JCP = Not Fit for Purpose

I am starting to think that I should stop watching Dispatches, I always end up being angry and appalled in equal measures at the people and organisations they expose. None more so than the inadequacies of the Job Centre Plus, clearly being unfit for purpose, that in itself is an interesting phrase, “not fit for purpose”, if ever there was an organisation ‘NFFP’ then the Job Centre Plus would seem to fit the criteria:
1. Not actively engaging or supporting people motivated to find a job
2. Not assisting employers to recruit employees
3. Not doing the basic support for people, i.e. CV creation, letter writing, etc.
4. Not assisting people wanting to start their own business
5. Not even checking the claim form which is used to check people have been looking for work and therefore are entitled to claim benefit

So yes, one would have to assume that it was clear to everyone that it was indeed ‘NFFP’, furthermore common sense would say that the level of detail they showed would make any defence imbecilic, so the only course of action would be to thank Channel 4 and say that this gives the Department a chance to clean up its act. To dig one’s heals in and go into defence mode would just go to show how incapable they are at facing their critics and equally incapable of changing, if you can see the problem in front of you, you cannot change it. Intelligent people would have said:

Wow that’s really bad but thank you for letting us see how far off the mark we are, and I will do everything I can to sort this out, please continue to expose such poor practice for us so we can change positively.

This acknowledgment that there is a problem is at least honest, as the evidence was completely undisputable, but instead of thanking them and therefore disarming the Reporter, what did the Ruth Owen do, the Civil Service boss of Job Centre Plus (JCP), she just dug her heals in and refuted what was being shown. In typical political mode she avoided answering the questions being put to her and slivered around the target like a snake curling round a hand and arm that grips it tightly. For all the world to see she made excuse after excuse in the most appalling display of ignorance I have seen in a long time, if she had not been trained to handle the media then why oh why did they put her in front of the camera, or it could be that the Civil Service media training is just rubbish, she was terrible!

The evidence that was secretly filmed included:
1. Putting a shopping list on the main weekly claim form where you are supposed to write down what jobs you have applied for and be therefore entitled to claim ‘dole’ money. The guy concerned worked with Dispatches and wrote on the claim form items such as cat food, and not in small writing either, yep a shopping list big and bold. He was then filmed handing it over to the JCP counter staff and they didn’t even look at it, they just said the money, the ‘dole’ money, would be in his account the following Monday. All you could hear was my jaw hitting the floor in complete amazement at this ridiculous farce unfolding before me. What is the point of making someone fill a form in to make them accountable for looking for employment if no one looks at the damn thing?!? What a complete waste of money and time! But there was more.

2. Dispatches also had a guy that was helping with the filming disguised in work overalls and even dropped him off right outside the front door in a clearly marked painting and decorating van. He went in, signed on, and no one challenged him, when it was obvious he was working. At this point I had to admit I was just laughing as this was like some comedy of errors that just went from one joke to another, the joke being the JCP. But there was still more.

3. The Director of the JCP, Ruth Owen, was confronted again about not even advertising their own jobs; yep you read correctly, the JCP did not even think to advertise their 200+ vacancies. Ruth denied this and so the reporter asked her to show him the jobs on the JCP website, after 40 minutes of Ruth, Ruth’s Assistant and someone else in the background could not find them, but would she concede, would she hell. Ruth came in with a print off claiming they had proof the jobs were advertised, when the reporter looked at the print-out it showed they were not the 200 jobs he was talking about, yes she tried to fake it and was humiliated on camera. The JCP didn’t even advertise their own job vacancies. By this time my laughter had been displaced and replaced with rants of anger, that this woman was so crap and that the tax payer were once again footing the bill for substandard government services.

Several people were interviewed about their experiences of the JCP supporting them to find work, or actually not helping them in these cases. One person arranged her own voluntary placement in a desperate attempt to increase her employability, and the JCP threatened to stop her money, yet it was said the JCP actually encourage people to increase their experience through volunteering. One person also claimed she was laughed at after she asked an advisor for help with the start-up of her own business. This young lady claimed she wanted to start up a Nanny type service and she was given no help whatsoever, and just had to do it herself, now she employs 20 Nannies for local families but never uses the JCP to help her as she has found them uncooperative at best.

This leads me on to my own experience of the JCP; I owned one company that recruited many hundreds of people and to be honest I only tried to use the JCP once. I worked with them to set up a 3 day recruitment drive to recruit 40 people, and the criteria was they had to be willing to learn, have good communication and written skills, due to the record keeping involved. We were inundated with CVs, I mean post bags full, most from people who were barely literate, people who even applied in languages other than English, some were handwritten and so poor one could not read them, others looked like they had been screwed up and then sent in, some even had coffee/tea rings on them. Most did not even bother orientating their covering letter or CV to the care posts on offer. We literally discounted 4 out of 5 applications and we struggled to fill the 130 interview appointments that were on offer.

I personally spoke to an advisor about the quality of the applications and she told me that it wasn’t their fault but a fault of the schools! What utter nonsense. No one had checked the CV’s of these people before they were sent to us, and this was also reflected by Dispatches when one undercover applicant asked for help with his CV and wrote on it, “I do not want to get a job, do not employ me”, and his advisor said the CV was fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Out of the 130 appointments we had available 60% didn’t turn up or notify us, most of those that did turn up, when asked why they applied for the job, what interested them in the positions we had on offer, replied that if they didn’t come the JCP threatened to cut their benefit, and they showed no interest in actually getting work. We wasted 3 days, a dozen of my staff were involved and we recruited 7 people, 4 of them had applied not via the JCP but by knowing someone that already worked for us.

I went as far as asking the JCP for a meeting to discuss this and how we could work together in the future and one was scheduled, but they never turned up. To be honest I recall a lack of surprise in this and never used the JCP again for recruitment as there was no point at all. This was a few years ago and it seems that by the evidence out forward in the Dispatches programme little has changed. 100’s of millions of pounds wasted in a system that is not fit for purpose, but there are some good people in the system and they need bringing to the top and people like Ruth need removing. There needs to be a route and branch review of the system and significant changes, allowing people within the system that have innovative and boundary pushing ideas to take a lead and explore those ideas, develop a change culture, a culture that embraces the ideas of their consumers, yes the people on the ‘dole’, why not?

Every successful company knows to engage its customers, to survey and obtain their honest views and ideas, to deliver a service that meets the needs of their consumers, to change as those needs change, to adapt and utilise information that they get from their customers. Why should the JCP be any different? It needs to be run on commercial lines, with commercial focus on the customers’ needs, and those not wanting to work need to be targeted and have their benefit stopped. I know this is brutal but why should the state keep people that have no desire to work? I just don’t understand this at all? I am not on about those unable to work because of ill health, mental or physical; I am specific about the people that can work if they wish to and avoid doing so.

I differ in one respect from the Channel 4 programme, they said that the scheme where people had to work and volunteer if a placement was found to them, was just cheap labour and of no benefit – paraphrasing. I believe that in return for work related benefit, or lack of work, everyone should have to do at least 30’s per week community service, such as gardening for the elderly, decorating for those unable to, but something to benefit the community that is in essence supporting them financially. Yes it would need managing and regulating, etc., etc., but at least the community benefits. If people refuse then that’s fine, that is their right to refuse of course, but then please do not accept financial support from the state. I don’t make any apologies for this stance, it benefits our communities, it shows people are willing to work, gives more experience to put on their CV, gets them out of the house and being a constructive part of the community, increases the likelihood of employment and everyone is a winner.

But for the sake of my blood pressure I do think I should reframe from any more Dispatches, well for now anyway.