Here’s another example of farcical jobcentre operations. How many of these have I got:
I recently attended another leafleting sessions at Stockport jobcentre with Stockport United Against Austerity.
I spoke at length outside the jobcentre with Mark, 46.
Mark had been on Universal Credit for two years.
Mark was fuming.
Mark had been given a number to call about voluntary work at a Stockport Homes cafe – but the jobcentre wouldn’t let him use the jobcentre phones to call the number to arrange an interview. He couldn’t believe it. Well – he could believe it, because being told to get lost is par for the course at jobcentres, but you know what I mean.
“I can’t get even get a fucking job as a fucking roadsweeper… do you know what I mean? Volunteering… I thought that having that on my CV it would be better than [nothing]…[but] they won’t even let you use the phone…”
There was more.
Mark said that the previous week, he’d had been sent on a course called something like Changing Attitudes, or about changing attitudes. Something cute like that.
The course was about changing Mark’s attitude to unemployment. It was not, alas, about changing the DWP’s attitude to unemployment. Stories about not allowing unemployed people to use jobcentre phones to set up voluntary work suggested the DWP was in urgent need of its own course. The DWP does get these things arse-about.
Still, Mark decided to enter the spirit of the course. He decided to ask around for voluntary work. Unfortunately, the DWP’s rigid refusal to provide the most basic services had turned Mark’s morning into a trial.
I find this so often at jobcentres: people wandering around outside, trying to understand what just happened, or didn’t happen, inside the jobcentre and why they are no closer to work, or even solutions to basic problems, than they were when they went in. They are told to Go Away as soon as they step in – to go away and find their own phones, or to go away and get another bank statement, or medical certificate, or piece of paper to prove an address, or to go away and look online for answers to their problems.
The DWP does not prioritise sorting people’s problems out. The DWP prioritises pushing people out the door. The DWP is good at that part.
“They put us on the training course last week… it was changing attitudes to it all [laughs]… [They said] instead of thinking outside the box, think inside the box – so I’m thinking I might just become a volunteer instead of signing off. Everything has been for nothing.”
Never was a truer sentence spoken. Everything people do at the jobcentre is for nothing. If you’re wondering why the average bloke in the street is so pissed off at the world at the moment, it is because everything people are told to do is for nothing. I gave Mark my phone to use for his call. It turned out the number that he had was wrong as well. What a circus.
Let’s hear from Mark in full:
“I put in a for a volunteering position… now [the woman], who is interviewing me there last week, initially she was looking at my forms and let me down a bit there, but another one of the girls who works in there, she’s put in a word for me – another girl who runs the cafe. He’s [sic] got back to me – [here’s] the girl’s number on the cafe there.
But they won’t let me phone it [in the jobcentre]. They went and texted me the number last night and I left my phone at my mate’s last night. I’ve been over this morning to try and get my phone back from my bloody mate’s, but I haven’t been able to because he’s at bloody work.
…and I had to go to the housing to get the number again… I can’t get even get a fucking job as a fucking roadsweeper, do you know what I mean? Volunteering… I thought that having that on my CV it would be better than…[nothing] [but] they won’t even let you use the phone… I think I will go down to the housing office and see if I can use the phone there.
I am going to complain about it. Come back at half four today and I’m going to complain to my adviser about it…won’t let anyone use the phone. How are you supposed to get a job out of there?
I have to ring them to set up my interviewing.
[We tried the number on my phone but it kept ringing off].
Bit of a joke, isn’t it.
“I’m getting agitated… been signing on in there for too long. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it. It’s the way life is. Long-term unemployment – it’s bollocks…I can’t get a job at the moment and they’re not letting us…[use the jobcentre phones]…
Generally in there, I think they just make it up as they go along. Everything’s online. That’s what they say now – just go online.
I’m on Universal Credit … it don’t, you get your money all in one lump sum, so all your bills, you’ve got to pay everything in one lump sum. I was paid yesterday and I’m down to about £20. I’ve paid the rent out of it… It’s like £380 and I rounding it up because it’s about £40 for the water it goes on the household bills….
Been on the Universal Credit a couple of year now. Not helping you find work or anything… I went on mandatory work…just doing the gardening for people. It’s just hanging out doing the neighbour’s garden. For the girls, they seemed to have a homecare team, helping folk with the shopping…
No work. That’s not worth it.
They put us on the training course last week – it was changing attitudes to it all [laughed]. Yeah, the business card… I am changing attitudes. One thing I thought I would know about – they might as well have put a black and decker into my head and whisked it all out. [They said] “instead of thinking outside the box, think inside the box,” so I’m thinking I might just become a volunteer instead of signing off. Everything has been for nothing.
It just seems to be that way, everything for nothing. What can you do about it? Nothing you can do about that situations is there, so I thought I might as well go and volunteer. There’s volunteering at the art shop, yes. From what I’ve heard it’s pretty much slave labour, but if you do any form of voluntary work it’s slave labour [laughed]. It [volunteering] does defeat the object of going to work…