As I sit here I’ve got 6 hours to go before I have my appointment with a long wait in a scary place. Hopefully not too long.
When I woke up this morning I dug out the recording I’d made of my last encounter with the bullying Work Programme adviser I saw in November. 31 minutes made for painful and confused listening. I’d forgotten I’d recorded this; my MP3 player has a record function I might try and use later though I don’t anticipate anything particularly revelatory coming from it. I had intended to go through this recording and, after some judicious editing, upload it. I may do that later, not because I want to show off but so I can be as objective about the situation as I can. One of the most awful aspects of the Work Programme is how it can seed terrible self doubt; it’s difficult enough for me at the best of times trying to be objective about situations.
I’m not entirely sure listening back has helped my state of mind. I don’t think added anxiety was the best thing I could do to myself today! It is interesting and so I decided to contact Employment Plus again to clarify the situation regarding CV’s. The appointment ended acrimoniously when I refused to give up my CV to the adviser. I had offered, three times in fact, to show him the CV (I could have just sat there and said ‘yep, I’ll bring it next time’ and done nothing), he wasn’t interested. He insisted that not only was it ‘part of compliance’ (which means threat of sanctions if ignored) to hand over a CV, but he was specific that their staff, Employment Engagement Coordinators, needed it to apply for work on my behalf. I didn’t think that sounded productive then, and so I wanted to check.
Turns out I was right… as much as is possible to get anything clarified from the Work Programme. I have just spoken to a lady at the Bristol office (their main office didn’t seem to have anyone on hand who could answer) who confirmed they cannot and do not (at least explicitly) apply for jobs without my permission. So what does that make my former adviser if not a complete bullying liar? He was very specific as I’ve just explained. However it is a part of the Data Protection Act that they cannot change that information without my permission, nor can they just send it off to all and sundry. She herself admitted it would make no sense to do so (I don’t think she believed me, but I didn’t identify myself). Of course it wouldn’t.
However, I’m not 100% clearer. She did seem to indicate that it’s part of the rules, particularly in regard to JSA and now Universal Jobmatch, that handing over a CV is required – but also that permission is required to do so. I’m not entirely sure how that works, it all sounds terribly Orwellian: “you are free to give us your CV, but if you don’t then you’ve broken the rules”. Trying to clarify this leads them to a broader question of your efforts: “why would you not want to give us your CV?” She assured me that they wouldn’t do anything nefarious with it, but I’ve already been lied to.
The Universal Jobmatch aspect is the most troubling. No one seems to really understand how this works. She seemed to suggest that if I upload my CV to it and give permission for the JC to access it (so the adviser can see it when you sign) that it then becomes entirely public and that the Work Programme could then access it. I’m not entirely sure that’s correct; it was my understanding that ticking that box only gave the DWP access, perhaps that extends to their partners in the Work Programme. Even so the initial point seems clear – as clear as it can be from these people (so take that for what it’s worth) – even if you give them your CV they can’t do anything with it sans your permission. So why bother giving it to them? Oh but you sort of have to, er?
I guess in the end it won’t really make any difference. If they did spam my CV off to some employer, or worse one of these awful job/cv agencies (probably selling it to make a quick buck), then that information is out there and that cannot be undone. If you subsequently tried to lodge a complaint it will likely be overshadowed by the question of you refusing the job your details were given to. That is unacceptable, and is an odious way to treat people with mental health/behavioural issues in my opinion, but no doubt will lead to a sanction on the grounds of not taking up a valid work opportunity – no matter how nefarious the context. With the DWP you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Though, thankfully, this situation remains hypothetical. Just another interesting titbit from the good Christian folk at Employment Plus.