!

    • I signed on this morning and the adviser/work coach I see now is no better than the ones I previously had. Even though I am already currently on the Right Steps To Work scheme and have another 5 months left to go, she asked today if I need referring somewhere for “extra support” in finding work. I reminded her that I’m still on Right Steps so she dropped that line of inquiry and instead asked if I’d considered doing work experience. I pointed out to her that I do voluntary work (which she already knows) and that I have previously done work experience at Oxfam as well as having done a work placement at Pets At Home. She should already be aware that I have done all this, and have also done various Training courses; ECDL, Manual Handling, Principles of Storage & Warehousing (BTEC) all in the last 3 years, and am about to begin yet another IT course in 3 weeks time. I realize this woman has a job to do, and is probably under some pressure from her manager but bloody hell give it a rest ffs. There is just no pleasing them. No matter what you do they never shut up, they are never happy and never will be until you either sign off or drop down dead.

  27. I had to finish my part time job as a waitress after an injury to my foot. It was found that I have osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis), so I was advised to look for work where I’m not constantly on my feet, as I’m at increased risk of stress fractures. I’m in my late 50s and I’m also hearing impaired, have been since my late 20s.
    It was ok at first, I saw the DEA at the job centre, and had a couple of different advisers. Then they put me with my current adviser, who is nothing but a bully. Nothing I do is ever good enough, she delights in making me feel useless. I’m on the Work and Health Program and my key worker there is brilliant. She suggested I do voluntary work, so now I’m volunteering at Oxfam and I love it. But my work coach never has a good word about it, she’s all about “well that’ll have to finish when you go on an employability course”. I’m like – what? So I spoke to my key worker and she said I’m doing so well there’s no need.
    Next thing, my work coach is moaning because I don’t see my key worker every week, and actually rang her up to complain. She’s constantly putting jobs in my journal, one in a sandwich shop where I’d be on my feet all the time, despite the risk that would pose for me, and also my hearing is getting worse, so I specifically asked to avoid working in noisy environments.
    Then she had a moan about me only getting one interview from 25 job applications, saying I’m obviously doing something wrong and this is why I need to go on an employability course. Oh please! I’m educated to degree level, I know how to apply for jobs and write a CV!
    Then I got an interview. When I saw my work coach, first thing she asked was have I seen my key worker this week. I had, which annoyed her, nothing to complain about. So she had a go at my online journal: “your job search needs to change. You can’t just list all these job sites. We don’t know what jobs you’re applying for or anything.”
    Excuse me, I list every single thing I do to look for work! The job sites I look at, local places I ask at, friends and family I mention my jobseeking to, local papers I look in. Everything. When I apply for a job, I not only list it under Job Applications in my online journal, I list it in the work search notes. I just don’t know how she can say she doesn’t know what I’m applying for. It’s right there on her goddamn computer screen! Then she asks when I’m going for the interview I mentioned. Despite the fact that it says quite clearly in my journal that I went for the interview two days before, and I listed my thoughts on how it went afterwards. All clearly dated and timed! She is just nitpicking and bullying. I’m so upset now I feel like doing something I haven’t done for years and cutting myself! My key worker is on holiday, so I can’t go to her, and I’m too scared to say anything at the job centre as she’d just make my life even more of a misery if she found out I’d complained. I wouldn’t care if she had reason to complain, but I do everything she tells me to do, I’m never late, I’m always polite and I apply for all the jobs she puts in my journal, even if they’re unsuitable. It’s like she’s drunk with the power she has over me. She’s a sadistic bully and if I end up hurting myself, like I feel like doing, she will be named and shamed. And just so everybody knows, this is Leigh job centre. Everybody else I’ve seen there is fine, she’s clearly the resident bitch.

    • They are absolute bastards, nothing will ever satisfy them, no matter how much jobsearch you do, or how many jobs you apply for, no matter how many courses you attend, no matter how much voluntary work you do, they will never be satisfied because it is their job to remain dissatisfied so long as you are continuing to claim Benefits. The question is, what sort of person would do a job like that? Psychopaths on an ego trip, jumped-up jobsworths and little Hitlers.

    • There was one in Worcester jobcentre years ago, I took a low paid part time job in the end, to get away from it, thats what they do some of them, bully you off it.

      • Oh yes, I’m sure that is the entire intention, to bully people off of Benefits. And like I said, it takes a particular type of person to be able to do that for a job, bullying, brow-beating, and frowning upon people on a daily basis whilst bombarding people with negativity and unrelenting pressure non-stop, until they crack. All in return for a pay-cheque and a pension. I certainly couldn’t do it.

  28. I HAVE GOT INTO A REAL DEVASTATING MESS OVER ESA, PIP, DLA AND UNIVERSAL CREDIT CHAOS.
    BENEFITS WERE STOPPED AND STARTED CAUSING STRESS AND EVICTION.
    GETTING TOO LITTLE MONEY.
    GETTING BULLIED BY JOB CENTRE STAFF.
    BECOMING ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED BY THIS.
    EX TAKING MONEY OFF ME.
    IS THIS LEGAL FOR G*D’S SAKE !!!!
    FEEL LIKE I AM BEING USED AND ABUSED BY THE SYSTEM……………….

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