5 May 2014

Conflict at the Jobcentre

In an ideal world, Jobcentre advisers and claimants have constructive discussions about the best way to get work and new employment would be found. The "system" recognises that this doesn't always happen and provides a mechanism called a "Jobseekers Direction" to force claimants to do what the adviser wants on pain of having their benefits cut. The guidance has changed over time but the main thrust is that it's a way of dealing with pig-headed claimants who won't act in their own best interests. Those with a jaundiced view of Jobcentres would worry about the power this places in the hands of inadequate or even bullying staff.

I've stumbled on a hint of an evidence stream that Jobcentres could use to detect abuse of the system. - if they so wished. I noticed the answer to a Freedom of  Information request and in particular some statistics about JSDs over short period in just one Jobcentnre. I've graphed them:

Now, it might be that there were some particularly recalcitrant claimants attending in early January 2013 who were quickly brought to heel so reducing JSD activity in subsequent weeks. Another possibility is that just one adviser was in a bad mood and had themselves a JSD-fest. Having worked in various customer-facing roles myself, the most likely explanation was that there was some sort of "initiative" in early January. Perhaps advisers were simply reminded that a JSD could be a useful tool?  (I recall going on a safeguarding course at one job and suddenly we were seeing appropriate cases everywhere!)

I would hesitate to offer firm conclusions about t what was going on. There's too little data. I can't tell if a single member of staff went off the rails or if a larger team had some input. But Jobcentre managers should monitor similar figures as a possible way of checking how the relationships between their staff and claimants are going. Perhaps they already do - I hope so.

PS: Related to this, see Results of PCS membership Survey on Conditionality and Sanctions (Posted 1 May 2014) especially:

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