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The Role of the Advisor

Here someone posted a link to an Ingeus (formerly, iirc, Working Links) video for potential advisers in their employ. I respond there and here as well. Here are my responses to what's said in that video.
Firstly, it would of course be very easy to target these people and call them the enemy, even though they are (certainly in my experience of the abominable Working Links), but these people are just part of the corporate machine dependent on them, and indirectly the taxpayer, as me. Unfortunately they are, at best, just not aware of the reality of the Work Programme and similar schemes. These people just channel buzzwords and corporate spiel and can pat themselves on the back when they get an 'outcome'.
Here we have the usual 'my job is varied therefore it's great' spiel, and also a rather blithe approach to the variety of experiences and issues that 'clients' (I'm going to use that word for convenience's sake, but it's just as stupid as JC+ calling the unemployed customers). For me, confidence issues, emotional, psychological and mental health issues aren't just a simple problem to be overcome by an action plan. They are real and integral to my experience. I personally do NOT feel confident or even comfortable in having such people 'boost my confidence', often by way of the sorts of courses that John Humphrey's investigated (baking cakes for instance) a month or so ago on the BBC. This is, at best, trivialising people's problems for the sake of an outcome. Certainly however I would consent to proper treatment/support from a qualified non-partisan professional, such as an NHS worker/therapist/whatever. But not from some advisor at Ingeus who's experience and motives I seriously question.
And this isn't helping these people to, shall we say, heal so they can become whole, but so they can be 'job ready' (another buzz prhase), so they can cope with an interview. Presumably these people believe that work cures all and so the best panacea for one's blues is a hard day's slog at the coalface. Hmmn. I wonder how many advisers have quit their job, across the industry, due to stress, anxiety, depression or whatever?
The mention of interviews, in relation to filinmg clients so they can 'practise' their interview skills just sounds Orwellian! In my opinion this focus on such things is just the industry's way of making it sound important; it's creating a problem where one needn't exist. I get there are some that find social interaction difficult, but that, again, is an issue for proper therapy. Interviews are merely interaction between two parties, what's there to learn? You talk to them, they talk to you, just remember not to punch them in the face, be sick, or rude to them - common sense surely? I'm not trying to be arrogant; I happen to think these organisations make this into the problem they are trying to solve in client's minds. In so doing they can send them to courses where they can learn 'skills' - and trouser a few quid in the process off the back of these people.
Now an advisor is talking about shopping expeditions to find, and presumably pay for, suitable clothing. What rubbish - there's no way they will be doing that! As if that’s even remotely true. It reminds of the nonsense Working Links posted on their website under one of their case studies (which included paying for the same client to have a go in a driving simulator, a spot of lunch in town whilst out shopping don’tcha know, while another client had their guitar repaired!). In other words, bollocks. They changed their website before I'd finished seeing them after I'd asked for funding for a push bike (a few quid to get one second hand). Didn't seem unreasonable to me given that they as a company advertised funding such things as guitar repair and driving simulator experiences. It's one thing to make your corporate spiel friendly and appealing, but the reality is something else entirely.
I notice their jobsearch is nothing unique – it’s using their computers to look on the DWP’s crappy archive. Which can of course be done from home, or even a local library. But these places will insist that clients turn up to use their, often over subscribed, facilities. Again the client is disempowered and not trusted.
They are talking about seeing 14 or so clients a day. So how many of them are going to be cold calling and writing spec letters (the same thing) each week. One adviser’s clients will then be in direct competition with another’s and all of them will do the same dance next week. What an utterly squalid waste of time and money. Of course these vermin will pat themselves on the back if even one of them gets a job stacking shelves at least. That will vindicate all of this nonsense. Do these advisers even question the effectiveness of these rote procedures? What is the point of just cold calling? What is the point of just sending out spec letters? Is it just to appear active and to be seen to make an effort? Employers don't want random letters and phone calls from people? How many times have you rang up a place of work to find out about vacancies and not even get through to the manager? It's a complete dead end.
Why don't we send these people to university or to further education (or whatever level is appropriate) for instance? Money, of course. It costs money to give people an education so why would Ingeus want to lose profit helping people this way when they can corall their clients into repeatedly doing the same tedious process over and over. There's nothing progressive there at all? It also limits them to looking in the local area, which itself may be the problem. If there's no work in that area, what on earth is gained by having all these clients fighting over the telephone? They also admit it's a target driven environment, which, really, says it all.
And what’s that, a customer left to read the newspapers? Presumably a local paper with a vacancies section. How easy is that? Ingeus just pop down the local papershop to pick up the weeks' local press? Such hard work! Most libraries have local newspapers as well as computers, they also don't have advisers on their case.
Curiously one advisor mentions, in respect of a client that didn't want to produce a CV (the client's choice I suppose), that it was his choice. I wonder if that's the reality and that refusing to participate in such a manner won't actually land him in hot water with the Jobcentre. Perhaps he just didn't want the advisor having access to the details on such a document.
They talk about appropriate behaviour and the adviser's position in challenging it (though not of course when an advisor behaves inappropriately). Their rationale is the workplace: instilling in their client 'workplace appropriate' behaviour, respect and conduct. Doesn't that strike you as a bit Orwellian? Seems rather an easy way to keep clients down by traducing their behaviour (without addressing it properly) accordingly. Of course you will have problem clients and of course some of them are just going to be difficult arseholes; that's life unfortunately. But there will also be people that have deeper issues and I question the effectiveness of people like Ingeus, who are only interested in meeting targets, in dealing with that. People aren't machines that can be 'repaired' according to a timetable, like an MOT; they are people - beautiful, mushy and occasionally quite fucked up.
Some of us, dare i say, just don't function in this kinds of environment.
And of course we have the idea of managing expectations. That seems like corporate shorthand for 'your goal is unrealistic, why don't you apply to stack shelves in the local tesco'. Well maybe some of us are better than that. Sorry, but it's true. If that's someones genuine goal or free choice then all power to them. But if all these places are going to do is ignore what you are interested in, passionate about and even have an aptitude for, then what's the fucking point?
That's certainly my experience of Working Links. They asked me what I was interested in. At first I was reluctant to answer; I knew they wouldn't help. Also having dealt with the likes of the JC for so long you just don't have the space or opportunity to think for yourself in this matter. You have to go along with whatever they offer you or lose your benefits. It's not always possible in that environment to follow your dreams, or even get the head space to try. When I did answer and tell her she just wasn't remotely interested and traduced my interests to nothing. Fuck that then.
So they say they are motivated to help people into long term work, but by what standard? The qualifier, as one of the advisers says, is work they have a good chance of getting. So right here is the key that allows them to cut short your goals: you have no experience of this, they will say, so your expectations have to be managed. That's the system the Work Programme is supposed to operate under. That's no guarantee of anything. It certainly wasn't my experience of Working Links, now called Ingeus. Cutting the wings of another human being is one of the cruelest things a society can do.


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