Ever since my first contact with Jobcentre Plus I have wanted to write a blog post about it and Channel 4s Dispatches have given me the motivation to actually do it.
I don’t know if any of you saw Dispatches this evening, but if you did you would have seen a programme which basically highlighted how useless Jobcentre Plus is at fulfilling its main purpose – to find people jobs.
I would like to say that my experience of Jobcentre Plus was nothing like that shown and that in actual fact I was provided with an excellent service, if I were to say this I would however be lying.
As a newly unemployed graduate I was worried about my first appointment at Jobcentre Plus. I had prepared myself for a bombardment of questions “Why don’t you have a job yet?!” “Why have you come to us so soon after graduating?!” “What have you been doing with yourself?!” and had my answers all worked out. I was however surprised that I didn’t get any questioning of the sort. They didn’t even ask to see proof that I had finished my university course. When working out my Jobseekers agreement and asking about relevant experience I was really going in to detail about the recent Internship I had just completed and was about to explain what kind of work this entailed, but the initial adviser, although very friendly, did not really seem to care. Once my agreement was finalised I was told I would have to return in 2 weeks time at 11.10 for a diagnostic interview. I was given a letter with the time and date highlighted and reminded several times about attending. Then off I went to search for jobs. (During this first experience one Jobcentre Plus employee said to my adviser “I just said to the last guy “to help you find work, why don’t you go back to your own country and stop taking our jobs” ” . Although this may have been a joke I don’t think it was in any way appropriate behavior in front of clients)
The following week was my first signing on. I had to have done at least 3 things that week to prove I was searching for work, I had filled in that I had done 7 and had even heard back from a prospective employer, inviting me to undertake the next part of the assessment process. My name was called and I produced my work booklet expecting some kind of discussion about the sorts of things I had been doing to search for work. My hopes of any kind of discussion were soon dashed. I had to bring up the invite to the assessment myself and soon became annoyed that this person just did not seem to care at all about what I had been doing. A few minutes late I left Jobcentre Plus in belief that maybe after my diagnostic interview things would improve.
Almost a week later I was left a voice mail telling me that my interview time had been changed from 11.10am to 16.20pm. So once again I walked down to the Jobcentre Plus and explained that although my letter said 11.10 it was rearrange to 16.20. I eventually sat down with an adviser who told me that they had no record that my appointment had been changed and that they could not see me on that day. I was to return the following week at 9.20am.
Off I set the following week, hoping that there wouldn’t be any mix up this time. The letter stated that the appointment could take up to 40 minutes. I left Jobcentre Plus 15 minutes later feeling once again that the people just did not seem to care. The adviser was once again very friendly but did not offer me much advice. This was probably not helped by the fact that on the Direct Gov system, the one advisers use to search for jobs, that no jobs matching my agreement codes were coming up. I found this odd as the websites I use all advertise the types of jobs I wanted to go in to, and yet Jobcentre Plus had nothing. The adviser asked if a CV workshop would be useful to me, but I said it probably wouldn’t. She just accepted my answer without even looking at my CV. In an attempt to get her interested I suggested she could look at a copy I had with me if she wanted. It amazed me that no one had looked at it thus far, as although many employers now prefer applications a CV is still usually the first thing you need when job searching. Upon leaving I was told I would have another interview in 2 weeks time, this one lasting up to an hour.
Almost two weeks later I received a reminder text on a Thursday stating “Do not forget your appointment at the Jobcentre Plus tomorrow, Wednesday…”
So off I set on Friday (not Wednesday) back to Jobcentre Plus. This interview which could last up to an hour lasted all of 10 minutes. Once again the Direct Gov site came up with no matches and I was told quite frankly that there was not much a place like the Jobcentre Plus could do for someone like me. As I had been to Uni and knew the type of role I wanted and where to look for them, I was told I was best placed to search. This is not really what you want to hear from a place which is supposed to offer you support and guidance.
Luckily for me that last appointment at Jobcentre Plus will be my last one (at least for the foreseeable future) as I have been given a conditional job offer for a role at a City Council. A role I found all by myself with very little interest or support from Jobcentre Plus.
I wouldn’t say my experience of Jobcentre Plus was especially bad, just very unhelpful. I really expected the advisers to be a lot more interested in my job search and be a lot more interested in me as a person and my experiences. But I felt Jobcentre Plus was just a place I went to in order to get my benefit paid. Not to find a job.
Change is needed. The staff need to be better trained in how to match people to jobs and need to use other sources for job searching rather than just Direct Gov. They need to have specialists that know what employers in certain areas are looking for and how best to place people in those positions. They need to be more supportive and interested in the people they are dealing with and need to actually care about getting the person into employment. As the fact is that many people on Jobseekers Allowance are desperate to find employment but can’t without the right support and guidance.