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Is the Honeymoon Over?

With a thud a brown envelope hits the doormat. Ominous.

It's contents are a DWP summons to a post Work Programme support interview with 'Brian', at the Jobcentre on the 3rd of April at a time not conducive to bus travel. This alone will have to be addressed otherwise I will either be 20 minutes late or 45 minutes early. Of course the idea that they ought to book these appointments (done without my input) with more foresight is unreasonable. What else can we expect; I don't imagine asking them to change the time will be easy (I don't imagine even getting through will be).

So we're back to dealing with the unpredictable scrutiny of the Jobcentre. Though as I knew my time on the wholly useless WP was ending, this is not unexpected.

I have no idea what will come from this; it might be benign - or it might be a prelude to the kind of intense compliance that has been touted by the government. Consequently I am dreading it. The thought of having to attend, or even wander aimlessly around an empty town centre for 45 minutes waiting, makes my stomach churn. This is really down to two things: 

Firstly, I am being seen by someone who (presumably) is not trained in mental health and has no real understanding of the relevant issues. I could bring along the letter from the NHS telling me about my next Aspergers assessment appointment. Hopefully the words 'Assistant Psychologist' will carry some weight, but I fear that, being in the Work Related Activity Group (be careful what you wish for, Ghost Whistler!), may well be no defence against whatever horrors await.

Secondly, and following on, I am being seen by someone representing a system that makes certain demands, and demands certain results. This is made worse by the aforementioned lack of understanding: I have to assume they want something from me. In which case it is likely they will advocate wayward and possibly unhealthy courses of action - workfare even, and, by way of justification, will resort to dangerous assumptions and ignorance of my capabilities (and indeed interests - much as the WP has done so far). They will say such things as "other people with (aspergers/anxiety/paranoia/terminal indolence) work", which is a hackneyed favourite that only serves to avoid any responsibility to help.

The uncertainty as to what to expect is unforgivable in my opinion. They know they are dealing with someone that has issues, but woe betided giving them any stake or input into this process. From the process of making the appointment, through informing them (except with the usual threatening caveats about loss of benefits - the only certainty present), to explaining what is involved and how, I have no say - and yet it is all supposedly for my benefit, ironically. Presumably then I will be seen in the open plan office, not a private room (I could ask, but again will it be more trouble than it's worth), in full earshot of others. I will likely have to wait to be seen even at the time allotted (as well as prior), again in a place I do not feel comfortable being in anymore.

All of this is the same as having to attend the Work Programme: it's the same guarded secretive process where the only thing that is explained are the brutal consequences of not attending. I would need 'good reason' not to do so, another certainty is that I won't be able to give them anything near satisfactory. The same irony as the ATOS assessment: attendance = losing the battle while non attendance = complete failure. It is a horrible bind; the modern catch 22.

Just like the Work Programme I will be isolated, alone. I will have to live with the everyday terror this invokes. Okay that sounds rather melodramatic; what I mean to say is that this whole process is singularly alienating. It instills a pervasive level of stress into one's life that just never seems to end. I remember making my way to the Salvation Army church hall and feeling utterly sick. Granted there are certainly people far worse off than I (and that is another certainty), but all that knowledge does is further compound the isolation. This is what they want; this is how the poor and the feckless are meant to think - don't be an outsider, get off your arse and work for £fuck.all (if you can find anything of course, never mind the barriers created by health issues). Individuals going through all this - and one of the reasons I started this blog - are kept isolated; kept alone with the fear created by government's threatening rhetoric and the insecurity of not knowing what awaits them. 

I can only hope that what does await me won't be as unpleasant as my initial appointments (of the few that I had - I guess the adviser that took over at the end of last year just gave up) with the Work Programme. But who knows. I'm also conscious that the Work Programme may well have been asked to give feedback on my time, which, I'm sure, will not look good. Sadly in my experience there is precedent for this; as well as the bullying adviser I saw, they lied to the JC after my GP wrote and asked the JC what they were doing for me. In some ways I rather wish he hadn't bothered; how was he to know that doing so, probably with noble intentions, would be like kicking an anthill; rocking the boat. 

I suppose there is no getting out of this. I just wish I could be left alone to get on with my life. Why is it deemed so worthless that I must be bulled into dreadful situations for someone else's gain?


  1. I'm trying to remember back to my first appointment with JCP after being put in the WRAG. I think what happened was they drew up an Action Plan, so that's something to expect. However, things keep changing and that appointment of mine was long ago, I don't know how different it is now. I think they explained "what help was available" to someone on ESA. But it wasn't much. It really was just the Work Programme or Work Choice. I've tried both and found them equally useless. I look forward to reading your blog on it to find out what happens now. As an unemployed ESA, no doubt I'll be summoned back in some time soon.

    1. Not knowing is the worst part, along with decisions made without my input. I may have to speak to the Work Psychologist; imsure she'll seem helpful but have no power.

  2. I claim JSA not ESA so I can't really comment from experience, but as someone who has finished the Work (sic) Programme and is now being put through the PWPS rigmarole I can only say I wish you well in your struggle with the petty officialdom and bureaucratic process you will face.

    When will the government admit that these programmes aren't there to help people like us (the unemployed in general I mean) and are simply there as a means to generate profit for the private sector, or else make politicians look good by allowing them to pretend they are "dealing with" unemployment?

    1. that nonsense are they subjecting you to?

    2. I left the Work Programme last July. Since then I've been sent on several courses, all of which have been either CVs, interview techniques, etc. The usual rubbish basically. I've also attended several interviews with "advisors" at the Jobcentre since then (typically once a month or so).

      Not as bad as some have had to put up with so far, but I've got a horrible feeling things are about to heat up soon...

  3. How can you be on post work programme support when those on ESA WRAG have no end date to their work programme participation?

    You were on the work programme on JSA, did they re-refer you when you went onto ESA and not bother to tell you?

    Tread carefully, WP people aren't likely to know the actual rules but are likely to sanction you.

    1. I don't know, and I don't understand.

      The letter says'Post Work Programme Support', it also contains a page entited 'Sanctions Fact Sheet' that says:

      "an important change in the law with could affect your ESA started in 12/2012...At present your are in the WRAG. This means you must atend and take part in work-focused interviews if you are asked to do so, to qualify for your benefit. You may also have to carry out work related activities that your adviser thinks will help you be able to return to work in the future. If you do not take part in these interviewes/actitivies without good reason, your payment would previous have been reduced (don't get the wording) until you comply. We call this a sanction."

      Something isn't right here; do you have more information on this? I doubt that, ringing up the JC (or the WP - if I still had their number), they would agree.

  4. All I know is what I have been told via CAB and via the various fora. Benefits and Work will have more defined info on it. Failing them, try Consumer Action Group (Benefits forum) and hope that Starry Eyes answers (she's researched a great deal of verifiable info on ESA)

    I wouldn't bother ringing the WP about this. They give incorrect info as default.

    It looks to me that JC+/DWP and WP have messed up with this.

    1. I rang the JC (well the number on the letter, another switchboard I guess, it's a different number everytime they contact me). The guy I spoke to, without giving my details away, was clear: according to him the WP is two years regardless of your circumstances, and that, in the WRAG, they would (as they have) write to me and get me back in.

      The problem is, if that's what the DWP staff think, it's not really going to matter if they are acting incorrectly. Either I do what they say or they sanction me.

      I shall have to find out more, perhaps the superb Judith at the CAB (she helped my appeal, can't fault her) could help.

      Thanks for the replies. If you know any more, please do post. This is definitely important. If this is all correct then either the WP are acting out of ignorance or they just want shot of me (parked and passed back asap it would seem - not their problem anymore!).

  5. The JC+ guy is wrong. There is no end date for ESA WRAG on the WP.

    I'm having a rummage about for more info, but contacting Judith would be an excellent thing to do.

    1. Thank you for your help. This might also be of use to others in a similar position that are reading.

  6. Paragraph 5

    So it was announced before March 2012. I remember hearing Osbourne announce it in the House of Commons. I will keep looking. People seem to have forgotten about this issue.

    1. Isn't that referring to work experience, not the work programme? Those are two different things.

    2. The work experience they are referring to is part of the WP. I see Starry Eyes (Margaret) has given you an answer, I'd trust her, she's wise and has been into these matters deeper than most people could - a bit like Ephemerid on CiF.

      I still can't see anything that separates the two issues anywhere. In one DWP press release it's banging on about suitability of work experience, voluntary agreement etc, then implies that this will be compulsory.

      If you are at the end of your time on ESA then you may have got a new referral, and just not been told.

      There's a good letter on Refuted regarding conscientious objection and being sent to religious organisations. Might be useful!

    3. The reply confirms what the JC told me: the WP is a two year thing regardless of benefit. So naturally this post WP interview is legit, if undesirable. The only recourse now is to see if the Work PSychologist can intervene. Frankly it would make more sense if an actual psychologist could interview me, if we must go through this, rather than a regular JC adviser.

      I don't think there are subsequent referrals; that's why they DWP are cracking down on those they deem to have failed the WP (which is everyone coming off it). Conscientious objection would be a bit late, having now left the tender care of those lovely folks at the Salvation Army. I'm not bothered about their religion: had they been genuinely compassionate and caring and able to offer something positive I would feel differently. They had their chance and flubbed it, but it will be me and the rest of us ex-WP lags that get the blame for it.

    4. I'm really glad to be wrong on this. But further rummaging reveals that the work experience placement period that the WP can still push you onto, has no end date.

      Somewhere I thought that you were being sent back to it, that was after I knew you had been sent a PWPS thing. That's my brain for you, which the last year has fried. I did hear Osbourne state that the WP had no end. Apologies for worrying you.

      I think it's important to let gits like the sally army know exactly why you object to being sent to them. If the worst happens in May, then they (and JC+) will be getting that letter from me, reworded to cover their rampant homophobia and misogyny.

      Good luck with the post WP thing.

    5. I don't think i'm going to be having any further contact with the SA, I don't imagine they are going to ask for my feedback. At most they will have told the DWP I didn't éngage' (with what?), absolving themsleves of any responsibility. That I suspect willbe par for the course for ex WP claimants of all types. What concerns me is what I will have to face next.

      Thanks anyway.

    6. Are you going to try and stay on ESA?

    7. I'm on ESA now, i don't see how they can change that. I don't know what this interview entails, but I'm pretty sure they can't just force you off ESA. They might issue sanctions for non attendance.

    8. I was thinking of your award length for ESA, if you know it.

      The DWP and ATOS announced a couple of weeks ago that all routine reassessments from Jan 20th 2014 are to be deferred for two years. This was trumpeted out by all the usual blogs, so my fried brain is not currently in doubt on this "fact"

      What this deferral means in practice remains to be seen. I think the devil is in the detail of what is designated as "routine"

      I don't believe they can kick you off of ESA unless they had cause to think you were faking it. Then if you were prosecuted, you'd be booted off.

    9. I have heard of this deferral, it seems to be a thing. What will actually happen of course is another matter, but with the PIP disaster ATOS has their hands well and truly full.

      It's all down to them really. The award length was for a recommended 6 months.

    10. Fingers crossed that the deferral happens. Atos have now officially quite the WCA (BBC yesterday) and the other corporations will be circling like vultures. I think the best we can hope for is that Cameron is keen on keeping ESA and all the associated crap that goes with it, under the radar, leading up to May 15.

      Only for Labour to start it allllllllllllll up again with more sanctions, more stupid and abusive schemes and less money for everyone who is poor already.

    11. I heard the news about ATOS this morning, though it seems not much is going to change, including under Labour.

      As I understand it the deferral is happening.

  7. ...and again here...

    Though they appear to be referring vaguely to the length of the "work experience placement" being unlimited. When Osbourne announced it, he was talking about enrolment in the WP, not just placements.


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