The realities of a daily trip to the jobcentre in a wheelchair…

Second story with Angela is here: Disabled and without a carer overnight? Go to Asda!

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Right. A bit more on the realities of George Osborne’s ironically-named “Help to Work” scheme and this government’s useless Back To Work concepts generally:

The woman in these videos is Angela Smith, who lives in Wembley. Angela worked for about 20 years and was laid off from her most recent job (working with young disabled people) in 2011. She signed on then. She has a university degree.

Angela also has cerebral palsy. She uses public transport to get around and to attend her fortnightly signing-on days at the Wembley jobcentre and to see her work programme provider at Reed Partnership in Harrow. At the moment, those are her two obligations. She describes both of these days as a complete waste of time. Having attended one of these days with her last week, I see her point. We travelled all the way from her house to the Wembley jobcentre on the bus (an almighty drama, as you’ll see in the video below) for a 15-minute wait and five-minute handing over of jobsearch papers. That was it. Angela took a folder of paper for a bus ride to the jobcentre, dropped it off, and left. There was no discussion of jobsearch while we were there, no offers to help find work, or to fill in application forms – nothing. I said it before and I’ll say it again – this jobcentre process is beyond Kafkaesque. People are made to turn up to jobcentres to show evidence of searches for jobs that don’t exist, or for which they are unsuited, or unlikely to hear anything of again, and then they leave the jobcentre – often to do the jobhunting that they had to put off for a couple of hours to attend their pointless signing-on session at the jobcentre. It really is a pointless exercise to beat all.

With Help To Work, people who have been long-term unemployed must take part in that pointless activity every day. They either must travel in to sign on at their jobcentre, or participate in workfare schemes. Angela has been out of work for two and a half years, so has some concerns about the scheme and how she’ll get on if it applies to her if she’s still unemployed after three years. With that in mind, she wanted to show what her trip to the jobcentre already looks like. She finds it a challenge and you’ll see why in the videos below. I accompanied her to the jobcentre last week on London’s so-called accessible public transport.

It went like this:

Bus trip to Wembley jobcentre

It was raining, which meant the bus was crowded. There were two buggies in the wheelchair space and nobody offered to fold theirs, so Angela had to sit in the doorway in her wheelchair – hardly ideal, as you’ll see. Then, things escalated – par for the course in a crowded bus with space taken up by buggies. One of the people with a buggy had to get off the bus before we got to our stop. Angela pushed the button to call for the ramp so that she could get off the bus, make room for one of the people with the buggies to get off and then get back on. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t realise all this was going on and he shut the doors on Angela’s foot as she tried to get back on. When she did get back on, he came over to remonstrate.

He asked Angela what she’d been doing – and then he did something that people often do when dealing with disabled people. He asked Angela who she was with (the assumption always is that disabled people can’t be out and about by themselves) and when he worked out that Angela and I were together in some capacity, he started to address his questions to me. He asked me if Angela was all right. I told him that it was probably better to put that question to Angela, seeing as it was her foot that got stuck in the door. He said to me – “but is she all right?” I told him again that Angela was probably best placed to answer that question. He asked me again. I told him to speak to Angela. This went on for some time. He was obviously worried that there’d be trouble because of the foot incident and he needed confirmation that there wouldn’t be trouble. He seemed to want that confirmation from someone who wasn’t in a wheelchair. Bit of equalities training needed there, I think. Boris Johnson, our very own self-styled Mr Accessibility, might want to get onto that.

After all of that, we finally got to the right stop and headed for the jobcentre. The meeting we had there was pointless, as I say. We waited for about 15 minutes for someone to see Angela. The man who saw her was pleasant enough, but he didn’t say too much about helping Angela with her search for work. He just took up her papers, had a quick look and then told me that Angela would need to fill in the space for her email address. I’m not sure why he told me. I told him to talk to Angela about her papers. Angela explained that she isn’t able to physically write (she uses her computer) and so couldn’t fill in the box for the email address by hand. She said she could read her email address out for him. He said it would probably be best to do that with another adviser at another time. And that was that. Then, Angela went home start work on a job application she’s writing. Interesting that she had to get her trip to the jobcentre out of the way before she could get down to applying for a job.

As Angela says in the video: “Imagine doing that every day.”

Indeed.

22 thoughts on “The realities of a daily trip to the jobcentre in a wheelchair…

  1. Been an ex bus driver i cannot believe that the driver did not ask the people with pushchairs that a wheelchair as priority and they should have folded them up. Not sure if it is only us up north but all bus drivers should know this. We can all see how difficult it is for people to get to Jobcentres once without making it daily,

  2. most buses in Brighton are entered from the front not behind the driver and there is a clearly marked space for a person in a wheelchair Waite for it “A single person” so if more than one want to get on the bus there’s only space for one and most buses dote stop anywhere near the job center and whats more frustrating is the badly layed dropped curbs that throw you out of your char or some streets/Roads having a dropped curb one end and not the other end its one thing having badly desired buses for disabled but some of you should look at dropped curbs or even better get in a power char and try some of these dropped cubs for yourselves let alone the uneven pathways/pavements with tree roots believe me there are far more difficult journeys for people in power-chars than prosthetic people getting in your way on a bus.

  3. Ironically, if many hundreds of people in the same position as Angela have to take to the buses to attend these pointless meetings, it might mean that wheelchair access improves….. it’s an ill wind!

  4. Hi, Kate

    Thanks for this. You wrote re the bus driver’s behaviour:

    “Bit of equalities training needed there, I think. Boris Johnson, our very own self-styled Mr Accessibility, might want to get onto that.”

    How about the prospect of Boris having a word in George Osborne’s ear, too?

  5. This is cruelty, in fact it’s beyond cruel, the govt knew (most of) the disabled people that they found “fit” for work will never find a job, especially as there’s 1500 vying for every job vacancy

  6. I hope to God Angela does not have to go there every single day it will kill her…But then again thats what they want….one less off the list… Hope it ends before it gets a chance to get off the ground..

  7. This government obviously are not intelligent to look beyond what impact they are having on our people. All they care about is themselves and – to them – it doesn’t matter who it affects negatively.

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  9. I am on my second helping of MWA,I have been assigned to a Charity shop,when told by the JCP Adviser,she was almost gleeful,but not in a nice way. I questioned how would I benefit from MWA? “It will help with your time keeping skills” I have never missed an appointment,but have been kept waiting often to sign on. “You will get a letter of reference upon completion” Will I gain a qualification? Will it enhance my CV? No but if you do not comply you will be sanctioned….Is this about helping the unemployed or a punitive measure to increase the chance of a sanction!

  10. The DWP is managed by bullies, the claimants are bullied by them and their partners such as Atos Healthcare.

  11. Just came across this blog entry – it’s actually illegal for a wheelchair user to be anywhere except the wheelchair bay when travelling on a bus. Once, when my sibling was confined to a wheelchair for a short amount of time, I took her out on the bus a lot, and I once had the same situation – two prams, no-one wants to fold, so I had to leave the wheelchair in the gangway, and the bus driver said he couldn’t allow me to do that, and that one of the prams would have to move or fold up. Luckily, there was space made, and all was well.

    In any case, as well as being a highly frustrating situation, what Angela experienced on the bus was actually illegal. So, if she has tickets from the bus journey (they should state the bus number/driver’s number), then I’d strongly recommend getting in touch with the bus company.

    Good luck with everything, Angela! 🙂

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  16. I am on the Work Program, and my provider Serco will not help with travel to interviews if I either arrange them myself or are out of the city, I have an interview in Leeds with the debt charity Stepchange on Monday, I am based in Sheffield 55mins by coach away, Serco will not help yet the JCP says I have to be willing to travel up to 90 mins away or risk a sanction, yet they will ot help either as rules say they can’t because I’m on the Work Program

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  18. He asked me if Angela was all right. I told him that it was probably better to put that question to Angela, seeing as it was her foot that got stuck in the door. He said to me – “but is she all right?” I told him again that Angela was probably best placed to answer that question. He asked me again. I told him to speak to Angela.
    Well done. Not only for making your point, but also for sticking to it in the face of clear obstreperousness. As an Autistic person, I sometimes need to have someone speak for me (I can lose my words given enough stress), but I have also experienced the frustration that comes from somebody automatically addressing my companion with questions they should be asking me. Thank Google for the AAC on my Android is all I can say!

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