I unearthed this nugget as I went through emails on my glorious post-Christmas return:
You’ll remember that I’ve been trying to get information from the DWP about the ridiculous “work skills” and “employability” courses that JSA claimants must attend – you know, the courses where people have to roll marbles down a tube at a meaningful angle, or tear a piece of paper up and reassemble it with the help of other people to learn teamwork and so on. Some people even report being threatened when they complained about the (non) standards on this “training” to their course providers.
I’ve sent a number of FOIs about the costs and point of these exercises.
One question I asked was whether or not attendance on these so-called “work skills” courses was mandatory and if people had recourse if they wanted to refuse to attend. People regularly tell me that they’re forced to attend courses that have absolutely nothing to do with their line of work – or anyone’s line of work, come to think of it. Others say that they’re forced to attend courses that are very similar to courses that they’ve attended before. Often, these courses were completely useless the first time around. People wonder why they must return. They suspect the main lesson they’re learning is that when you’re unemployed, officials can humiliate you – often in repeat fashion – however they like.
Anyway. Interesting answer from the DWP on the compulsory nature of this. Basically, the department told me that people could refuse to attend these useless courses, as long as they were happy to be sanctioned for refusing. If people wanted to say that the course proposed for them was pointless and a waste of everyone’s time and money, or that they’d been on a near-identical course with no result – they could do this while appealing their sanction.
Brilliant. What could be fairer:
“A claimant may refuse to attend a course for the reasons you mention, but the consequence of doing so is that they may be subject to a benefit sanction. Claimants have recourse if their benefit claim is sanctioned. They can lodge an appeal against the decision. As part of consideration by a DWP labour market decision maker, claimants are given the opportunity to provide details of why they refused to attend and within this they could include their view on the relevance of the course in improving their prospects of employment.”
Pretty sure that this is a long way of saying “people must attend these useless courses, or we’ll cut their fucking money off.”
This part of the response suggested the same thing:
“Where it is identified by the DWP work coach that a work skills or employability course is best suited to addressing the JSA claimant’s main barrier to employment, then attendance on the course is mandatory.”
So. You’re out of work and your jobcentre tells you to attend a “work skills” course. You tell the jobcentre that you’d rather not travel across town several times a week to roll marbles around, a) because you’re an adult and b) because you’d prefer to do something useful – for example, to look for a job using your own contacts because the jobcentre and your useless work programme provider have never once got you a single job interview. Your jobcentre adviser says “that’s absolutely fascinating” and then cuts off your benefit money. Who says this process is unequal?
Bet the companies that provide these courses at god knows what cost think the system is brilliantly fair. They get bums on seats (££££) and a group of captive, cowed “students” who they can threaten with sanctions – and more – if anyone in the group dares to complain about standards. Trebles all round there, comrades. It’ll be a Happy New Year for that lot.