Tagged: unemployed tyne &wear

Jobseeker’s Agreement Fun & Games (Part 3)

Ok… round 2. I’ve now discarded the submissive attitude adopted for the initial interview and now its time to enter angry, cynical bastard mode (admittedly this seems to be pretty much my default state nowadays).

The adviser was allowed to play his hand in the first interview, and he proved himself to be one of those who would, if given the opportunity, steamroller the claiment into signing a Jobseeker’s Agreement  (JSAg) designed to set them up for sanctions, presumably with no qualms about the ensuing hardship their actions would cause.

Remember this, and remember it well – it’s YOUR life they will be disrupting, possibly destroying. They will continue on their merry way, drawing their rather good wage and probably basking in the praise they get for hitting their sanction targets at your expense.

So what are YOU going to do about it ? Because its  only YOU who can do anything about it.

Luckily its not so hard as you might think – or might be encouraged to think. Of course it helps if you’re a naturally stroppy person. Actually, I’m not, and once upon a time I’d have probably have allowed them to steamroller me too,  but the passage of the long, hard  years, etc – basically I’ve learnt how to play the part, studied how they play their parts, learnt the facts that they should know but so often seem ignorant of – pretty inexcusable when that knowledge should be central to the proper execution of their jobs, but there you go. It’s something you can use.

Knowledge is power, and can give you a little leverage – it’s up to YOU how you use it to best effect.

Archimedes said “Give me a firm place to stand, and I will move the Earth.”  That’s a little ambitious perhaps –  I’d settle for helping a few more cracks appear in the edifice – it may not be as dramatic as burning down the Jobcentre, but chipping away here and there has its effect.

Not much of one if it’s just me, but what if YOU join in, and YOU and YOU ?  And all the other YOUs who accept having deadly JSAgs foisted on them without argument, then whinge about it afterwards ?

If everyone refused to sign sub-standard JSAgs at the initial appointment and took the adviser to a second session, that would instantly impose extra strain on the system – and probably on the advisers too. More cracks for you to insert your metaphorical crowbar into.

But its down to YOU to act in your own best interests. All I can do is record how I’ve gone about things – hopefully it may inspire YOU and give YOU a few ideas.

Anyhow, enough about YOU,  how was I getting on back at the Jobcentre ?

Mr Submissive safely back in his box, Mr Bastard takes to the stage. As the adviser’s only previous experience of me is as the former, this apparant change of personality may throw him a bit.

Incidentally, I find it useful to take a few props along. Print out anything you think you might be able to quote at them, put them in a file, then add enough extra sheets (blank if you like) to give it a bit of weight so that it gives a satisfying thump when you dump it on their desk. If they query it, say  “Just a few notes…I’ve been looking into the legal implications”  or something on those lines. Leave it  vague – let their imaginations fill in the blanks, however erroneously.

A reporter’s notepad is also useful. Put it on  their desk to make sure they see it, but transfer it to your lap, out of their sight, to make notes. Actually, you dont even have to make notes – just appear to be doing so. doodle, scribble, whatever, it’s the fact that you appear to be making notes that is important. Once again, encourage their imagination to jump to conclusions. Oh, and dont forget a pen – you kind of lose points if you have to ask to borrow one of theirs.

The notepad can also be used to disrupt their flow, should you wish to. Just say “Sorry… could you repeat that ? I ought to make a note of that,”  and then scribble something on your pad for a while.

Mr Bastard also attempts to take control.  Mr Bastard is right in from the word go. He points out that the JSAg is a contract and that under English common law there are certain niceties that must be observed if it is to be  considered valid, does Mr Adviser not agree ? Mr Adviser has obviously never given a moments thought to the subject, is caught on the back foot, and resorts to umming and ahhing.

“Well it is, and it does,” Mr Bastard informs him, and moves on to the next issue.

You might recall from Part 2 that this adviser changed one of my specified employment fields on the JSAg to “assembly”, despite me pointing out that not only did I  have no experience in that field, I wasn’t even clear what “assembly” actually entails.

Mr Bastard  points out again that he knows nothing of this field,  and demands it is changed…but not back to the original job, instead he is willing to allow “Retail” to be inserted instead.

In actual fact, Mr. Bastard’s experience of retail is pretty much limited to working stalls at  markets and festivals – still, that’s 100%  more experience   than he has of  assembly. Mr. Bastard also knows that far too many retail jobs are part-time and zero hours, but he wont have to apply for those, as he specifies needing full-time work.

However, the important thing is that Mr. Bastard  is seen as willing to compromise and allow the Mr. Adviser to change one of his designated jobs (albeit one that he did not himself designate to start with). Mr. Bastard makes sure Mr  Adviser knows that he’s  making compromises, that he’s willing to do business. All bullshit really, but this perceived willingness to negotiate will look good should you need to take your case to independent appeal.

Still pushing the illusion of being Mr Compromise, Mr Bastard also states that he’s going to allow the total of  6 compulsory job applications per week to stand – a 100% increase on the existing JSAg. Mr. Adviser upped it from 3 to 6 at the initial appointment.

Six applications a week may not seem much, but taken in the context of the North East’s job opportunities… some weeks it’ll probably mean applying for 5 jobs I know I’m not going to get. The one bright spot is that email means I dont have to waste money on stamps and stationary anymore.

Mr Adviser did attempt to rally behind his assembly fixation – what the hell is is with him and assembly work ? If its so great, why isn’t he doing it ?  And, being Mr Bastard, I asked him that very question. He didn’t answer, but stated that assembly was where all the work is  locally.

Aha !  said Mr Bastard, who had spent a profitable and instructive 15 minutes prior to the interview printing off jobs from the Jobcentre’s jobpoints.

“Funny you should say that,” says Mr Bastard, “I’ve just been working my way through the top 100 local jobs, and guess how many assembly jobs I  found ?” 

Mr Adviser is not up to guessing games, but Mr Bastard tells him anyway – “Two !”  He dumps the job slips in front of Mr Adviser and goes on to point out that both require previous experience and arcane qualifications, neither of which Mr Bastard – as he has repeatedly pointed out – possesses.

Mr Adviser shrugs. But there’s more – Mr Bastard dips into his other pocket and extracts a far larger wad of job slips.  “By way of comparison, in the top 100 jobs on your job points I found no less than nineteen vacancies for self-employed leaflet distributors.”

And that’s the way of it folks – 2% assembly jobs, 19% leaflet distributors. In fact its probably worse than that – had I counted several other door-to-door, catalogue selling, commision based non-jobs in with the leaflet non-jobs, they’d have accounted for at least 25% of  work available on the Jobcentre’s (and thus the government’s) own job points.

Its the unpalatable fact that they wont acknowledge – last August the Financial Times highlighted a survey of vacancies by  Adzuna.co.uk,  described as   “a search engine that collects every online job vacancy.”

According to this survey, London and the southeast accounted for 46 per cent of UK vacancies… compared with just 3.3 per cent in the North East.

Anyone having to live on benefits in the North East knows this. Anyone looking for full-time work knows it’s even worse than that – once you’ve weeded out the part-time jobs, the zero hour contracts, and the 25% of “self-employed” scam non-jobs – what’s left ?

Very little.

We know it , they must know it too, but refuse to acknowledge it, and insist we continue to chase vacancies in which we have neither the specified experience or qualifications, which we know before we even send the application  that we wont be considered for.

If you wanted to design a system that seems  guaranteed to destroy self-confidence and morale, look no further.

Mr Bastard makes these points, but Mr Adviser is obviously not interested. After all, he has his job, his little bit of power over the plebs, and is fulfilling the the trust invested in him by Iain Duncan Smith admirably.

The session petered out around now, with Mr Adviser saying that he will have to book a double-session for next time, as Mr Bastard has to agree to the revised JSAg or it will be refered to a decision maker.

WE have to mutually agree on a contract, subject to English common law” Mr Bastard reminds him, and exits, feeling he’s  probably come out on top – and still hasn’t signed the JSAg.

To be continued …

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Benefits claimants are shortchanged by £5bn a year, says thinktank

It’s part of their culture…back in the 1980s I knew someone who worked for the DHSS (as it then was) but left precisely because she was always being told NOT to help people claim their full entitlements, only the barest minimum she could get away with. Things haven’t changed at all, except to get nastier.

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from the Guardian Society

Job centres
Benefits claimants are being shortchanged, says the Demos thinktank. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Millions of benefit claimants – who as a group fail to receive £5bn a year that they are due from the state – are being shortchanged by the welfare system rather than overindulged, a thinktank says on Sunday.

Rather than cutting benefits, ministers should seek to ensure that those on welfare receive their full entitlement, Demos says. Official figures show that one million people a year do not receive their full entitlement of housing benefit, equating to a failure by the state to pay out up to £3.1bn.

More than two million people a year do not apply for relief from paying their council tax bill, equivalent to more than £1.7bn in savings to the state. Meanwhile, the number of pensioners that were estimated to be entitled but not claiming…

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More Cuts For Durham County Council

More jobs will have to go at Durham County Council as civic centre chiefs look again at one of the region’s biggest series of budget cuts.

Over six years Durham will lose some £224m, and the latest plan to find £100m is seeing the council prepare for further service cut backs.

Council leader Simon Henig said the council has already lost more than £113m, and is well into current plans set to make some 2,000 staff redundant by the next financial year.

But even that total is now likely to be passed as the council look to the next three years of cuts.

After a lengthy consultation process in which the public was asked to use a Monopoly board-style game to identify priorities, the council is now ready to go with further cuts to museums, arts, some library support services and grass cutting.

Mr Henig said: “We are looking at the arts, but no one will see their entire contribution cut. We have a number of facilities across the county, the museum, the theatre and so on, but no one will lose out completely. It could lead to changes such as opening hours, but trying to avoid being too dramatic in these areas.”

Other savings confirmed include a reduction in school crossing staff and the switching off or dimming down of some street lights.

The leader said that, of the new savings identified, many would be met by back office cuts and efficiencies. “But you cannot keep cutting this,” Mr Henig said, “Sooner or later all you are left with is front line services to cut.”

He added: “Next year is when we will have to make some incredibly difficult choices about our services. The Government can’t just keep cutting this. You can’t look for efficiencies each year, they run out and then it is front line that goes. All councils will reach this point. We have been in a better position than some as we are the biggest council in the North East and have been able to find more savings, but we will reach that point next year where it is our front line that has to suffer. It’s inevitable.

“What we have asked for from the Government is fairness, for the North East to face the same reduction as all councils, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

“But we have instead seen councils in the South East and Home Counties having increases in spending powers, on the Government’s own figures.

“If we had the same reduction all round there would still have to be cuts but at least it would be fair across the country.”

> Is he really suprised ? As I’ve said before, neither Tories or Lib Dems, seperately or in unholy alliance, are likely to win power in the North East, so why should they care ? Well, yeah, plenty of reasons, but none that would occur to them.

More to the point, what we want to know is what Labour will do to rebalance things, should they win the next election. Very little, I suspect, but I’m up for a nice suprise. Not holding my breath though…

Council treasurer Don McLure set out the jobs risk of the Government not listening to those concerns.

He said: “The forecast we did on the first plan said 1,950 job losses, and that is likely to be the same as imagined over four years. That takes us up to 2015. There is another £100m to come, we need to look at them in more detail, but we are predominantly an employer, 70% of our budget is staffing we will have to look at that again.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Jan 2014