Top Tricks of the Dole Cheats was how the show was labelled. Didn't see much evidence of any tricks, in fact the whole programme was deeply surreal.
The first half was more in keeping with the title. C4 had connived with a pair of willing apparent jobseekers to try and make it seem as though they weren't really looking for work. Firstly they had one chap write his shopping list in his jobsearch and apply for a job in the most negative way possible by writing an application that included an admission to not want the job at all. I'm not sure what that was to prove as it would have had nothing to do with the JC anyway since it would have gone directly to the employer concerned, presumably. Secondly the other chap dressed up as a painter and was dropped off outside the JC (supposedly so that the staff would notice, no guarantee they would or could given the camera angle) in a fake company van.
In both cases they 'got away' with their efforts. Subsequent commentary from talking heads that used to work in the Jobcentre explained how apparently useless the system subsequently was. But this proves nothing. Should the adviser have noticed the screwy jobsearch? Well they look over mine every time I go in. It's entirely likely that the adviser was busy and didn't have time. It's also possible that the person was on the Work Programme where signing is a minimal affair. It may be that the adviser just didn't care. We are meant to think the JC are just incompetent: the 'painter' was not reported under suspicion of fraud, yet no explanation was given. Again I suspect that the adviser simply believed him when he said he'd been decorating his house; not exactly implausible is it. So the JC is meant to suspect everyone that isn't suitably attired now?
It also raises an interesting question: what would have happened to either one of these stooges had they actually been 'caught'? The penalty for sabotaging a job application is a sanction. If you fail in your jobsearch requirements (and both claimants had wildly different requirements) you can be referred to a decision maker pending a possible sanction (assuming the adviser can't sanction you there and then). If you are suspected of fraud then expect the machinery of the DWP to look into your situation. In each of those circumstances the effect is pretty severe. Would Channel 4 have stepped in to explain the situation? Would that even carry any weight with the DWP? Jobseekers aren't meant to waste time participating in amusing television stunts, so why should they cut them any slack. There's something wrong with the picture.
The rest of the programme focused more on the effectiveness of the JC toward helping people get back into work and to find a job. But hang on, isn't that what the Work Programme is for? Yet not once, including during some rather embarrassing moments with the head of the JC, was the WP even mentioned. Things like CV preparation and searching for a job are now in the hands of the private sector, yet I don't see C4 looking into that. They even set up an 'alternate' jobcentre in a local cafe where nearby unemployed types could get advice from one of three recruitment specialist in exactly the fashion the WP is intended. Predictably this stunt provided a more favourable outcome compared with the JC (though no word on whether anyone that came along got a job). So C4 has unwittingly provided an advert for the WP.
They touched on workfare very briefly. But only to say that it's a scheme that's intended to get people into work. Of course no discussion on the self defeating nature of that idea. Instead they talked to a young woman who had tried to get support from the JC to set up her own nannying business, again with no help from the JC. We see her look through a couple of jobseekers, sent from the JC, to apply for positions she offered after explaining she no longer uses the JC to helop her find staff. Predictably again the applications are of an embarrassingly low quality. Again, no criticism of the private sectors charged with dealing with exactly these issues.
The whole affair culminates in an intriguing expose of the incompetence of the DWP's own jobsearch system wherein the head of the JC, Ruth Owen, is challenged to find any of the DWP's own vacancies on its system. She fails. It's all a little bit In The Thick Of It; she leaves the interview to go and find out why a particular recent vacancy isn't advertised and I half expected Malcolm fucking Tucker to appear and give the C4 journalist a severe dressing down! Ruth comes across as more embarrassed than annoyed. A bit like a rabbit in the headlights in many ways.
This documentary must have been filmed a fwe weeks ago, and the website is still as crap as ever. They have added some kind of 'basket' function, like an online store, wherein I can add jobs, as I browse, to it. But the quality and organisation is still atrocious, something even C4 noticed. On the whole we don't really learn anything new and miss the point on many occasions. Most of us know how useless the JC is, but increasingly, and more so over the coming months as the WP takes an even greater hold, it isn't there to do the things C4 seems to think it is. This isn't once challenged - and neither is the amount of money quoted by Cameron as lost to fraud in the clip briefly shown in the programme. The accuracy of the issue of fraud, how widespread it is and how much it costs, is ignored. In the end we are nowhere new. I would much rather see an expose of the many failings of the wretched WP, but it seems that the Jobcentre has been used as a scapegoat for those failings. Increasingly then it would seem the JC is irrelevant (despite having people working there) and ultimately, again, the goal is privatisation - the WP is the first step. Soon JC won't exist and those people will be unemployed themselves.