First Draft Open Letter to IDS …
This is just getting my thoughts together based on my personal experience and that of others who have spoken to me. Responding to some of the points raised by IDS in that article I attached yesterday:
The article starts with:
- Work and Pensions Secretary issues warning to unemployed people
- He says anyone who refuses to seek work will have ‘no hiding place’
- Goes on to insist that looking for work should be ‘full-time’ in itself
Negative threatening language is never a good place to start if one wishes to get folks on board?
The problem is the definition because in practice IDS’s systems cannot differentiate between those who are actively seeking work and those who refuse to do so! [I have sat at the Job Centre and overheard conversations with clients who are refusing to do any of the things suggested by their Adviser – no sanctions! I have also heard the staff discussing when they know someone is claiming and working and then not doing anything about it,]
Looking for work could be full time if there was enough work to look for … I have a year’s worth of analysis of the jobs advertised on the Government’s UJM site which specialises in adverts for jobs such as “Catalogue Distributor” [you know those annoying home goods catalogues that seem to multiply on your doormat; if you order from them do you reckon you buy enough to make that a full time income?] “Bubbly art teacher” [this job was for 5 hours per week to teach a nude drawing art class to stag/hen parties] “retailers for market research” [I still haven’t worked out what this one is for …] … the fact remains once I have searched all the jobsites I use and applied for all suitable vacancies AND I have networked and volunteered – if that activity hasn’t been full time what would IDS like me to do extra? If I do my job searches and applications efficiently and I cannot make it last all day then I should be able to use my initiative and do other tasks. [this smacks of ‘equality’ – well once and for all we are not all equal and we can do things at different speeds ….] Finally if the Government wants me to be full time looking for work it can pay me at National Minimum Wage for 35 hours a week – a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?
And he reveals that from 2014, thousands of jobless people who are ‘lacking motivation’ will be forced to spend 35 hours a week applying for work.
He says: ‘This will make it crystal clear that looking for work requires as much effort and commitment as a full-time job – and that jobseekers should think of themselves as in work to find work.’
The minister adds that the decision to claim unemployment benefits should no longer be ‘a lifestyle choice’.
Let me be very clear IDS – I am not making a Lifestyle Choice … I am working hard at finding a job that will pay my bills and keep a roof over my head. There is only me and to survive I have to pay all the bills not just half of them. I have brought up a child to be a contributing adult, I have contributed to the system for the vast majority of my adult working life; I choose now to be single and have dogs instead of several illegitimate children who would cost the country more – I am a responsible citizen and I contribute significantly to my community with voluntary work both when in employment and not. In the past few months I have been told I should rehome my dogs … would anyone tell me to rehome illegitimate kids? When we look at what people need companionship is a human need and who we choose as companions is not a matter for the Government to dictate.
Here is an example of how jobs that would pay my bills and for which I am qualified to do are being taken out of the market …
Twelve years ago I managed a team of 20 clerical staff as well as being PA to the Finance Director and providing some support to a client facing Manager. I undertook half the appraisals for that team and had input to the other half and the work for the Finance Director was very time structured and confidential. I earned £25,000. A few months ago I saw a new job being advertised which was PA to 3 clinical directors and manager of 30 clerical staff – undertaking all their appraisals and the salary was £20,000. This is an example of money being saved by moving tasks down the hierarchy; I am a well qualified executive level secretary and it is impossible to be PA to three directors concurrently – that is either 2 roles or a PA role with an assistant (let’s say £35,000 in salaries) and managing the clerical staff is another job at around £35,000 salary being realistic. So this organisation has squished £70,000 worth of work into a £20,000 role. It will go to someone who has less experience than me and there is a good chance that they will be off long term sick within a few months or leave quickly – that saving will then be spent on temps to fill the gap.
Mr Duncan Smith recognises that most jobseekers ‘are determined to get a job’ and pledges to help those who are genuinely searching for work.
Please do enlighten me how you are going to help me IDS because so far nothing in your systems has contributed an iota. The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is no where near enough to start a serious business and it tails off so quickly that people are likely to struggle – it certainly is of no assistance when one is looking to get premises.
At October’s Tory Party conference, Mr Duncan Smith announced that there were plans to make some jobless attend ‘full-time mandatory attendance centres’.
So this five days a week at a centre – would that be paying bus fares to attendees? if I had to attend and it was in the same town as the job centre that would be £17.50 per week (for 6 months) and where are they going to get the computer resources from? The Job centre has two computers which are not reliable and have very limited resources available.
They will have to enrol in a full-time job search before they are referred to the Work Programme – the Government scheme to provide support, work experience and training to the unemployed.
That is a joke surely? the Work Programme couldn’t train someone to fight their way out of a paper bag and I mentioned their work experience approach yesterday … their training is very limited to short soft skills courses and telling people how to register and search on UJM.
Previously these claimants could have been receiving £46,000 from the Government each year.
A recent benefit cap has resulted in more people claiming less – but how does anyone get to claim £46,000 per year on benefit? I get about 1/7th of that including the benefits I never see; my voluntary work more than justifies the Council Tax benefit I get and I still have water/sewerage to pay. Less than £7,000 is not a lifestyle choice and I get less than half that in my hand to spend to stay alive.
Claiming unemployment benefits is no longer a lifestyle choice. Fair to claimants and fair to the taxpayer – those are the changes we’re making.
I fully agree that the welfare system needs overhauling – but it needs to be done effectively and honestly. How much did the abysmal and useless UJM cost to develop and implement? How much is being paid to Work Programme staff (who are also form what I have seen useless)? How much is being spent on recruiting staff to the Work Programme? the adverts call for 5 years sales experience for this “target driven industry” [when did unemployed people become a target driven industry? oh that will be when the Government started offering a bonus to employers who take unemployable people]
Why are Work Programme staff making suggestions to people like “do you declare yourself disabled on an application form?” “No, because I am not disabled” “But you wear glasses … so if you tick the ‘disabled’ box there is more chance of getting the job because employers have to fill a quota of disabled staff” … disgraceful!
IDS if you really want to overcome the high costs to the taxpayer and deliver effective employment strategies stop, take a deep breath and change direction. Your policy is being delivered with such appallingly poor practice it should be making you cringe and keeping you awake at night … it is not a lifestyle choice to be demeaned and devalued as a human being.
- Remove the “Work Programme in it’s entirety”
- Use some of the saved money to train Jobcentre Advisers with additional skills so they do not just sit and tick boxes
- Allow them to use their nouse – if a person has certificates of study then allow them to be accepted as evidence of their literacy and numeracy. The money saved on unnecessary tests could then be diverted to provide appropriate supports to those who need literacy/numeracy training.
- You want everyone to do everything online? you need to revisit IT training and education provision
- But then you could have every claimant keep all their records on their own portal and give access to Jobcentre staff … infact if you were really smart you would introduce the Personal Career Portal to every High School pupil so that they leave school with a record of their education, volunteering and work. This would go with them through life and people would keep it updated if they did not then have to repeat the information over and over again every time they interact with a Government Department. I have a blueprint for you developed after practising Design Thinking on my situation and the situation described to me by a Jobcentre staff member.
Tomorrow I will showcase those ideas for a whole different approach … then I will have to tidy up my draft into a formal letter.
This seems really appropriate – it is called “Heal” and that is what our social security system needs now – healing!