More jobcentre recordings: Another lost fight to accompany someone to their JSA signon…

A few thoughts on the extraordinary efforts that our punitive state now makes to isolate people who need state help:

Not long ago, I had ANOTHER altercation with a G4S security guard – this time at one of the East London jobcentres. You can hear some of that argument here (there’s a bit in it about a bicycle that you’ll need to read on to understand):

The dispute was about people’s right to bring a friend or supporter along to their jobcentre appointments. I was there to accompany a young woman to her first jobseekers’ allowance signon meeting. She had all sorts of complicated problems with her benefits, so I went along to take any notes that she needed. She also wanted someone along as a witness.

You’d think that was fair enough, especially at the moment. People need witnessess to their interactions with jobcentre advisers. That is because the whole jobcentre system is a fiasco. People get their benefits sanctioned for reasons that nobody understands, or they’re told to attend meetings that end up being on another day entirely, or they get in trouble for not turning up to appointments that another adviser has cancelled (I’ve seen endless variations on all three over the last year or so). Taking a witness along so that at least one other person understands what jobsearch activities and meetings are agreed is pretty important to survival. The DWP’s own responses to FOI requests about bringing a supporter along to JSA appointments seem to imply that accompaniment is perfectly fine. Other people have argued the toss about representation with the DWP and apparently won. Feel free to leave a comment, or email me, if you have any further insight into the rules. I’d ask the DWP myself, except that asking the DWP anything these days is so utterly pointless that I can’t actually find the motivation to lift my finger and dial the DWP’s number. I ring the DWP and I email the DWP and the DWP simply refuses to respond to my questions.

Which isn’t necessarily a huge loss in the greater scheme. The point is that people should be entitled to take a witness along to their jobcentre signon meetings. The other point is that nobody on the ground seems to know what the rules are anyway. People just say whatever suits them at the time. Some guards (they’re generally in the minority now) have said to me Yes, You Can Go In. The rest say No. That means that the majority of jobcentre security guards I see now are very quick to put a stop to someone’s right to any sort of representation. Their first response shouldn’t be No, but it is. It’s No for the hell of it. It’s No, just because guards can say No. I’ve probably attended around ten jobcentre appointments with people this year and reckon that security guards have said No to my going in at the start of more than half of them. One guy I just totally ignored. I pretended I couldn’t hear him telling me to stop and just kept walking. The rest generally backed down after debates about procedures and/or previous agreements which I largely made up on the spot, but fortunately convinced people existed. This says to me that nobody is very clear on the facts. Things sometimes seem to go better when guards think that I’m a claimant’s mother. I don’t know what it is about mothers. The problem is that I can’t be everyone’s Mum, especially when I turn up at the same jobcentre with different people. It is also a tricky call when claimants and I are around the same age.

What you have then, as I say, is No for the hell of it. You have a situation where guards say No just because they can. The default assumption is that people on benefits have no rights. Any event or issue that helps to justify that view is seized upon.

And we did have a problem at the start of this particular jobcentre appointment that the guards seized upon. The problem was the bicycle the young woman had with her. Here it is (the guards told me off for taking this picture – No Pictures, blah blah blah. That’s the main reason I’m uploading it):

Bike

This young woman rode the bicycle to the jobcentre, because riding a bike doesn’t cost anything and getting the bus does. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a working bike lock for the bike, because she couldn’t afford one. She thought that the jobcentre guards would let her leave the bicycle in the foyer for the few minutes that it would take her to sign on. Needless to say, the guards said Absolutely Not. The sign on the door said No Bicycles. So – that was the end of the bike and any discussion about it as far as they were concerned.

Except that the problem wasn’t solved. I can understand that jobcentres don’t want their foyers filling up with bikes and that making an exception will give everyone else the wrong idea about bikes etc, etc. This G4S guard trotted out the usual health and safety line, which is one of officialdom’s fondest justifications for stopping people from doing anything – but the fact was that this young woman now had an impossible choice to make. It was a choice that the guards were absolutely not going to make easier for her under any circumstances. Either she parked her unlocked bike on the street somewhere and hoped nobody pinched while she signed on, or she abandoned her signon appointment to take the bike home, in which case she would risk a sanction. That was the choice. Keep the bike and get a sanction, or keep the JSA and lose the bike.

On one level or another, the guards seemed to enjoy this impasse. They kept saying No, she couldn’t take the bike in. In the end, I said I’d stay with the bicycle while the woman went in to sign on.

That’s when the guard and I had our discussion. It was also when things got ridiculous. As you can hear in the recording, I said that the guard had denied the woman her right to representation by making me stay with the bike. He said she’d never had that right in the first place – that she’d never have been allowed to take a friend to her appointment anyway. I said that was garbage. Which it surely is. A second jobcentre worker came in at some point to say that discretion could be shown in some instances. A supporter might be allowed to sit in the jobcentre, but not to go upstairs with the person who was claiming JSA to attend the signon appointment. That struck me as a pretty useless version of accompaniment, really. I mean – you’re not exactly accompanying someone to their signon appointment if you’re made to sit in another part of the building while the signon appointment is taking place. This guy also said that I’d need to show ID (we never really established exactly what sort of ID he meant).

A woman in a management role came out to say that people in an official support capacity could attend appointments (we never really established exactly what was meant by official support capacity either), or perhaps someone else could come if that person contacted the jobcentre in advance. You see where I am going with this. Everyone was saying something different. A cynic might say that everyone was making the rules up as they went along. A real cynic might say that people were saying whatever they needed to say to keep people who they didn’t like the look of out. The really intriguing part of all this was that several weeks before, I’d been allowed to accompany this woman to an appointment at this very same jobcentre. The person we saw that day thought that I was the young woman’s Mum. Nobody asked for ID on that day, or insisted I prove that I was a support worker, or anything along those lines. You take my point. There are no rules on the ground. There is simply the mood and inclination of whoever you see on the day.

I have a lot of recordings from jobcentres now and after the election, when I know which MPs to target and where, I’ll be doing something with them. This one is useful now, though. I think it helps tell an important story. It is just a bit more evidence that people who claim benefits are very quickly denied representation of just about any kind. A security guard can decide on a whim whether or not a JSA claimant can take someone in to an appointment. If you argue the toss – as we did about the bike – you’re out. Meanwhile, we head into an election where mainstream representation for people who claim benefits is very thin on the ground. As I say, I find this intriguing – the lengths the state now goes to in its attempts to isolate and bully people who need state help. It’s much easier to bully people when nobody’s watching, after all. People will say anything when they want to get stuck into someone who is on the receiving end – and to be alone with that person while they do it.

19 thoughts on “More jobcentre recordings: Another lost fight to accompany someone to their JSA signon…

  1. As a current ESA Claimant, the only thing I have learnt over the years, I’ve dealt with the parasites that run/work for the DWP – and they are parasites – is that there’s nothing they will not say to a Claimant, to get that Claimant to feel like dog dirt. They are nothing more than Jack-booted Nazi’s, and Claimants are the Jews: you do as they say, or else we will harm, harass and generally interfere with your right to be a normal human being.

    Ultimately, do whatever you need to do, to help a Claimant, even if that means being forceful, a bully or rude. After all, the DWP are more than happy to be foreceful, bullying or rude to most Claimant’s, when it suits the DWP!

  2. https://www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance/how-to-claim
    Benefits entitlement
    From Gov.uk own website
    Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

    1.Overview
    2.What you’ll get
    3.Eligibility
    4.How to claim
    5.When payment can be stopped

    4. How to claim

    You can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) online.

    You’ll get a text or phone call within 2 working days to arrange a JSA interview at your local Jobcentre Plus.

    Rapid reclaims

    You can make a ‘rapid reclaim’ if you’ve had JSA in the last 26 weeks. Making a reclaim online should take about 10 minutes.

    You’ll still have to attend an interview at a Jobcentre Plus to get JSA.

    JSA joint claims

    You must make a joint claim with your partner if all the following apply:
    you both want to claim JSA
    one of you are 18 or over
    you’re both under state pension age
    neither of you are responsible for a child

    Contact Jobcentre Plus if you’re not sure about making a joint claim. Contact your local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits Office if you live in Northern Ireland.

    If you can’t apply online

    Contact Jobcentre Plus if you can’t apply online.

    Jobcentre Plus
    Telephone: 0800 055 6688
    Welsh language: 0800 012 1888
    Textphone: 0800 023 4888
    Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
    Find out about call charges

    JSA interview

    You must go to an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus – if you don’t, you won’t get any JSA.

    Jobcentre Plus will contact you to arrange this after you’ve applied.

    At the interview you must agree things like:
    what steps you can take to find work, eg improving your skills
    how you can improve your chances of getting a job, eg get help with writing a CV, preparing for interviews, looking for work

    You can take someone with you to a JSA interview.

    Claimant Commitment

    A Claimant Commitment is an agreement about what steps you’ll take to look for a job.

    Your JSA might be stopped if you don’t do what you’ve agreed to in your Claimant Commitment and you can’t give a good reason.

    You must sign one if you make a claim for JSA or claim it again after completing the Work Programme.

    You and your work coach will agree what goes in your Claimant Commitment. It might include:
    what you need to do to look for work, eg registering with recruitment agencies, writing a CV
    how many hours you need to spend looking for work each week
    your circumstances, eg work history, health, family or caring responsibilities

    Plan and record your job seeking

    You’ll have a personal work plan to help you:
    plan what you need to do to find a job
    keep a record of what happened
    prove to your work coach that you’ve been looking for work

    If you are a victim of domestic abuse

    You might be able to get a break of up to 13 weeks from job seeking if you are a victim of domestic abuse – speak to your work coach if you need this support.

    After you’ve applied

    You must go to a Jobcentre Plus (usually every 2 weeks or when asked) to show how you’ve been searching for a job. This is known as ‘signing on’.

  3. A cheap voice recorder for the pocket is about £10, a watch that records everything is about the same on eBay. These can be shared to reduce cost. RECORD everything! Quote the law which states that three job searches a week is actively seeking work. Also quote the the DWP are NOT allowed to contest this law….

  4. You have the right of a friend when going into a works meeting about your employment.

    An alleged criminal has the right of legal representation and the rights to regular toilet breaks and a cup of tea.

    But the Jobcentres, with the trebling of staffing of DWP sanction decision makers, are making sure people do not know their rights in law.

    Right now, the 75 per cent poor, mostly in work, as well as out of it, in this cruel welfare reform, could bring in over 250 guaranteed anti austerity MPs into the UK parliament into a powerful opposition, deep inside the UK government. With all that parliament privilege of being an MP that no-one can stop.

    This is vital in May.

    Because the hung parliament means neither Tory nor Labour will reach the legally required 326 MP minimum threshold to form a UK government.

    So the Tories are requried by the rules of parliament to remain in power in a caretaker government.

    So the Tories have already won even if get less seats than Labour.

    Labour could indeed lose most if not all its seats in Scotland and even in Wales.

    So over 250 anti austerity new MPs would be a powerful way to utterly change Labour, as indeed Labour could be reduced by you, to below the number of anti austerity MPs.

    See how the poor now vastly outnumber all other voters:

    http://www.anastasia-england.me.uk

  5. They wouldn’t let me take my Dad in with me. He had to stand, a man in his 70s, by the door. No offer of a seat. Just stand for about 20 minutes for me to come back out.

  6. The G4S guards are simply trying to help out their Jobcentre employers by offering a bit of extra hassle to the unemployed.
    Pretending they don’t ‘know anything’ about claimants being allowed a representative. In reality they are well aware that all claimants are legally allowed a representative.

    This is even more important in the case of someone who may have disabilities, or who has problems understanding the increasingly complex jobcentre requirements for the unemployed.

    A very good method to combat this, and one I see being used increasingly at my own jobcentre, is to get yourself an A4 folder with a selection of printed Freedom of Information Requests in it. You can get these from the website whatdotheyknow.com .
    Either download one of the existing requests, or make one yourself.

    You will need a series of Freedom of Information requests, perhaps half a dozen or so, to cover the main areas where you might have a problem. I would suggest you get yourself printed FOI requests to cover the following areas:

    1.Your right to refuse access to your Universal Jobmatch Account

    2.Your right to present jobsearch evidence if you wish in printed form

    3.Your right to be accompanied by a representative at any jobcentre meeting

    4. If you are on JSA, the regulations concerning Mandatory Work Activity

    5.The regulations regarding part-time work of less than 24 hours, for which you cannot be made to apply

    6.If you are on a Claimant Contract, a copy of the rules regarding My Work Plan
    ( You cannot be made to complete this, though they make every effort to pretend it is compulsory. )

    You get the idea, there will be other rules that will be useful of course depending on your individual circumstances.
    Make sure you always have this folder with you when you attend the jobcentre.

    Know the regulations, and get printed copies of these. Then the next time you are confronted by a jobcentre advisor trying it on. Remain calm, be civil, just reach into your A4 folder and say politely. ‘’ Really ? I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but the regulations are quite specific…’’ Remember, you are being helpful, not confrontational. You are just concerned that the rules are being correctly applied. Hand over the relevant FOI request, and watch as the advisor reads a detailed statement of the DWP regulations, produced by their own legal FOI request unit. Usually they give up the point straight away when confronted by their own regulations, straight from the horse’s mouth as it were.

    This is a much better method than shouting and arguing, and then being thrown out by the G4S guards. Check whatdotheyknow.com, and the other sites such as @refuted on a regular basis to keep up to date.
    This is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a claimant, know what are the regulations, what are the facts. A polite, but well-informed claimant is very much harder to deceive or manipulate.

    • Hi i am reading your post with keen interest, i am currently being victimised by a certain jsa adviser ( not my normal one i must add). In the last 4 weeks i have signed on twice. The first time i submitted my jobsearch in written format and was told this isn’t the correct way to do it has to be on universal jobmatch, i challenged this and was referred to a decision maker who sanctioned me. I had this overturned. Then today i attend my appointment at the time i was given to be told it cancelled but they get someone to see me as i was not informed of this. They then refer me to same adviser as 2 weeks prior, so this time ive put my worksearch activities online as told to do so and now the adviser is like youre applying for jobs to far away i could have you sanctioned, now i been referred to work training something or other. I have completed 5 or 6 of these courses already but told it mandatory. Sorry long winded but where can i get these documents from i have looked at website u suggest but cannot find them. Please help im sure there out to get me. thanks.

  7. The A4 Folder Method , or The Portable Lawyer

    I thought it might be useful to give an example of the method in action.
    Based on the experiences of a friend of mine at my local Jobcentre.

    It is Monday morning, and my friend has just arrived to sign-on.
    The advisor in question is a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad. Not perhaps one of the very worst, but prone to being difficult with the claimants when in a bad mood.

    My friend has just offered his Fortnightly Jobsearch, carefully written out in the traditional manner. He does not allow access to his Universal Jobsmatch Account. Nor does he kneel down near a chopping block when there is an axe handy. He prefers survival to stupidity.

    The Advisor: ‘’Well Mr.Roberts, you’ve been unemployed for some time now. Your jobsearch is good, but it’s not really achieving anything is it ?’’

    ( He draws himself up as if making an important announcement. as per DWP Training Manual: Section 4, Informing the Claimant)

    The Advisor: ‘’ I’m going to send you on 8 weeks Work Experience at SlaveDriver Stores in the High Street.’’

    My friend pauses, he knows SlaveDriver Stores. They are naked profiteers from the misfortune of the unemployed. Their placements consist of long hours standing about selling rubbish in a tatty store. Mindless muzak is played all day. The hours are long, and SlaveDriver Stores also insist on evening and weekend work. They have a nasty reputation for sanctioning people for the slightest reason.

    Not suprisingly, my friend doesn’t want to do this scheme. He already volunteers, and continues to make every effort to find genuine sustainable employment that pays a living wage. He has no interest in the world of so-called work that pays less even than his meagre benefits.

    My Friend: ‘’Is this a mandatory scheme, you know I am already volunteering ?’’

    The Advisor: ‘’ Yes, the Work Experience scheme is Mandatory and you will be required to attend for 8 weeks ….But just think of the valuable experience you will gain.’’

    This advisor has sanctioned people who have argued with him directly. For their own good of course, so caution is indicated. But my friend has with him his trusty shield and advisor, his guide and consolation. His A4 Folder.

    My friend knows that the 8 week Work Experience scheme is actually voluntary, and only becomes mandatory if the claimant agrees to sign up to it. But this is almost never mentioned by the jobcentre advisors.

    My friend has a Freedom of Information Request that helpfully points out which of the jobcentre schemes are mandatory, and which only become mandatory when you have signed up to them. A bit like joining the Foreign Legion.

    My friend reaches into his folder and extracts the relevant FOI request, handing this to the advisor. ( see previous post)

    My Friend: ‘’ Really ? Have you seen this, the regulations seem to be quite specific. The Work Experience scheme is actually voluntary .’’
    He keeps this low-key, non-confrontational. He just wants to help, rather like the jobcentre if you think about it.

    The Advisor is now somewhat uncertain, for the game is up, and he knows that this claimant knows, that the Work Experience Scheme is voluntary. Moreover the claimant has presented undeniable written proof of this fact. This has defeated his manager’s instructions to him to try and push through as many of these WE placements as possible, by presenting them as mandatory.

    The Advisor: ‘’Well yes Mr.Roberts…it does seem as if the Work Experience Scheme is actually voluntary…..in technical terms at least….what I meant to say is that if you agree to participate in the scheme, it would of course be mandatory for you to complete it. ‘’

    My Friend: ‘’I’d rather stay with my volunteering if you don’t mind. As this is very good experience too as you know.’’ ( Careful bit of face-saving for the advisor).

    The Advisor: ‘’ Well that is your decision of course Mr Roberts, if you don’t wish to take up this opportunity with SlaveDriver Stores, then that is entirely up to you. Shall we say 10am in a fortnight for your next appointment ? Good Morning.’’

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  10. I have just applied for a budgeting loan, refused because I haven’t signed on enough, the reason why is simple My motorbike is due an MOT in order for me to get back into work with Axis Security which have been struggling to fit me in due to a Motorbike Accident at the beginning of the year, different story all together, to put a long story short the insurance paid out a 60% of the value of the bike for another, also unable to claim loss of earnings or compension due to an issue with my insurance legal team refusing to fight for my case but was short on insurance, mot and tax for the year, (job centre paid out for the insurance, I paid tax & now is due up an MOT being refused a budgeting loan is going to put me off the road and out of work because I won’t beable to travel in my line of work (self transport is essential), I had no income for about 3 months this year behind on bills, job centre at time refuse me JSA & housing Benefit at same time waiting for my insurance to pay out which they now just refused. I thought the job centre’s aim is to get people off of benefits into paid full time work (as in £8 per hour for 40+ hours before and after Tax realistically that’s what most UK citizens need in order to live comfortably in the UK)? The form doesn’t even ask what the money is for which is a crushal bit of information don’t you think!? Some advice please?

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