If you are on, or have been on the work programme, or one of the other workfare schemes, please get in touch with us, anonymously if you want, and let us know what happened and whether it was useful to you. email BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com or comment on this post.
At our demonstrations we’ve had many people stop and talk to us telling us that workfare did not help them, and the more of these stories we can publicise, the more pressure there is on the government to scrap the scheme and stop the providers profiteering from the taxpayer.
This is what Raman has to say:
They Took the air out of the Life Jacket
I had the economic misfortune to be on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for two years. During that period I applied for over 600 jobs, with no meaningful support from my advisers their only concern that I presented a little gray book on each visit to prove that I had looked for at least three jobs a week.
In my bitter experience only 1% of employers had bothered to write back. It might be argued that as a genuine job seeker I should have embraced any offer of help, however the options on offer was in the main for unskilled minimum wage jobs (the kind that I had been doing most of my life) not useful in order to gain long term vocational skills, it is often reported in the press that there is a shortage of qualified tradespeople and science workers.
The government has a captive audience ready to train and mould from scratch into being skilled workers of tomorrow and less of a feature burden for the tax payer. Yet instead of investing in retraining the governments policy appears to be to keep skills low so that low wages are a long term fact of life for a lot of people, which in turn could be argued is a good way of keeping the expectations of citizens of a low and intellectually bankrupt nature recent history has proved that it is easy for pr savvy but free of radical policy politicians to succeed amidst a society where apathy and illiteracy are high (Blair, Brown, Cameron).
The current training on offer via the Job Centre is basic customer service (how to serve some one in a shop) interview skills or basic IT. None of which would help the poorest in society embark on a more meritocratic journey out of poverty or decrease the chances of repetitive periods of welfare dependency.
Intraining a private company, brought in by the coalition, profit from such a society. The emphasis of their work culture is for the advisers to compete against one another in order to get their clients off the dole (into paid or unpaid roles), without long-term analysis or focus on a clients circumstances. Advisers are pitted against each other: a tally chart in the open plan office shows who is winning.
The advisers themselves seemed only trained to a narrow remit of bullying people off the dole and policing their set of policies the threat of benefit sanctions was threateningly repeated in any correspondence to ensure the compliance of the job seeker. The whole meting was very procedural.
Intraining’s programme is compulsory: the least a client can expect is to attend every fortnight for a work-focused interview (basically the same procedure as in a job centre, but at extra cost to the tax payer). The time I spent in their office amounted to a monitored job search (looking on the Internet in a confined monitored space) and filing in a form to get my bus fare back and signing on. Intraining keeps a client on their books for two years and if you were to secure employment off your own back they can approach the new employer for information to satisfy their statistics.
When I was asked what my long-term career goal was, I replied that I wanted to be a plumber and had been offered a place at a local college and would take it up were it not for the £200 fee that was required to secure one of the few places on this popular course. I was told that aspiring to be a plumber was akin to wanting to be an astronaut. It is of little relevance to their agenda. Despite signing off a number of months ago I’m still hounded by their phone calls.
Of course in a European Union where the hawkish mantra of cuts to public services (dictated to by unaccountable credit rating agencies) is the rule of the rulers a more supportive system, and investment in meaningful training, for those who are sinking in a sea of suffocating living costs seems unlikely in post Thatcher England as long as the current status quo is allowed to be politically dominant.