DWP: we can send you on a useless course or on hopeless “work experience.” Let’s do both.

How’s another ride in the DWP clowncar:

It’s a nice sunny morning and we’re back at Stockport jobcentre.

This morning, we’re shooting the breeze with Steve*, who is telling us the one about the time when he was sent on an outdoor workfare-type experience in Levenshulme.

Somebody at Restart or wherever (can’t remember exactly – one or other of the usual welfare-to-work companies that have smelted into a single pile in my mind) decided a little while back that Steve and a few other unemployed blokes would make good (not to mention free) gardeners.

Steve and these others were instructed to turn up to some site where an impressive assortment of gardening kit awaited:

“They’ve got all the gardening tools, petrol strimmer and a motormower…” You got the feeling that somewhere in his mind, Steve had been looking forward to going large with some of these appliances.

It was also possible to see why this particular unpaid work experience (“you get paid nothing for it”) could be felt to beat other workfare “opportunities” that those of us on the circuit have seen over recent years – opportunities such spending the day as a sandwich board, helping test people for the clap (true story), and standing in the rain with a charity collection bucket, etc. When you recall George Osborne’s smug face as he rolled out his workfare programme, the chance to wield a strimmer strikes you as an opportunity in itself.

On with the story. Steve and the others had a look at the tools and things built up to the big moment. They went to their workfare gardening sites – not raring to start the unpaid work exactly, but possibly keen to see who did what with which tool…? okay – that’s probably more what I would have thought. Anyway – they were all set to fire up the strimmers and mowers, and the rest of the arsenal… so they yanked up the starter cords and… nothing. Nothing happened. Total silence. The strimmers and mowers wouldn’t start.

A cursory probe revealed that there was no fuel in any of the tanks. Nobody in charge had quite got around to getting petrol for the tools. A phone call to the work placement company that was in charge of the shambles revealed that nobody there was interested in paying for any, either.

Steve says: “I phoned the guy at the [work placement] place and he said, “we can’t afford the fuel… might as well go home, lads.”

Says Steve: “I got sent round to this woman’s house to mow the lawn, but the petrol was empty. She had an empty petrol can. I said I’ve come to sort your lawns out.”” That seems to have been the end of that – Steve on a lawn on his phone trying score some petrol with an impotent strimmer lying in some old love’s petunias. I can’t help feeling that there’s a metaphor for life in 2022 in there somewhere. I suppose the good news is that it ended up being an environmentally sound experience, in that the grass was left to grow and a litre or so of fossil fuel stayed in the earth, or was bought by someone else and thrown over their bonfire, or whatever. Anyway. Big start – small finish. That’s the DWP all over.

“It’s a joke what they’re doing,” Steve says.

It does sound like it.

Luckily for Steve, the DWP has plenty of other bad ideas up its sleeve. He says that last week, someone at Restart told him that he had to take up a cleaning job in Bolton.

“Bolton?” I say. “Why would they send you to Bolton?” Others who are listening to Steve chime in. Bolton is miles away from Stockport. It’s a bus or train (if either turn up) ride to a whole different town.

Nobody gets this one. It makes as much sense to send someone from Stockport to Bolton to clean toilets as it makes to send someone from Stockport to Bolton just to go to the toilet. It’d be like going from Crouch End to Watford just for a piss. And okay – maybe not a bad day out compared with everything else that is going on, but once would probably be enough. Surely there is something in Stockport that Steve could clean?

Let’s move onto Barry.*

I have a good chat with Barry. Barry is in his late 40s, about 4 years out of jail and, like most of the rest of us, beginning to suspect that the primary reason for his existence can’t be good. Nobody you speak to up north is optimistic about current events. On your darker days, you feel pretty sure that Liz Truss’ regional-economy kickstart plans will involve projects such as having us mined for our calcium.

You can see why Barry is pissed off. Ex-cons come a fair way down the list of useable commodities in our end-of-days capitalist times. Barry also comes across someone who is not interested in taking shit. It’s possible that doors have closed because of this, but we’re going to give him full marks for it.

And I suppose we should note any balance where we find it: Barry is pissed off with the jojobcentre, but he’s pleased with the weather. Also, the DWP is having a laugh at Barry’s expense, so his life is at least fun for someone.

At the moment, the jobcentre is making Barry attend 3 times a week in person. He says he lost his phone, so they’re making him come in, so that they can track him physically, rather than via text or google earth or whatever big tech is currently sniffing us out with. The DWP often engages in this sort of perverse activity. When they’re stalking people, like they’re stalking Barry, they put the onus on the claimant to come into the jobcentre to be stalked. Three times a week Barry has to walk 40 minutes or so to and from the jobcentre (he can’t afford the 3 bus trips and has given up asking for help with the cost). He has to do all the running to the jobcentre even though they’re the ones hunting him down.

“What do you do there [when you get to the jobcentre]?” I ask.

“Nothing,” Barry says cheerfully. “It’s a fulltime job coming in.”

From time to time, the jobcentre sends Barry on a wider arc – about 10 minutes up the road to a site where the aforementioned work programme-type companies like Restart/Ingeus et al hold the usual useless “employability” courses.

Barry’s not convinced that he’s getting a lot out of these courses. I’ve never met anyone who has been convinced, now that I think about it. Of course – helping guys like Barry get anything out of anything is not the point of these exercises. The point is that the DWP likes making people dance for their benefit money. It’s all about putting people through the mill for someone else’s entertainment and electoral chances – something more and more people are starting to get a feel for as Truss goes for the premiership and energy companies close in. You don’t learn much about work, or survival, from any of it, but you sure as hell learn your place.

*names changed etc

21 thoughts on “DWP: we can send you on a useless course or on hopeless “work experience.” Let’s do both.

  1. Omg truly appalling, would b interesting to know if appropriate PPE (ear defenders, eye goggles etc) were supplied, but then if something as basic as petrol wasn’t…?!
    These “courses”? DWP sent me on one back in the day, the one bonus is it provided a free sandwich and drink?! The title was “effective personal marketing “ how to sell yourself to employers
    I’m nothing so special, but I’m also unique and priceless!! I’m not for sale I’m an individual…

  2. I am currently on my 14th of the bullshit Courses with Reed in Partnership (RIP) I haven’t a ‘king clue what they think they are doing. So far they haven’t either.

    I did see them offer someone £2-00 an hour to be their receptionist. FFS!

    But they are defrauding us out of 5p a mile in travelling expenses. By offering us 20p per mile where the DWP gives us 25p mile. I have complained to the DWP about this and they agree that it is defrauding us.

    My advisor is so ‘king lazy that he had not read my notes so he was unaware of my medical issues.

    I have to proof read everything to correct the most basic errors. He even kept writing HIM instead of HER on the paperwork.

    It will be interesting to see what bullshit courses that they will pay for me to go on. No doubt they will be sub (G)CSE Some of us are old enough to know that the GCSE is just the CSE renamed to ‘improve’ the education results. When Thatcher politicised education for political advantage.

    Well I did ask them exactly what the bloody fuck a City and Guilds in Employability actually was? Well goody shit I had this thing called an education and it has served me well. I have been writing letters since the age of 8 and had a CV at 18 Frankly I am not putting that sort of BS on my CV It doesn’t sit well with likes of MatLab and Electronics design.

    As you can see I tend to treat them to industrial scale sarcasm and the contempt that they so richly deserve.

    This is not my first exposure to RIP The previous time my medical issues led them to terminate our relationship after 4 weeks. I guess that they could not see how that they could make any money out of me.

    Previously I was sent to work a fake charity run by a Nigerian Fraudster. The Charity commission still lists them as a bona fide charity. Even if the Government and Seetec are after him for £220,000 and his landlord another £22,000. This fraudster also claimed to be a minister and had even convinced his flock to pay tithes. The denomination concerned did not know that they had a branch there.

    Oh and to cap it all he had convinced the Government to allow him to become a registrar. The register itself was supposed to be kept in a safe. It was not as he did not have a safe. I did try and get the registrar bit rescinded. But no one was interested. NOT the local registrar or the DWP.

    It wasn’t long before the Immigration service came a knocking. Looking for one of his assistants. Apparently they wanted to talk to her about smuggling people into the UK.

    You can privmail me if you want more.

    • I have just been referred to Reed In Partnership in my early 60s to attend the Work and Health Programme, which is a load of shite so far. Sending people of my age on Back-to-work schemes is just ridiculous. I might have to resort to finding myself a part-time job just to avoid the fuckers, though I would then have to claim UC to top up my income. But whatever I do now it’s just treading water and passing time until I can get my State Pension.

      • Reed really are a caution.

        I attended (and recorded) one interview with a disabled woman where the Reed advisor told us that neither they nor the DWP really cared if you actually got a job or not – all they really wanted to see was evidence that you’d applied for any old crap.

        I paraphrase, but you get the picture. They just wanted people to pick any old job ad out of various lists and email their CVs off to god knows who. This guy freely admitted that that was the only exercise that mattered. Nobody was the least bit interested in what happened after you hit Send.

        Presumably, Reed counted this instruction to just email your CV to whichever email address you found on whatever job ad as supporting people into work. Another nice little earner.


        • Oh yes, they are riding the lucrative Welfare-to-Work gravy train, first set in motion by Blunkett and his friend Emma Harrison of A4e fame under Blair’s New Labour. Harrison of course became so wealthy she bought a Stately Home and a brewery out of the proceeds of her ill-gotten gains, whilst Blunkett was a paid Director of A4e at the same time as they were being awarded Government contracts, quite literally nothing to see here. All in all, Reed and the rest of these ‘poverty pimp’ companies (Serco, Pinnacle People, Stand guide, etc.) are funded as a means of transferring public money into the Private sector whilst fooling middle-England voters into believing that the government of the day are actively doing something about the perceived ‘problem’ of unemployment. At the moment there are a record number of people in work so why even bother if it were really such a problem.

          • Yo trev

            Now there is a blast from the past David Dunkett. Didn’t his guide dog take him to get neutered ‘coz he kept inseminating a married woman?

            Down here in the south It was Kennedy Snott and Seetec. Both equally bad and it was found that people left to their own devices found work quicker without their ‘help’.

            Yes the infamous New Deal. The follow-up to the only program that actually worked Employment training scheme which closed in 1993.

            It worked coz it was voluntary, you chose the courses and you got an extra £10-00 a week whilst on it. Worth £20-00 a week now.

            The DWP of course learned all the wrong lessons and made it compulsory. All the courses were building trade related and pitched at a one size fits all sub CSE level. The 2008 crash made the worthless.

            Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

        • These companies give you papers that are months old to go through the job adverts and apply for jobs. Or the courses that are taken you learn feck all.
          Back in 2009 I was on a course for 14 weeks and I knew everything that the course was about before I started so learned nothing new.
          One person running the course said that if your maths GCSE was older than three years old it was out of date but he said 13 times 13 was 159 when everyone said it was 169. I stopped the course after that and was threatened with a sanction so told the job centre numpty if the person running the course doesn’t know what 13 times 13 is then the course is not fit for purpose.

      • The health program side of all this is very sinister to me. No doubt they will ask questions that the only answers are NOYFB or Not without a ‘king court order.

        • I initially asked them what the “health” bit was about and they said “we’re not medically trained but we run Relaxation workshops to help people deal with Stress and Anxiety”. Then I was sent a link to log on to their ‘portal’ and to answer an almost never ending health questionnaire that wanted to practically everything apart from my hat size. None of my health issues are anything they can help with. And despite that they’ve got me down as looking for any number of hours over any type of shift up to 20 miles away.

  3. Oh well, at least they had some actual mowers and strimmers if not fuel, whereas the Horticulture course I was mandated to attend only had a photocopied diagram of a lawnmower and we had to sit in a classroom week after week and name all the parts, i.e. Carburettor, cable, blade, etc. They even miss-named the course “Agriculture”. We also ventured outdoors occasionally to sweep up fag ends in the grounds of the “Training centre”, which consisted of a few temporary classroom huts with barbed wire around the roofs situated in the old playground of a demolished school in Keighley. Bradford ‘Skills For Work’ laughingly called this dump Marlborough House! “House”? There wasn’t even any building let alone a “House”!

  4. The whole point in that, was for anybody to take what there is, because the credit system wasn’t designed to do anything other than support somebody for a few months, it is ideal, it a beaucracy that tick boxes. But that is the way the system is, it may change, or it won’t.

  5. These courses are just a way of companies claiming money for doing feck all. Back in 2009 I was put on a course and I knew more than the person running the course.
    These courses teach feck all but the provider is ripping the country off with inflated prices.

    • Always run by petty little self important Hitler’s that are convinced that they are doing god’s work. Just like the work houses of days gone by. Ok I know that Amazon and the Government has done its best to resurrect them…

  6. According to the Think-tank, Policy in Practice, increasing Universal Credit by 13% is the answer to the cost of living crisis. But what if you don’t qualify for UC, or have fallen foul of the cruel, punitive, Sanctions regime? Surely Universal Credit is unfit for purpose and should be scrapped. A decade plus of Toryism (and in a wider context 40+ years of Neoliberalism) has left us with a punitive, draconian, dysfunctional Social Security system. Unconditional Basic Income could provide a solution both in terms of helping people meet the costs of living and in redistributing the wealth more equitably.


  7. Pingback: Sanctions for people who need them least and struggle the most. Let’s hear it for the DWP | Kate Belgrave

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