13 November 2015

The Joys of Regulation 23

The Jobcentre's powers to compel claimants to do things (useless or not) have limits but they have a nice little trick to get around the regulations.

Let's say you want to put on an information session for 50 jobseekers. Maybe you believe it's a good and useful session and compelling attendance your chosen group of claimants is the right thing to do. Or, more cynically, you know it's a great way to frustrate and inconvenience them into closing their claim. No problem - it works either way!

There's no official way to compel attendance at a Group Information Session - the guidances says:

5.  There is no mandatory requirement for claimants to attend a Group
Information Session and as such DMA action does not apply.  If a claimant
does not attend their Group Information Session their claim must not be

So what a lot of Jobcentres are doing is to issue a letter inviting claimants to the session but which goes on to say that afterwards they'll have an interview with an advisor and threatens that failure to attend the interview could result in loss of JSA.   This is "correct" because the The Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations say:

23. A claimant shall participate in an interview in such manner, time and place
as an employment officer may specify by a notification which is given or sent to the
claimant and which may be in writing, by telephone or by electronic means

What many jobseekers have found (me included) is that there is in fact no interview - just the session which may or may not be useful - and certainly wasn't in my case.

It's time it stopped

8 November 2015

Derbyshire Mandatory Youth Activity Programme: What the DWP didn't learn

This local scheme involved 8 weeks of  24 (some sources imply 30) hours/week unpaid work by claimants  plus some supported jobsearch. It was mandatory and very like some of the other DWP "Workfare" schemes.

On the face of it however, there was a crucial difference. According to the guidance

4. DMYAP is aimed to test whether a period of activity at the 26 week claim
point, will have a positive impact on sustainable job outcomes

Now, if we for a moment forget that this was a nasty untested mandatory scheme, there's actually something very exciting here - an intention to see if the scheme works!

So I asked for the results. After a tussle, the DWP sent me their evaluation reports. The main one is here and disappointingly reports "It has not been possible at this time to look at the employment impacts of DMYAP.". That's unfortunate especially since finding out about "sustainable job outcomes" was the avowed purpose. I look forward to a further report that covers this vital point!

The report is not without interest as a look at what they investigated hints at what the real priorities of the DWP were:
  • It showed a modest drop in claims. This is unsurprising - you do something unpleasant to claimants  and they go away.
  • There is a lot of data on how much money the scheme saved.
  • It claims to have improved the performance of  staff by giving them more time to work with those that were not randomly selected to go on DMYAP.
I'll keep prompting the DWP on the job outcomes issue.