Update 11 November:
People have probably seen this story about 60% cuts to the number of disability employment advisers in jobcentres. It is OUTRAGEOUS for the DWP to claim in this story (as it has to me) that work coaches in jobcentres provide disabled people with a “tailored” service as a kind of replacement. That is an out and out lie. As I say below, on two occasions in the last few weeks, jobcentre advisers have told the disabled claimants I was with that they could NOT provide disabled claimants with support because their jobcentres didn’t have the time or the resources. I’ve even got a recording here of an adviser telling the disabled claimant I was with that his best chance of getting any jobseeking support was to move to the Tottenham jobcentre where disability employment advisers were still working. No disability support was available for the man I was with at his present jobcentre, because of the loss of that role.
How is it that the DWP is allowed to perpetrate this myth about work coaches tailoring services for disabled people?
Here’s the post I put up yesterday: this is a report from a meeting yesterday at Kilburn jobcentre where the woman I was with was told she’d have to wait ages for any disability support and that her best bet was to visit a jobs club run by a local trust to see if the trust could provide any disability support:
More on non-existent support for disabled benefit claimants as Iain Duncan Smith plans to push more sick or disabled people off Employment and Support Allowance and into jobcentres:
Today, I attended a meeting at Kilburn jobcentre with a JSA claimant in her 50s who has learning difficulties. We were seen almost an hour after the appointment was meant to start. The adviser we saw was very apologetic: the jobcentre was badly short-staffed. The lack of advisers was clearly a problem. Other people were complaining about the length of time that they had to wait. We could see that staff were under pressure.
During the conversation, the adviser told us that the jobcentre’s Disability Employment Adviser – the person who is meant to give additional help and support to disabled claimants – was now so busy and oversubscribed that she didn’t have time to see everyone who needed support. The Disability Employment Adviser now worked across several offices and the wait to see her was very long.
“Weeks?” I said.
“Longer than that,” the adviser told us. She was clearly concerned about this problem. Nobody else at the jobcentre had the time or the skills to properly support disabled claimants. “She [the Disability Employment Adviser] has got the experience and the contacts.” The adviser said that our best shot at disability support was to turn up at a jobs lounge that is held regularly at Carlton Hall and to see if anyone there could provide any assistance – help filling in job application forms and that sort of thing.
“Basically, if someone has got support needs now [at this jobcentre], there is a problem,” I said.
“Big problem,” the adviser said.
Okay. This is important. This is the second time in just a few weeks that I have attended a jobcentre meeting with a disabled claimant and where an adviser has told us that the jobcentre doesn’t have the time or expertise to support disabled people. Iain Duncan Smith, as I say, is planning to force more sick and disabled people off disability benefits and into work. His department told me in an email earlier this year that sick or disabled people have nothing to fear: if they find themselves at jobcentres looking for work, they’ll “have access to dedicated Work Coaches, who are trained to provide tailored support specific to their individual needs.” That claim is utter garbage. It needs formal challenging. If Iain Duncan Smith is really going to shove more sick or disabled people into jobcentres, this claim about tailored support needs taking out. I’m not seeing tailored support. I’m just not seeing it. I’m seeing stressed advisers telling disabled JSA claimants that there’s no help available and that they’ll have to go elsewhere.