Monday, 28 October 2013


Having read this article in the Express, "Despair" was the only title I could think of for this post.  I remember my own long spell of unemployment in the 1990s, and wonder how I would have coped with this vicious, dehumanising regime.  And I suspect I would not have survived.  I had been working for nearly 30 years; I had paid plenty of tax and National Insurance.  Now it was time for me to claim the benefits to which I was entitled, while I tried everything to get a job (which I eventually did).  I never allowed myself to feel humiliated; I had done nothing wrong, and life was difficult enough without being denied any self-respect.  If it was happening now - I think I would be looking into the abyss.
Some of you who comment here and have been passed back to the Jobcentre after wasting two years on the WP, have already experienced this "claimant commitment" demand, which officially came into force today where UC is being implemented, and are bemused as to how it's going to be possible to meet it.  Others have asked what "commitment" is being made by Jobcentres and government to help them.  The article gives us no answer.  "The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full time occupation in itself.  The unemployed will be expected to fill their 'working' weeks searching for work, attending interviews, training, assessments and workshops.  If they deviate from their signed commitment, their benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks and then 3 years."  That's the Express's words in bold, not the DWP's.  But they strike a chill, don't they?  Criminalised for something trivial.  What the DWP's infamous anonymous spokesperson does say is rather puzzling: "Those claiming out-of-work benefits will be expected to dedicate their working week not only to searching for work but also to invest in training and the skills necessary to make getting a job easier."  Apart from lousy grammar, what does this mean?  That the unemployed person has to "invest" in training and skills?

My only advice on how to cope with this is:
 i) keep a detailed diary, not only to prove that you're doing what is demanded, but to show to yourself and others just how punitive and demeaning this regime is.  Start a blog about your experience if you're in a position to do so.  Writing down your thoughts can be therapeutic in itself.
ii) always remember that they cannot rob you of your self-respect unless you let them.


  1. Never let the bastards grind ya down.

  2. Now the unemployed "must"? sign a pledge when in their local jobcenter in front of their "advisor" as to what that person is expected to do in regards to looking for work? hang on a min here..................... if what they have to do is mandatory to look for work then why sign a pledge? or do they need your signature to make it legal?

  3. When I first read this article I thought it was satire,I checked the DWP website for more details concerning the DWP/JCP part of their commitment toward the claimant,very little mentioned as for training? same old rope regarding Literacy and Numeracy,I would say similar to the WP,but it is exactly the same tripe!

  4. Recently, a friend of mine was sanctioned for not signing on. The reason he didn't sign on was because he was attending a week's long DWP training programme. This "training" was mandatory - if he didn't attend....he would be sanctioned!!!!
    The last time I saw him, he was talking about taking an overdose of painkillers.
    This coalition, in particular IDS, should be prosecuted and jailed.

    1. Last year I was on the Work Programme, and my advisor there sent me on a full time. 4 week long "employability skills" course. Problem is this clashed with a pre-booked jobsearch session at my Work Programme provider's premises. When it came to the day I asked with my WPP if I should attend the jobsearch session there, or simply carry on with my course - I was told to carry on with the course and not to worry about the jobsearch...

      A few weeks' later the inevitable brown envelope, saying a doubt had arisen over my claim because I had "failed to attend a jobsearch session at [my Work Programme Provider]"...

      This system's level of incompetence is matched only by its brutality.

  5. Many years ago I was unemployed,there was a part time time job on the wall at the Job Centre,It was for a few hours a week at a local fish and chip shop(I guess the wages were not those of MPs other "jobs")you needed to be fluent in mandarin chinese,no doubt it counted as a job vacancy but I wonder how many MPs could get that job.

  6. I remember three years ago when my one year period with a4e was up, asking the Job Centre about training and being told to finance myself. They wouldn't help - eh?

    Like you Historian, I'm relieved the system has put me out to grass as it were. With three months before coming of Job Seekers Allowance, they imposed a sanction because I forgot to attend some afternoon "seminar" I had been trying to compile a business plan for a deadline hence me forgetting ..... Okay I won the appeal but would I have succeeded today ..... ? I wonder.

  7. The Express’ claim to have published something new and, according to them “exclusive,” is risible nonsense, for a start.

    The mantra from IDS continues to be a fine example of his self-delusion. He is not brainy enough to have devised a different mantra and his acolytes have not bothered to do so for him, plainly.

    I am intrigued by the “work coach,” though. Why would anyone with any talent put up with the pitiful pittance paid by the JCP? Where any original thought is firmly forbidden?

    It seems to me that the pollies and the DWP are scrambling around for the sole purpose of trying to conceal the disastrous hopelessness of all their other ideas.

    The real answer is, “Sack IDS.” The average profit-making enterprise has no spare space for a wannabe messiah who has done nothing except bludge off a wealthy woman for the last 30+ tears.

  8. "The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full time occupation in itself."

    Full time being classed as 16 hours, or do they expect even more than that?

  9. I would not be too concerned about the impact of the claimant commitment Historian. Firstly, the plan is to roll out the new "contract" across the country by next year. If IDS succeeds in this, then it will be first sign of the genius that John Major recently stated was as yet unproven. Secondly, it is all very well saying that they are going to insist on dragging people into jobcentres to sign on twice a week, but how will the staff cope? Are there any plans to increase the number of staff in the DWP? Add to this workload the plans to force claimants who leave the work programme to sign on every day, and it becomes apparent that the "claimant commitment" already seems unlikely to be implemented in the way that IDS envisages.

    As for the computers in the job-centre: the DWP seems to be struggling to cope with the numbers of people who want to use job-centre computers after refusing to access the universal jobmatch from their personal devices: six thousand spread throughout the entire country is not really going to make much of an impact, if you divide that figure by the total number of people who will have to use them.

    It is very possible that IDS will not even be in charge of the DWP next year - his work programme has failed, and the chancellor wants to get rid of it, and despite his claims experts agree that there it is virtually impossible that the Universal Credit will be implemented anytime within the next ten years!

    What will be the practical consequences of hundreds of thousands of young, fit, healthy, and very angry men being forced to constantly look for jobs that don't exist, and plunged into destitution after making technical mistakes.

    No, Historian, how the claimant commitment works out in practice is going to be a lot different from how the Express claims it will. II think that it is another one of IDS's day dreams.

    1. Do you have any evidence that Osbourne wants the WP gone?

    2. I have not had to sign the commitment yet,but I have discussed it with the JCP clerk and was told what was expected of myself,I asked 2 questions (1) What facilities and equipment will be available in order for me to meet the terms of what basically is a contract (2) What responsibilities will the JCP/DWP have in order to meet their obligations and what specifically are their obligations.

      The response was predictable,"We are rolling out the programme and this will take time and resources,you must be willing to adapt,we will meet our responsibilities as stated under DWP guidelines" although I did not have to sign,I did state that when I am asked too,I would require a more detailed answer,the reply? "Are you saying that you will not sign when asked? refusal will result in an automatic sanction"

  10. My local Jobcentre is very busy with people leaving the Work Programme. Appointments with my advisor went from once a week to roughly now once every three weeks as well as signing day. Unless this scheme is contracted out I see it being a non starter.

  11. I want to add something to my post above. While I was out of work I was sent on two "courses" which actually proved useful. The first was a two-day session, supposedly for unemployed professionals but the leader insisted on having other people on it as well. It was informative and helpful. In a private conversation on the second day, the leader told me, "You'll survive. You don't see your identity as being your job. Some of these people can only think of themselves in terms of their job, so being out of work leaves them feeling that they're nothing. You don't, so you'll be all right." He was right.
    The second course was funded by the TEC (Training and Enterprise Council) and consisted of being sent back to university for a year to do a post-graduate diploma. There were about 20 of us on the course, and it was intensive and difficult. But those of us who stuck it out came away with more letters after our names and a valuable and impressive enhancement to our CVs.
    Nothing like that is on offer now, sadly.

    1. As an unemployed graduate I would be very happy if I could do a Masters degree under such a scheme (i.e. for free) but as you say no such scheme exists. That said, I am not sure it would help me find work and here's why -

      The other week I went for an interview for a cleaning job. The person interviewing me had not seen my cv (it had been passed on by an agency). After (very quickly) reading it her first question was -
      'What are you doing here?'.
      She couldn't understand why someone with a degree and ten years experience working as a stock controller was applying for a menial job. I replied that I did have some related experience having had a summer job working in kitchens and that I was just looking to get back into work.

      End of interview.

      One of the problems within the UK job market is that a lack of decent jobs is forcing many skilled/semi-skilled workers to look for low-paid work, which they are thought to be overqualified to do.

      I would have been happy if they had offered me the job so I could sign off.

      I call it the 'race to the bottom'. It also makes it harder for unskilled people to find work if they are competing in some instances with skilled workers.

  12. Keeping a blog of your experiences can be very helpful, but for heaven's sake keep it anonymous, and don't blog enough detail for the JC/WP to identify you. My experience was that once they've twigged what you're up to they will stop at nothing to get you sanctioned.

  13. "The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full-time occupation in itself". should being an MP on £67,000 per annum. Yet this does not stop many of Smith's colleagues and no doubt his self securing second, third and fourth jobs as 'business consultants' and ' non-executive directors' with the very companies they helped win contracts for when in the cabinet.

    “Those claiming out-of-work benefits will be expected to dedicate their working week not only to searching for work but also to invest in training and the skills necessary to make getting a job easier."

    This is funny. Less so in a "Ha Ha" sense though. Actually it is pretty sick on reflection. Just what in God's name is the Work Program actually for???!!!??? Smith's new 'get tough' policy the clearest indication yet that the WP has failed and failed big time!

    Just how many have been on the WP and asked for training only to be told it cannot be offered? Just how many have been attending their local JPC only to be told a course or voluntary work cannot be undertaken if more than 16 hours as this will impact on their ability to job search??

    Of course, what this means in reality is that merely attending a WP provider such as A4e, Avanta, Ingeus or G4s or the job centre daily will be laughingly called a course. Just as a previous JCP adviser informed me when I asked just what training would be available from Ingeus.

    This not only shows how out of touch with reality Smith actually is, it also shows how he has no idea how to deal with the absolute dogs breakfast he has created. President Harry Truman popularised the phrase "The buck stops here". It is high time today's lightweight politicians remembered this and took heed!

  14. The conservative party slogan in 2010 was "Voote for change" ?
    There was 7.7% LMS unemployment then - there is 7.7% same now over 3 years later- no change there then!
    Also more recently, last year" was "Britain can deliver" - except IDS of course.
    Just back from benefits office here in Scotland - thousands of appeals on sanctions causing months of backlog on descisions- wonder what to do if they don't give a timely descision!

  15. Interesting article on the Indus Delta board regarding Sanctions.

  16. If anything,during theses hard times,it would make sense for sanctions to actually go down and let us not forget the memo about the backlog of sanctions that are awaiting the outcome of the Cait Reilly case(ruling due out today at 0930) before being enforced and will surprise a lot of people right before X-mas!

  17. Just spotted on the BBC website - DWP has lost its appeal in the supreme court over the ruling on the work for your benefits scheme being legally flawed.

    I should also be noted that the article speculates whether the scheme will actually continue in its current form.


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