Theresa May repeatedly tells us that the best way to get people out of poverty is to get them into employment. That people should be incentivised into working. You would think then that one of the best ways to do this would be through the Job Centre wouldn't you? Yet I fail to have seen or heard any policies regarding the reform of job centres. So my question is have you ever found yourself out of work Prime Minister? (Well very nearly recently I guess 😉) and have you or any of your ministers every been through that system and seen how it's works? Because here's the issue, from my personal experience it doesn't work one bit. Kinda ironic that isn't it?
This kind of post can really easily end up running off in different directions with all types of arguments and explanations as to why people aren't in work. I don't think this will be my only post on the subject but for now I really want to focus on the job centre and it's faults. Because I feel like the spot light isn't really on this area. I think it's somewhere the Labour Party should really look into. We all seem to go off and focus on the welfare state and the benefit cap and so on. Some of it positive and let's be honest here, a hell of a lot of it negative. This allows for a failing system to be ignored and this assumption that the unemployed don't want to work. Well I'm here telling you that I do. That I feel like a failure. That I'm at the point now where I feel so depressed and useless that I'm not surprised no one wants to pick me. The service that is there to get the country back into work is failing in my eyes. If those in power are so keen on the answer to "solving poverty" is simply that people need to get into work, then why is this failure being allowed to happen?
There are so so so many factors and issues on why people are out of work. There's different examples and experiences that impact your ability to get into a job. This is the first major problem with the job centre. There is no "one size fits all" approach to getting some one back into work and yet the job centre is basically a box ticking exercise with no real personal approach to the job seeker they working with. So people with no experience, to people with quite a niche working experience, those who are manual workers and those that are administrative, the young, the old and the inbetween, those who are not very motivated work and those that are desperate, to mums like me, who want to return to work after a career break. Yet we all treated the same. The same process and the support. How stupid is that? The approach by the job centre is all wrong. It's just focused on getting you signed on for your JSA and shoving you in a job. Some job, any job, get the boxed ticked, get your unemployment statistic down and crack on. Then you bloody wonder why people aren't successful, aren't getting the work and actually leave the whole process feeling less employable than when they started. Let's start off by treating people like human beings rather than numbers ay, then go from there?
For me I've found it tough to get back into work after having my daughter. My personal journey regarding returning to work isn't an easy one. I suffered from anxiety following a traumatic birth. My confidence was shot to pieces. I also feel the guilt of wanting to work to support my family but the fear of not being around as much to care for her. This isn't an excuse not to work by the way. As so many people seem to assume of the unemployed. Far from it. It's simply an example of how people have to be honest in the fact that they do need so help. Only there is no around to provide it. You're actually not removing barriers to get people working again. That's a huge problem.
My experience is perhaps slightly different as maybe I'm not seen as your "stereotypical" job seeker. I imagine people have an image, probably conjured up with help from the Daily Mail of the unemployed. That they are lazy. That they take drugs. They feign illness. They don't actually want to work and just want to sign on. I mean who doesn't want to just stay living off the grand sum of 73.10 a week? 😑I have good work experience, I don't have a bad career. My problem is having not worked for a while and having different priorities I feel like ok completely out of my depth when finding the right role.
People don't just want to work for money either. Shocking I know. But in my case after motherhood it's for a bit of independence, to feel like I have another purpose and be able to socialise with grown ups! New Motherhood can be a very lonely place sometimes. Having a work place where you can make new acquaintances and chat about something and nothing can have such a positive impact on a life. I wish people would actually start to realise how important getting into work can be to someone and drop the "lazy claimants who don't want to work" approach towards job seekers. Don't make it a stigma if you want people to have the confidence to get themselves back into working life please. Because trust me there's not a day that goes at the minute that I don't feel like I'm complete useless as it is. Ok.
So when you use the Job seeker service, you find there is no real courses. Unless you are under a certain age 🙄 The one group I got to go to, focused on writing a CV. This was of no use. I've had a friend in recruitment look at my CV. I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but it's decent. I had to sit in a group with people who didn't even know what LinkedIn wondering how this was going to help me. That was it. No courses in changing career. No courses for interview techniques. No courses on keeping your confidence up when you feel like an absolute waste of space. Nothing. We have so many sectors out there that are desperately under staffed. Nursing for example social care. How has no one thought that training unemployed people on areas the country has quite literally been crying out for, would be beneficial. I would love to be a nurse. The sad fact is I can't afford to train to be one.
Jobmatch. This is the job centre's online service. You have your profile on it and the home page will suggest job matches for you to apply for. It's Rubbish. How can we not have a better system than that? I mean if you actually want to get people into work it might a start if you don't suggest roles for them that are 90 miles away and they have zero of the qualifications required for the job. It kept suggesting I apply for a building site managers job. In Leeds. Great match that mate 👍🏽Even the people who work at the job centre tell you to ignore the job matches because they aren't any good. I mean if this common knowledge why isn't anybody doing anything to make it bloody better?
If you want to incentivise people getting back into work, why does the job centre process feel like it is entirely geared towards meeting the requirements of gaining your job Seekers allowance and little else? Your appointment is literally less than 10 minutes long. Every 2 weeks. How is that supporting anyone into work? It's basically just a few minutes to check you've applied for some jobs, filled in your job seeker section & signed on. You're sanctioned if you're late or don't prove you're doing enough to find work. It's literally all focused around the benefit payment with maybe 3 minutes advice on your job search if you're lucky! So what is the actual goal of the job centre?
You get assigned a job coach. That would be useful. Only you never see the same person twice, so you end up wasting half of your precious 3 minutes explaining your situation. EVERY time. You don't get to build a relationship and have a mentor who can support you on your journey. It was made even worse when they changed the system at my local job centre. So suddenly they had appointments that meant you would be given a time slot with 10 other people. Get a minute to try and squeeze in and looks at a "jobs board" (grey board with about 3 jobs pinned on them.) You then queue to be shown to the next random available person who checks you've met the requirements for your JSA. Signs you off then sends you on your way. That's not supporting anyone getting back into work is it? Basically it became a benefits cattle market. Would that be helpful in supporting you back into work? Why is someone given the title job coach of their job is literally to just check your meeting JSA requirements? That's not coaching anyone into employment trust me.
The over all set up and feeling of the Job centre is just wrong. It's stern, cold and frightening. I can't remember a time when leaving the centre I didn't burst into tears. Because I didn't feel coached or supported. I felt like a burden and a failure. That's not exactly the greatest frame of mind to be in when you're trying to be the bests candidate in an increasingly competitive job market.
There is zero focus on the right kind of work for you. It's very simple to just say to people well you just need to get a job. Without thinking of any further stipulations. The job centre told me that only full time work was acceptable. So that's me trying to look for a full time job that is worth it for the amount of childcare I would need to pay. Oh and don't even bother about asking for support around childcare. I was simply told "can't your parents help?" Like everyone who's my age has parents who are retired and have the financial ability to look after their grandchildren full time. Aye ok then. 🙄I mean I might be going out on a limb here but isn't it better all round if people are put into a job that lasts? If we just invest in time to get that right and get people into a life time career rather than a quick fix so your employment figures look ok.
As I finish writing this I've seen a piece from Dan Carden MP regarding job centre CLOSURES. So that's the governments answer to getting people back into work? You might be forgiven in thinking that having spent the last 10 paragraphs slating job centres, I would be overjoyed at them having their doors locked and closed forever. Of course I'm not. We shouldn't be closing them. Christ no. We should be investing in revitalising them. I know invest isn't actually a popular notion with our current Government , but if you're going to keep telling us that the answer to stopping poverty is through getting people into work. Would it not be an idea to actually invest in this? Closing job centres down makes an already very lovely process even lonelier. This is one area that would not be improved by moving services online. Take that from some one who sits on a computer night after night refreshing job websites.
So do you know what "incentivises" people to work Prime Minister? Support. Because sometimes when you're at the very bottom you need an extra hand to lift you back again. The job centre is not fit for purpose. Let's do something about that please.