DWP: You’re free to say No to pointless courses as long as you’re happy to be sanctioned

My word.

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.

32 thoughts on “DWP: You’re free to say No to pointless courses as long as you’re happy to be sanctioned

  1. Expose these courses and how useles they are by filming them, easy now days cheap covert cameras can be bought to enable this to be done, then upload to youtube/facebook/social media sites. the taxpaying public will then see how their money is being wasted.

    • Check out Aspire education academy, total scam, you need to go every day for 3 weeks and they bribe you with a £100 love to shop voucher, if you finish the course. They put exactly what they want you to write on the paperwork, on the board, I have learnt nothing apart from how to copy. This course is meant to help with mental health but it doesn’t. If anything it makes you feel worse, and feel more of a failure. They say they have jobs available but that’s just another ploy to get you to stay. They say it will help with budgeting but doesn’t, they just give you stuff to copy onto your work without explaining anything. The staff are not friendly and quite rude, they adversities the course as 10-2pm but as soon as it starts they change the time to 9.30- 3.30pm

  2. Before the centre in question was closed having failed to gain a needed contract I used to volunteer one morning per week at King’s Lynn Learning Works, helping people to get the best they could out of Universal Jobmatch, and your comments about Work Skills/ Employability courses are bang on! I was really impressed by this post and have shared it on social media.

    • I think the best way to gain from UJ is to not use it and use an actual job search site.

      Dreadful fraud of a resource.

  3. A follow up to that previous comment: I have done more than one Employability course myself, so I know it from both sides. If I tell you that eleven online modules occupied me for less than an hour in total you can gauge the amount of useful material contained within those modules for yourself.

  4. Reminds me of someone I know that had to build paper towers in these stupid sessions, imagine how demeaning this was to someone (age 50) that once had their own business and has worked most of their life. Believe it or not she was sent on training session on computers (even though she’s computer literate).
    When she was showing a man sitting next to her how to use the computer, as there was no one to help him – she was told to help the others!!!! When she refused: she was threatened with a sanction, my friend said: “You are supposed to be teaching me computer literacy and you want me to teach others?”
    The “tutor” threatened her with a sanction if she didn’t help, so she replied: “Pay me a wage and I will teach the others how to use the computer otherwise you teach me.”
    When the tutor reiterated the threat of sanction, she said: “Sanction me and I’m coming after you with a law suite – even if I have got to sell my house & everything I own to pay for it!” She went on to say that she told the JCP she was computer literate & even word-processed her CV!
    Suffice to say: she wasn’t sanctioned!

  5. the biggest barrier to employment is the means test tbh. on the subject of workfare dont forget the other victim minimum hour contracted workers losing hours to free labour.

  6. These courses are a deliberate means of applying psychological pressure to JSA claimants with a view to harassing them off benefit. Many people will give up their claim, if remaining on benefit means being sent again and again on courses like these.

    • Jeff if many give up their claims , then it was so obvious they did not need the benefits in the first place , which benefit fraud comes to mind there .

      • i had to reply to this, Melissa. I have seen the frustration and the humiliation of men and women in their 50s and 60s being forced to attend crap training. I have seen ‘tutors’ patronise these people. I have seen classrooms full of ‘learners’ attend training ALL DAY with no meal allowance. I saw a manager block free meals which a tutor had managed to negotiate for them on the grounds that it ‘wasn’t fair on the many ‘learners’ who didn’t get free meals. I refused to sign on when i lost my job through whistle-blowing about this because i didn’t want to suffer the nonsense myself. If you know nothing about something, and clearly you do, Melissa, it would be better to stay silent than to show your colossal ignorance. Just saying……

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  10. Excellent post however I was wondering if you
    could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little
    bit more. Thank you!

  11. I am a voluntary tutor, teaching job search and IT skills, and I wouldn’t last ten minutes if I treated people the way they are treated on these courses. The whole purpose is to demoralise the unemployed, but it is beginning to backfire and anger and contempt are building up.

  12. dwp have sent on another pointless course.I am bored to tears with it.It is humiliating patronising bullshit.

  13. Hello I have been on Universal Credit for over a year and thankfully escaped dreaded courses until now. I have done employability twice while on JSA and was okay but I hate being in big groups of people who are in the same position as me. I am 35 and have not had a job for two years. I am trying to get 15 hour a week where I will be somewhat better off on Universal Credit but nothing is going well. I lack confidence in myself and my anxiety is up. I like being with other people so we can moan and groan about the poor help from job centre staff. My advisor is okay with me but I daren’t risk being sanctioned so best go to this 2 week course in Blyth. I am supposed to get a ‘job’ out of it. Heard it all before. I do some volunteer work, 5 hours a day job searching 7 days a week. Isn’t that enough torture??? Besides, the last two weeks I am practically skint before I get paid again on the 4th each month so I am never in a good mood. The course I am on doesn’t start until 25th September this year so who knows, maybe I will win the lottery by then….

  14. I’ve just sat through 2 wks of mandatory courses that I have already done and got city and guild certificates for .one course I had completed a mere 3 months ago .you don’t actually do the course or exam again you sit there for 7 hrs jobsearching isolated from class as yonot sof it .its depressing and horrible and if you complain they

  15. I am 64yrs old in July, have worked in HR management in the oil and gas industry for over 40 years.
    Following a heart attack I have been out of action these past few years and living on my savings.
    Now in need of JSA it transpires my lifes financial contribution intto ‘the system’ = after 13 weeks of £71/week JSA I am being bullied by my ‘work coach’ and threatened with sanctions and told I have to apply for ANY job and to stop applying for HR or management jobs.
    Nothing I do is good wnough and if I complain about anything my ‘job coach’ bully just threatens me with sanctions and makes life more difficult and more stressful.
    They have the ability to blackmail and bully with impunity via sanctions being threatened and there is nothing a claiment can do.
    It is an absolute disgrace .

    • This situation is still ongoing and needs to be brought to everyone’s MP fast.For those with any legal know how seek advice and help.These morons running these ‘schemes’ need to be taught a lesson in etiquette/common sense at least.

  16. I have been doing an accounting course which I have found beneficial. My work coach informed me I have to come off it to do one of these ridiculous courses that they have sent me on and already have the qualifications it will give me. It’s wasting my time, the tutors time and tax payers money and holding me back from getting a decent qualification. How the hell are justifying this?

  17. I have read the posts here with interest as. l have all of the above – mentioned torture and humiliation to look forward to in just over a week’s time. I am 52 years old and resigned from my job in clinical coding four months ago as we moved half way across the country. I was in that job for five years and prior to that worked for several government departments in project management and senior officer roles. Unfortunately jobs of any kind are scarce in our new area, so after three months of searching I went and claimed contribution – based JSA a month ago. After signing – on twice I’ve been told that I must attend a three week ‘Intense Activity Period’ course, which apparently is full-time., where I will learn how to use a computer, behave appropriately in an interview and tie my own shoelaces. I am dying inside.

  18. Hermia, I am so sorry to hear about your situation, because it sounds very much like what my wife and I went through two years ago. We were both made redundant/managed out of our jobs (after working hard for thirty five years) and had to sign on. Just signing on is bad enough – depressing, demeaning, humiliating, but to be sent on one of these so called “courses” takes humiliation to another level. My wife has a masters degree in biotechnology, and I worked in finance and taught people how to use accounting software.
    We were obviously in our mid/late fifties when we were sent on this fools errand, and the insulting, rude “teacher” was a twenty something with attitude, who used to spend her time on her mobile phone or doodling whilst the class completed online basic English and Maths tests (when the computers would work).
    On the final day of the two week course, we constructed covering letters and CV’s using the course provider’s manual.
    I spent the time highlighting grammatical errors in the course handout, pointing out to the staff that a potential employer would bin any CV immediately, which had been copied from their manual.
    Nearly two years on, we are no longer at the mercy of the DWP, but the course provider – GoTrain – still sends my wife emails and text messages, and nothing we can do seems to have any effect.

  19. Courses are still pointless just been on one certificate says I can jobsearch and manage my money the cheek of it I can manage my own money etc

    Course was massively drag from one day to a week so most of the time it was dragged out by chatting about pointless random chat and someone showing us magic etc

  20. I would rather sell my body than have to deal with our benefit system. For a start it would be less demeaning and secondly only I would know about it. Also I would not have to share my earnings with the taxman. No, I am not kidding I have seen alot of life and worse things hroughout the years and now I am an oldie. I don’t give two fks anymore.

    • The benefit system is there to market and help large corporations maximise there profits by forcing overqualified claiments into low paid,part time, insecure work.
      The work coach has absolutly no concern for your welfare.
      There title of work coach is not appropriate it should be work bully.

  21. You’re free to refuse it and just accept a Sanction instead – that is exactly what a Jobcentre adviser once said to me, after the fact. I had already done the ‘course’ several years prior, which consisted of doing 4 weeks of unpaid work at a charity, it was called Mandatory Work Activity (MWA). I was told that I was doing this unpaid work to give me something more to put on my CV, and upon completion was then instructed to update my CV to include this work experience, which I did, i.e.
    “Successfully completed 120 Hours Community Work under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme”.
    A few years later at a different Jobcentre I was told by an adviser to remove this from my CV, she took umbridge with the way I had worded it, saying “you’ll never get a job with that on your CV”. She then tried to say that it wasn’t mandatory because I could have chosen not to do it and be Sanctioned instead! And said that I should call it “Voluntary work”. I refused and she became very angry and annoyed raising her voice, then a G4SS Guard came and stood beside me in an intimidating manner, even though I wasn’t the one who was raising my voice.

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