Today is signing day. My appointment was 9:55, booked for me by the adviser I saw last time without asking me if it's convenient given the bus schedule. I'm supposed to be seen by a particular adviser called Hilary at a particular time called 10am. Quibbling over five minutes isn't really a big deal although it does mean I turn up a couple of minutes late. Ironically, and typically, the JC is also running late. This is because they are routinely short staffed on Fridays and don't seem to have much interest in rectifying that - as a Jobcentre! Quite why my appointment was set at 10am when they knew full well they have to rebook it, adviser too, each time, I don't know. Their computer systems are a joke, but what's the point in arguing.
Anyway I get signed, but in the process I'm asked about the Work Programme. Stupidly, though I didn't feel I had much of a choice, I told them I hadn't been seen since April. I don't really like bullshitting anyway, it always comes back to haunt you - and why should I, I've done nothing wrong. Apparently however that's not the case: I was warned that I could be sanctioned if I didn't contact them. The adviser explains to me that it's now the case (again, apparently) that, even if the provider does nothing to help you nor contacts you, that you can be sanctioned! Fortunately for me, I suppose, she didn't do this.
I asked for evidence of this and was provided with this form. However the notice I was given is supposed to be provided when you are sent to the Work Programme (so not new then), it's WP01MA4 (v1.1 August 2011 - so again not new then).
Essentially it's a broad and vague 'contract' that tells you what you are meant to do on the Work Programme:
"Your responsibilities whilst on the Work Programme are to:
- make the most of the help your provider gives you
- treat the provider and other participants politely, fairly and considerately
- attend meetings or take phone calls at the times agreed
- completely any activities the provider tells you to do
- tell JC+ about any change in your circumstances, and
- if you claim JSA, attend the Jobcentre every two weeks and continue to be available for and actively look for work. This is on top of anything that your provider tells you to do. You must still meet all of the usual conditions to get your benefit.
Your benefit may be affected if you don't meet these requirements."
So again we have the threats, vague but obvious (there's no 'may' about it; if you don't do these things - you will lose your money). Never mind the contradiction in being told you have to be available for work and still sign on while also having to do whatever your provider tells you to do (i.e. workfare). This is so much shit.
No mention of the word mandatory here. It simply says you must do as you are told; it doesn't explain that mandatory requirements have to be made thus according to specific procedures, nor does it say that ma mandatory activity has to be part of the action plan (though they may well have changed that. Best to look here and here to find out more). It also doesn't say, in any way, that I have to contact them. Not at all. I knew it wouldn't, but I wasn't going to argue the point.
So the crux is again that the JC can just accuse you of not 'engaging' with the process through the most vague and broad definition of non compliance, even though there are specific rules put out by the DWP to providers to follow. You can easily it seems be accused of non compliance, have your money stopped, and then referred to a proper decision maker who may (or may not - if you're very lucky!) concur. This issue of 'not engaging' seems just broad enough of a brush to cover anyone for anything (or nothing). This is wrong.
What the document says about sanctions:
"What do do if you get a sanction
Even if you have a sanction and your benefit is affected, you should still attend the Jobcentre and meet your Work Programme provider every time you are asked to. If you fail to do so, you may lose your benefit for a longer period or your claim may be closed.
If you keep in touch with your provider, they will still help you to find a job. We want you to stay with the Work Programme because we're committed to giving you the best possible help to find a job."
So how do i afford the bus fare (never mind if it gets refunded by the WP) to sign on and see my provider while my income is taken away from me? Also it says here that I have to meet my provider when they ask; again nothing about me contacting them. What's this about closing claims? Sanctions aren't meant to do that, they are simply a period within which you get no benefit. I know you are (somehow) meant to sign on in order to maintain your claim though. That must be what they mean. Bit of a joke really; you have no money so how can you sign on?
"How a sanction affects JSA
A sanction means that your JSA is stopped for a fixed number of weeks. Sanctions last longer if you've already had a sanction before.
Your sanction could be ended early if your provider can give us evidence to show that you are serious about meeting your responsibilities for the rest of the Work Programme. To do this, you should meet with your provider.
The earliest that JC+ can review your sanction is after four weeks."
So that's a month you have to starve and somehow find bus fare to even be in a position to grovel to your new master. This is appalling.
"How a sanction affects ESA
ESA is made up of two parts; the basic rate and a work-related part. If you get a sanction, the work-related part will be cut by half for the first four weeks and in full after this until you complete the activity set by your provider."
Note that on ESA providers are supposed not to compel claimants to do things they can't cope with (why that doesn't apply to everyone I don't know). The activity must be 'reasonable in your circumstances'.
Finally I'll post this:
"What you can expect from the Work Programme
As part of the Work Programme you can expect to:
work with your provider and discuss what help you need to prepare for and find work as well as things you'll do to improve your chances of getting a Job, and
be treated politely fairly and considerately.
Additionally the provider will:
keep your personal data secure and will not share it with any unauthorised third parties
comply with current legislation including the Equality Act 2010, and
not discriminate against you because of your age, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation."
Hilarious. We'll ignore the Salvation Army's biblical view of sexual orientation. Of course it does none of these things. Which is why I won't be contacting them.