I asked the Jobcentre to let me have work experience there so I could dig up some dirt on the DWP. I did the work experience in another JCP in a different area from 9th March 2015 to 26th March 2015. All names are changed.
Alarm bells started to ring before I’d even started the placement. As I read the training material I overheard a man getting referred to the decision-maker for not applying for jobs. For the first job, there was no bus to get there on time. The other job he didn’t apply for required qualifications he didn’t have.
At about 10:15 on the first day of my work experience (Tuesday 10th March 2015) administrator Pammy said shows like Benefits Britain make her angry because those programmes depict JCP staff as “ogres” but it’s the benefits claimants who are lazy. “They were sanctioned for a reason,” she kept saying.
Pammy said the show had portrayed a lone mum with three kids who was sanctioned and now dependent on a food bank. The woman said she was feeding her kids out of the freezer but didn’t have enough frozen food to feed them. Pammy called her “lazy” and said she should “buy fresh food then” and that she obviously “has an attitude problem.”
During my time in the Jobcentre I saw numerous examples of staff insensitivity towards ESA claimants and customers who were ill. An ESA claimant came in asking why he hadn’t been paid. It turned out that his benefits had been stopped because he hadn’t got a ‘sick line’ (note of unfitness for work) from his GP to prove he was still unfit for work.
In response to my question about why he was on ESA, Pammy said he might be depressed. She said this is a “lazy attitude” but that now his benefit is stopped then he’ll go because he wants benefits. She kept repeating this point, convinced that benefits were the only thing that motivated depressed people (or Jobcentre customers generally).
Another morning, a JSA claimant told me she was now sanctioned and applying for hardship funds. She’d been ill and missed a Jobcentre appointment. She had phoned the doctor and went to get sick note the next day but her GP wouldn’t give her one because they didn’t see her the day she was ill, so she was sanctioned.
A man who was claiming JSA came into the Jobcentre to explain that he didn’t sign-on on Friday because he went to a funeral. Pammy said he would “probably” be referred to a decision-maker and maybe he’d get sanctioned. She also criticised him for waiting until 1pm the next working day (Monday) to inform the Jobcentre instead of telling them on Friday, the day of the funeral.
G4S security guard (‘Customer Care Officer’) Bob pointed out a customer to me and claimed he was a lost cause. He said some claimants would “like you to think [they’re looking for work]” but they aren’t, and he “will never get a job, who would hire him, would you give him a job?” Bob then suggested “They should just be wiped out, we shouldn’t have to deal with them”.
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