More on the garbage that the DWP and government talk when they say that the aim of ESA cuts and fit-for-work assessments is to encourage sick or disabled people into work:
As readers of this site will know, I regularly attend signon sessions at a north London jobcentre with a guy I call Eddie in these posts. Eddie is 52. He spent most of his working life as a general assistant in kitchens. He was made redundant seven years ago and has been out of work since. He signs on for JSA. Eddie has learning and literacy difficulties (he finds writing especially hard – here’s an example of a Morrison’s job application he filled in by copying notes I made). Eddie is unable to use a computer or email. He can’t open a browser on a laptop, or type in links, or navigate to a wegpage.
But here’s the thing. Eddie’s jobcentre adviser keeps giving him handwritten weblinks and email addresses to take home and use for job applications. His adviser does this at every third or fourth signon meeting. He prints or writes out a link that he knows Eddie can’t use to type into a computer that he knows Eddie doesn’t have. You can see the most recent hard-to-read handwritten instructions and link here:
Eddie was absolutely furious when he was handed that piece of paper. He is furious every time that he is given a link to pursue. “That man knows I haven’t got a computer,” Eddie said angrily. “He’s taking the piss.” I imagine that the jobcentre adviser also knew that Eddie didn’t have a hope of landing one of civil service apprenticeships advertised on the link. Eddie is older, in poor health (he has diabetes and leg pain, which he struggles to manage) and has regular hospital and GP appointments. His literacy levels are not good. He has none of the skills mentioned on the link as far as I can see.
“Taking the piss” doesn’t begin to cover it. I don’t know if the adviser meant to be cruel, but that is neither here nor there. Eddie feels the insult, as well he might. This is a bureaucracy humiliating a person that the job market has discarded. This is a bureaucracy making an older sick and disabled person traipse to the jobcentre every fortnight and go through the motions of jobseeking before being allowed his paltry benefit. Eddie knows and the adviser knows and I know that these signon meetings are the ultimate exercises in uselessness. There’s no point in Eddie being forced to attend the jobcentre at all – except, I suppose, that Iain Duncan Smith gets off on the idea that he can rub a sick and disabled claimant’s nose in that person’s lack of options every fortnight. Other than that, I don’t know why we’re here.
Whatever the case, I doubt very strongly that any of this can be described as support for sick or disabled claimants in jobcentres. The government has cut the number of specialist Disability Employment Advisers – jobcentre advisers with training and time to support sick or disabled benefit claimants – by 60%. The Disability Employment Adviser at Eddie’s jobcentre left last year. Disability Employment Advisers weren’t all great, but I’m thinking that they were better than nothing – nothing being mostly what I find on offer now for people in Eddie’s situation.
The DWP tells me that its “dedicated work coaches” in jobcentres “offer a range of support tailored to individuals’ circumstances, including health conditions and disabilities,” but that is such flop that I can hardly stir myself to upload it. The reality on the ground for people in Eddie’s situation is miles from that statement. Eddie is being left to decay.
At the end of last year, Eddie’s adviser told me that now the Disability Employment Adviser had left, nobody at Eddie’s jobcentre had the time to help with a task as straightforward as filling in job application forms. Most of the signon meetings I attend with people are rushed. They rarely exceed ten minutes. So-called Hard To Place claimants (read “older, unwell and belligerent, because of their poor health and ridiculous, humiliating DWP demands”) might as well not attend at all.
For Eddie, as far as I can tell, “tailored” back-to-work support (apart from the useless handwritten URLs) probably comes down to signing up for another work programme with a private company like Reed, or Seetec. Eddie has been on four work programmes over the years. He has never found a job through a work programme. It might be time that somebody asked why. Could it be that there’s no place for an older, sick and disabled man in a viciously competitive, youth-oriented job market? Could it simply be that Eddie is no longer able to cope? Nobody ever mentions that sort of thing. They just line up to take their cut out of Eddie’s misery. At the end of last year, Reed tried to sign Eddie up for a fifth work programme. I think that is Eddie’s main role in life now, at least as far as the DWP is concerned. He’s fodder for work programme sharks.
Anyway. Remember all of this when the government yaps on about “helping” sick or disabled people into work and cutting Employment and Support Allowance to “encourage” people to find jobs. Some serious transparency is needed when it comes to the so-called back-to-work support that is really on offer. People need to demand that the DWP gives journalists and supporters and MPs and whoever else free access to jobcentres and work programme sessions, so that people can comb through the realities of so-called back-to-work support. I attend jobcentres with people who have health problems and disabilities, and who are getting on in years. They are not treated well by the state, to say the very least. Their anger is palpable. They are stuck, probably forever. They have been discarded. This is what we do now with people whose health and chances are fading. They’re dumped in jobcentres to rot. Pity we don’t do the same with bankers.
More on the shambles that is disability support in jobcentres:
ANOTHER jobcentre says We Can’t Help or Support Disabled Benefit Claimants
54 and out of work: how the DWP hounds you to amuse itself
We know jobsearch and jobmatch are pointless, but do them anyway