This articlewas written by Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th November 2014
A man who applied for more than 60 jobs in a fortnight while protesting against “draconian and demeaning” government policies has been sanctioned by his local jobcentre – for not searching for “broader” employment.
Peter Styles, a copywriter and public relations executive who has been unemployed for a year, says he writes up to 15 job applications a day – even applying at the request of jobcentre staff to be a “personal shopper” and “grocery colleague” at local supermarkets.
However, he said his mistake was to have “voiced my opposition to government policies which I thought were unhelpful and meant to keep you down … I have a good work record and was really trying hard. But the process is patronising and staff can be unhelpful”.
Last week Styles was sanctioned and forced to sign on every day instead of every fortnight, a “humiliating process where you often have to wait alone until staff can see you”.
“There’s no doubt that there was bad feeling between staff and me. But I had not been rude until last Friday. Daily signing on is totally counterproductive and very stressful.”
Officials say that “special action” was taken over Styles because he had not provided evidence that he was seeking jobs and that he was seen from behind a screen because he had become “volatile”.
The communications specialist put his skills to use – publicising his experience in a blog that has gone viral; registering more than 9,000 hits, over 1,000 Facebook shares and hundreds of messages of support.
The social media onslaught has concerned officials who say that staff named in his blog might mean they would have to be shifted to other offices as they may be targeted by anti-austerity campaigners. There are moves to get Styles to remove the blog entirely.
The pressure is taking its toll. Styles says he “has been signed off by the doctor for a month, and consequently have had to end my claim for jobseeker’s allowance. Currently I have no means of support whatsoever and feel in a strange limbo-like position.”
With not even the £70-a-week dole money, debts are piling up. Styles says he is “thousands in debt” and only getting by with the help of friends. In response to his complaint, the Department of Work and Pensions wrote to Styles apologising for not “seeing him on time”.
The jobcentre wrote back saying “The ‘draconian’ measures … are part of government policy … I have looked at the complaint that you have made and can assure you that we have correctly applied the policy in your case. [There] is no appeals process for policy issues.”
> ‘draconian’ measures … are part of government policy’ … yeah, we already figured that. Nice to have it confirmed officially, though.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Nov 2014