When we think about the JobCentre, we have a particular image in our heads, the one that is constantly drummed into us by the media. We have been led to believe that programmes such as Benefit Street and The Jeremy Kyle Show, along with behaviours such as laziness, drug abuse and fighting are all by products of the unemployment rates in our country, and while this may be true in some cases, this dangerous stereotype can often be misconstrued. Derogatory remarks such as ‘scum’, ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit fraud’ make the headiness of our national newspapers, and are plastered all over social media sites when discussing unemployment, further clouding our judgement on the realities surrounding many of the people servicing job centres. A recent study by Ipsos MORI showed that the British public now believes that on average every 24 people out of 100 are unemployed, when the actual figure is only seven.
The media paints an ugly picture of the unemployed.
The truth surrounding unemployment is very real and very different to the bias picture often painted by the media. In actual fact there are a lot of people out there who are trying extremely hard to find a job but for many reasons are struggling. Jobseeker’s Allowance is meant to be there to support these people whilst they look. But how helpful is the JobCentre really for those who truly need it?
Early last year an article in The Mirror came to light about how JobCentre Plus advisors were told to do their jobs and it was very revealing. An anonymous source who used to work as an advisor told The Mirror about how they were told to ‘agitate’ the service users to make them angry and upset so that they would lash out. As a result of their behaviour these people would then be refused their benefits, in turn creating the illusion that unemployment levels had dropped in Britain.
Shows such as Benefits Street tar all unemployed people with the same brush.
The source also told The Mirror that the managers would often change people’s appointments without informing them so that they would miss their slots and not receive their money. This is exactly what happened to Anne*, 21. After graduating with a degree in Commercial Photography Anne was unable to find employment so went to the Job Centre to seek help and advice. During this time she was sent on courses on how to write your CV even after explaining that she had spent a great deal of time learning how to improve her CV while at University. Anne tells of how the JobCentre belittled her, telling her that she should apply for jobs elsewhere as it was very unlikely she would ever get a job in the Photography field.
Late last year Anne got an unpaid internship but was then told she could no longer claim Jobseeker’s Allowance as it counted as part time work. After calling Citizen Advice, Anne was advised to inform the JobCentre that it was voluntary work she was undertaking and that she would not be receiving any income for her time, however it still took numerous appointments before the JobCentre agreed with this.
The JobCentres job is meant to be to help not hinder.
These unfair tactics do not prepare people for work at all, instead it breaks down their self-esteem resulting in them leaving feeling frustrated and wanting to give up completely. It took a couple of months before Anne went back to the JobCentre as she felt intimidated by the experience.
I also spoke to Yan, 24 who until last June has worked since he was 16 years old and who has extensive experience in Marketing. “I understand they have targets to meet, but they really do not help the individuals. Their bullying tactics and power hungry persona make people feel worthless and stupid”, Yan tells me. Even after Yan had evidence of applying for many jobs and organising interviews in the Marketing Industry he was told to take his CV down the street and hand it in to all the shops. If he didn’t, he was told that his allowance would be cut.
Not everyone on jobseekers is a scroungers
The JobCentre is supposed to be there to aid people in finding employment, but not only do they not do this ineffectively they also intimidate their service users and ruin their confidence, which could led to them giving up on finding a job all together. Yes, there are some people that take this system for granted, but the majority of people are just asking for a little of help without being made to feel an inconvenience. After all, isn’t that the JobCentres job!
By Britt King