Aside from angry posts to the Guardian venting my ire about the government's slave labour scheme I am facing my next Work Programme appointment, number 4 in fact. This time it will be conducted over the phone tomorrow. I have no idea when that will be, typically, which is why I'm not a huge fan of telephones, but it's better than turning up at the cold cramped and utterly unsuitable church hall.
Now that I think about it, I'm, of course, beginning to dread it. Naturally. This is because they have nothing to offer, have no experience or ability to deal with people that have the problems I have (god forbid if they have to deal with more serious cases - but then that's why they expect you to have a carer), and yet expect to get results, so they can get paid. It's a mess. So I anticipate an expectation of progress in some form. The only progress has been in the severity of my anxiety, something they of course can't help with. I'm still waiting for the support they claim they can refer me to. No doubt that will vapourise and they will, again, revise their previous claims and comments. I don't really know how much longer I can sit back and be wrong footed like that. It forces you to become passive and scapegoated - as if you misunderstood them while they explained to you what actually happens.
I was sent some brochures for casual (ie stuff that won't get you a job) evening classes last time. That's the extent of their ability to offer training: expensive private courses that are merely casual affairs - no formal qualifications etc. Now there's nothing wrong with such things, but these aren't really going to lead me anywhere and, more importantly, they are extremely expensive. I'm not entirely sure what the expectation was with that, maybe they'll offer to fund them, but I presume they expect me to take up something like Modern Patchwork (I'm being a bit disingenuous, but that;'s the sort of stuff). The idea was to do 'Creative Writing' though I'm not sure why, since - at the risk of sounding very arrogant - I can already write (don't judge from this, I don't proofread or draft what I type here). Such a course is unlikely to really lead anywhere; it's just a casual outlet. More pertinently, there are no courses listed for under £60 (not including other expenses such as getting there). These are casual workshops that wont address my problems nor really help to get a job - they aren't really intended to either, I don't think.
I'm not trying to be negative (it comes naturally), but if fobbing me off with a list of workshops run at the local vegetarian cafe is really the best the Work Programme can offer, and it's what they expect me to do on pain of...well that's what worries me - workfare? Sanctions? Non compliance? If that's what's expected of me, because that's the best they can do, then, frankly, why bother?
It seems really, criticism aside, that what they expect of the client is far more than what the client can reasonably expect from them. It's far from a partnership. It's just a joke. The point I'm trying to make isn't to have a knock at casual workshops and casual community centre courses, it's great such things are provided. But is this really the best I can expect from the flagship back to work scheme tasked with dealing with people of all backgrounds, particularly people with mental health issues? A nice bit of macrame will sort me out?