Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jobcentre Plus Procedures

I read this article by Harry Blackwood in today's Mail on Sunday about the dehumanizing procedures in Jobcentres and realised that I was right to take redundancy when I did because things have worsened.
Mr Blackwood complains that the interviews were information gathering exercises without time taken to sympathise with him. That is how it is meant to be. Claim processers and Advisers have to obtain specific information on a person in a time set by senior management and they are penalised if the procedures (ie boxes are not ticked) are not completed in time or the target number of interviews per week are not met. Don't bother to argue that the customer was late or unprepared or hostile, the performance indicators must be met so that good statistics can be fed up the line to senior management.
Mr Blackwood would have liked more time spent helping him with his job search. Update: no he wouldn't. So in return for Jobseeker's Allowance the taxpayer should accept his word that he was looking for work without the adviser checking. Some people claim JSA and live off their savings or spouse's earnings while indulging in their hobbies. Well, as he can string words together into a sentence and doesn't fall off his chair, the policy is that he cannot receive additional (outsourced) help until he has been claiming for six months. Unless he is disabled, ex-services or non-English speakers or out of prison or a drug addict in which case immediate referral is available. I would bend the rules as often as possible for clients like Mr Blackwood by referring them under one or other of the first two categories - it helped them and helped me because I scored more points if they got jobs.
One unsavoury aspect of the procedures and performance driven culture was the belief that a certain number of claims were fraudulent because the claimant was working. Suspected fraudsters were called in for random mandatory interviews to disrupt their lives and induce them to sign off. Because say, 4% of claimants in a sample had been discovered to be working and claiming (easily done because of the complexity)and inefficiency of the benefits and tax credit system) then at least 4% of claimants had to be made to sign off through more frequent attendance interviews. If that target wasn't met, then the adviser assigned this additional and difficult task (because additional interviews had to be shoehorned into an already full diary pre-filled by others) had failed to meet a performance target which affected the annual appraisal and pay increase.
So to any customers of Jobcentre Plus who feel they aren't carried the extra mile in their difficult job of finding a job, please understand that better service costs more and that the staff want to help but can't. Blame James Purnell instead of shouting at the equally stressed and demoralised person across the desk whose biro you take.


CherryPie said...

A great post which explains very well the sorry state our public services have come to and why!

Gallimaufry said...

Many thanks. I imagine the target, kpi, standardised procedures mentality has infected the whole, although now sadly fragmented, Civil Service. Something is very wrong.

Anonymous said...

What a load of self-serving nonsense. The procedure at jobcentres is nothing more than ritual humiliation designed to impress on people that the state controls everything. This wouldn't work of course were it not for the gutless jobsworths who are happy to perpetuate this system.

I didn't want more help with my job search. I din;'t want ANY help. I am perfectly capable of going through that process. What I wanted was not to be spoken to like a worthless piece of dirt. Is that too much to ask?

Harry Blackwood

Gallimaufry said...

Good luck with your job search Mr Blackwood (if it is indeed really you commenting). I am pleased to infer from your article and comments that you appear to have a flexible, positive attitude and work well with other people.
I realise that your journalistic skills mean that you need no help polishing your CV. Many customers lack basic maths and literacy skills.
Were you told that the Jobcentre was just one source of jobs and that personal networks and jobfinder sites should be used as well?
If there are no vacancies for journalists on the system that is not the fault of the adviser but a reflection of job-cutting in the media industry due to falling advertising revenue.
And a word of advice: if you don't want to be spoken to like a worthless piece of dirt, may I suggest that you don't describe a post that sympathises with your circumstances as "a load of self-serving nonsense."
Finally, £121 in return for half an hour per fortnight in a Jobcentre is good value.
And if one of "those gutless jobsworths who perpetuate the system" attempted to changed the system they would soon be signing on. Actually, I knew a "gutless jobsworth" who volunteered to transfer to Northern Ireland during the Troubles to assist the security forces.

haddock said...

When I signed on to the "Employment Exchange" back in 1970 I was treated most courteously by staff that wanted to find me a job, a suitable job. In those days they had a 'professional' register for those with higher qualifications..... within a few weeks a call from Rolls-Royce out of the blue and an interview/job within days... all arranged by those professional staff....
Scroll on 36 years.... sign on at a "jobcentre+", get talked down to by a hectoring woman who, when told that as a professional, and an ex-teacher, I did not really see the point of doing a simple comprehension test based on a bloody job advert....was told the interview would be terminated if I raised my voice. Eventually was told that I had to apply for x jobs per week.... suitable or not. what a farce.
Eventually a few weeks later a human said that as you are over 60 you can get pension credit... so do that.... it will get you off our books.
At no time was there any attempt to find me a job... other than point to touch-screen units which displayed the information readily available on line.

You talk of 'good value' as if it is a gift from a benevolent master, it is not, it is claiming on an insurance policy you have paid well for during your working it or not.

Gallimaufry said...

I understand the Professional Executive Recruitment agency of the Employment Service was set up in the early 1970's but either closed or hived off in the 1980-90's to save money.
The reason why claimants take a literacy test (usually after 6 months' unemployment)is because up to 40% of jobless people have primary school reading ages and so completing job applications is difficult for them. People who need extra tuition can attend free courses. How someone can leave school unable to read, write and add up makes me wonder what their teachers were doing. Good teaching is also something that taxpayers pay for.
Why should anybody tolerate being sworn or shouted at? I worked in the construction industry so am used to hearing a spade called a fucking shovel but I grew to hate the moronic thoughtless swearing, excessive drinking and smoking of some customers - my eyeballs would sometimes sting from alcohol or tobacco fumes wafting across the desk.

William Gruff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gallimaufry said...

Gruff, I hope you don't mind me not publishing your comment as I would prefer if you confirmed you wished it to be plonked on the blog for all to read. It took true courage to write.
I consider it an honour to stand in the shadow of MEN like Gruff. Read his blogs for proof why his character towers over that of a former local newpaper editor for example. I would consider it an honour to help him in some small way.
Email me at or send me your email by means of unpublished comment.

CherryPie said...

I imagine the target, kpi, standardised procedures mentality has infected the whole, although now sadly fragmented, Civil Service.

It has infected the whole of the public sector not just the Civil Service. I have seen this trend for a while.

My Dad is in hospital at the moment and the experiences of all the patients has confirmed my thoughts on this.

Meeting the KPIs has taken over the caring of the patients. The nurses are worn out because there are too few of them trying to care for the patients and then there is this odd shuffling around of patients. Moved from the ward back to A&E so it looks like another patient has been admitted!

All of the patients think the Nurses and Doctors are wonderful, but are annoyed with the system

William Gruff said...

Too strong for you? Comment is Free? LMFAO. Apparently not.

Verification word for this comment: suplut. A new one on me but I can believe it.

Don't delete too many comments.

Gallimaufry said...

Best wishes to your Dad. Everything has to be papertrailed now to the extent that the work comes second to satisfy the maw of the business management teams.
Did it start with "Next Steps" in the eighties?
Not everything that matters can be counted and just because something can be counted doesn't mean it matters.

Gallimaufry said...

This is the text of the comment that Gruff sent and presumed I'd moderated:

For some years I've experienced numerous difficulties associated with living in Br*tain and being English with no more more rights than any other foreigner who has made his way here, and I'm just about sick to fucking death of hearing tales of woe from those who will not work. I have just lost my job for the second time this year and Mrs Gruff and I have just decided to part for the second time. For the third time in eighteen months my debts, which I accept full responsibility for and wish to pay off, in full, threaten to overwhelm me.

I'm sorry for those dole scroungers who think the poor underpaid and overworked buggers at the benefits office have not been as servile as they might but I really couldn't give a flying fuck.

Piss off and stand on your own fucking feet as I have done since that nice Mr Lawson forced me to live in the back of a car in 1991.

I lost my business, home, family, possessions and my creative record in 1991 and have never recovered. I went on to university as a mature student, and now, at the age of 52 I'm about to lose it all again. and you whine about the lack of empathy from DHSS staff?

My elderly mother has Leukaemia and my father is too frail to look after her. We have never got on but now I must look after them.

You think you've got problems? Life's tough, give me a fucking break and get on with it, as I must, without whingeing!

OTFFLMFARO! The verification word for this comment was 'primula'.

All I can say is you are in my thoughts Gruff and best wishes to you and your parents and I hope Mrs Gruff and you decide to rejoin for the third time.

William Gruff said...

Re the last comment: I had not read your following comment, merely seen that my comment had been deleted.

My sincere apologies for my carelessness.

LMFAO. Some the verification words are weird (in the Old English sense): this says 'plete'. No I'm far from 'plete'

By the way: Publish if you please. Once committed to the web everyone's words are anyone's property.

Bets of luck to you.

William Gruff said...

My sincere apologies for my outburst: Things are a little difficult at present.

It won't happen again.

I don't believe it but the verification word for this comment is 'corki'. Corky was the name that George Melly and his shipmates used to describe the King and all things 'establishment'

Gallimaufry said...

No need to apologise Gruff old chap. Just keep blogging and posting.

haddock said...

I quite understand that some applicants cannot read.... but I think that someone who has seen written down a long list of qualifications, th'e last being 'Qualified Teacher, could have had the intelligence to skip the comprehension test. But then people who cannot form cursive script and draw circles over every i or j are quite easy to fall out with...

Gallimaufry said...

Ah, but you wrongly assume that standardised procedures allow scope for discretion and common sense to be exercised by the Adviser. If it is laid down that evidence of a literacy and numeracy test is required for the audit paperwork trail then the Adviser will be disciplined if that evidence is not present in the client's records. How else would people be convinced that civil servants do any measurable work?
Not everything that matters can be counted and just because something can be counted doesn't mean it matters.
Besides, willingness to spend 2 minutes on a short test (it's that easy) is a good indicator of a flexible and positive attitude - something that employers value highly in my experience.