I’m posting a recent communication I’d had with Damien Gayle, a reporter for the Guardian, about the march against benefits cuts, work programs and sanctions for people receiving jobseekers allowance at Streatham Jobcentre in London that happened on 26th June 2015.
Gayle had asked for a comment about the march and I took some time to read some of the literature about the work programs and sanctions on the Government’s DWP website. I found the material interesting for its intention to support a positive change for people who were unemployed or receiving benefits, but somewhat arbitrary and difficult to determine exactly how unqualified and underpaid job coach/advisers will be able to assist claimants find long term permanent employments that would suit their needs.

Thanks Edward,

I’ll try to use some of what you’ve sent me. There is a lot of unreported information about these schemes and I’ll have to be careful not to try to report too much and confuse the issue.
All the best,

On 26 June 2015 at 00:01


I’m not a member of any campaign group or currently on any ‘back to work’ scheme or work program. I do suffer from depression and anxiety which I feel doesn’t severely effect my day to day activities or ability to find work or employment, although it does cause me some problems and distress.
I’m not speaking for anyone except myself, but from what I’ve read on the government website about these schemes, and these issues of long term unemployment for people with disabilities, there does seem some obvious inconsistencies and bias around the strategy to encourage well-being in the work place and assisting employers to provide a supportive environment to aid the needs of JSA claimants.
Recently after I’d attended my local jobcentre I’d been criticised and patronised in my efforts to find suitable long term employment. My job coach lectured to me that my CV and experience was wrong for the types of temporary minimum wage or professional salaried career roles I was applying for, despite the fact that I doubted that they themselves had employment experience of either, and then I was told to stop applying for so many jobs I didn’t want to do and focus on ones I realistically could do in order to better satisfy my JSA agreement. However, if I don’t apply for a large number of jobs everyday I could potentially be penalised and face sanctions for not abiding the JSA agreement by demonstrating that I was actively seeking work. 
The entire process seems arbitrary and puts an unqualified inexperienced individual, the Job coach/adviser, to dictate and judge the wellbeing and efforts of a person with apparently little understanding of either the needs of jobseeker or the needs of the employer. I do not mention the complex and costly process which employers are faced with when selecting and screening candidates that is based primarily on unknown qualitative attributes (ie, that candidate’s personal qualities) and their tangible attributes (the candidate’s skills, experiences and qualifications). This is in the context of a job market that is filled with a demographic of people from different backgrounds, ethnicity, age, gender, education, etc, and so I get the distinct impression that neither the job coach/adviser, the jobseeker nor the employer have accurate grasp of this beyond their own interests.
 I hope atleast some of what I’ve said has made sense. I’ve attached some of the documents taken from the government site about the work programs for your information.
Kind regards, 

From: michelle@cooltanarts.org.uk
To: info@cooltanarts.org.uk
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:00:29 +0100
CC: mentalhealthresistance@lists.aktivix.org
Subject: Re: [Mentalhealthresistance] Streatham Jobcentre
We only know that it will not work and is wrong we do not know the specificas
Sent: 23 June 2015 18:01
Subject: FW: [Mentalhealthresistance] Streatham Jobcentre
Hi Michelle,
Normally I’d forward this to Emma
From: Mentalhealthresistance [mailto:mentalhealthresistance-bounces@lists.aktivix.org] On Behalf Of Damien Gayle
Sent: 23 June 2015 14:28
To: Mentalhealthresistance@lists.aktivix.org
Subject: [Mentalhealthresistance] Streatham Jobcentre
I’m a reporter with the Guardian. I’d like to learn a bit more about the introduction of mental health workers at Streatham Jobcentre as part of the government’s “back to work” agenda. Would it be possible to speak with someone this afternoon about what’s happening?
All the best, 
Damien Gayle
Reporter, The Guardian