After the Work Programme

21/8/15 Back to Work We Go

Back to work in a couple of weeks, can’t get income support or housing benefit, can’t survive on SSP so have to try work again.  Not going to be easy and doctor had said to take another month off.

11/08/15  I Told You I was Sick

After seeing the disability adviser at Bishopsworth Job Centre in Bristol I was told that I was disabled and could now apply for any jobs with the two tick symbol.  This is after struggling for years to the interview stage of any application.  I told the fat slob that was barely listening to me (she decided that because I mentioned a history of drug use that I had a heroin problem) what kind of jobs I could and could not do.

I managed to get a job a couple of weeks later without using my CV that involved customer service.  It was a low paid job that would barely cover my expenses, rent and council tax.  I let the DEA adviser know that I was employed and told her where and asked if I would get my first months rent covered and she replied that I would not.  This was wrong and I at least did get that.  I have managed to work from November 2013 to June 2015 but am now off sick again but still employed and receiving statutory sick pay, I am at risk of losing my flat and really do not think that I can go back to work again.   I am on 3 types of medication and feel worse than I did last time I was suicidal.

I am not going to hurt myself but I did a years voluntary work at a work programme provider before starting this blog, during that time I was doing Initial Assessments of work programme clients.  I have contacted the “charity” that I did two days a week work for a year without being offered a job despite hitting every target that a proper employee would have had and all that I am asked for is to be paid for that work that I did there as they did not help me find work and most voluntary placements last 6 months but I was “special”.  I feel special, I have contacted their head office 3 times now by email as I will only deal with them in this way and have had no reply.  This is not helping my current situation as now on anti depressants so able to stand up for myself but very angry about the way that I have been used by this charity.

I have loads of financial information about this charity because the way the IT department works meant that everyone there was sending them to my personal outlook account.  I could even look up my own name on the system to find out what the job centre had written about me and see that anything around suicide or self harm that was on file at one point was removed before my placement on the work programme.

Will add more to this soon, especially how we used to work out how employable the new batch of referrals were, red, amber or green.

What are they asking you to do?

I have just had my Post Work Programme Support interview at my job centre after completing two years on the Work Programme without getting a job.

I did not know what to expect but it quickly became obvious, they want to get you off benefits one way or another.

I have to:

Use Universal Job Match everyday, 7 days a week, this is not a problem, I am lucky and have internet access at home, I know that a lot of people on the Work Programme do not have internet access at home.

Contact 1 company by telephone a week, I am looking for admin, IT or finance work and cannot remember the last time that a company has asked you to telephone to apply for a job.

Send 4 letters a week, this should not be a problem as long as I can find 4 jobs being advertised that ask for a CV and a covering letter.  If not then it was suggested to email big companies.

Visit 2 employment agencies or companies a week in person, this is the most annoying one, I was provided with a list of  agencies that are in the city centre, I had to argue that any more than 2 a week is unreasonable because of travel expenses and it was also suggested that if I could not afford the bus fare that I should walk 4.5 miles to the centre.

The interview ended and I have to go back tomorrow afternoon and then next Monday to see National Career Service, I am not sure what tomorrow is about but have previously seen National Career Service when I first signed on to Job Seekers Allowance.

In total there are 14 steps that I have to take a week to keep my benefits.

Please let me know in the comments section below what steps they have asked you to take and any problems you foresee in completing them.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Appointment Two

Had to complete JSA claim forms, not sure why they need this but will be looking for information later.  I was then asked to complete forms relating to my voluntary work.  The same forms that I had also previously completed in November when I started there.  They could not find any record of these forms being completed on their system.  Once I had completed these forms again they tried to count it as part time work because I get paid £20 in Tesco vouchers for each day, I work 2 days a week.  Another advisor was called over and they also said that this would count as part time work and this money could be taken from my benefits.  So I said that I would quit the voluntary work just to make things easier, planning to go in there on Wednesday and ask them to contact the job centre to clear things up.  Luckily the bit of paper that they have to log any forms given to me had details of the date that I was previously been given these forms, they then looked into my notes and they found that because I am volunteering at a registered charity that it is still counted as voluntary and the forms that I filled out were ripped up.

I also asked about my end of work programme report, I thought this would be something that they needed before completing my job seekers agreement, they have not received this yet and it does not seem to be as important as it is made out to be because my advisor said that as I am still unemployed it does not make much of a difference.

For proof of telephoning employers I was asked to log the call under “Job Search Notes” on Universal Job Match, this can be found under “Activity History”, list the company name, name and position of who you spoke with and their contact number.

When visiting employers or agencies they would like a compliments slip or something on headed paper, it might also be an idea to log this under “Job Search Notes”.

When I asked how many jobs I have to apply for my advisor only pointed out the steps that I have been asked to complete, it is possible to complete all of the steps that I have been asked to do without applying for a single job, this is not something that I am going to try!

The most important thing that I learned today is that they are now providing Jobseekers Directions.  These “directions” are added to the letter with the time and date of your next appointment.  If you fail to complete these “directions” then your benefits can be stopped.  The only direction that I have to complete is to allow my advisor access to Universal Job Match.  I have no problem with this as I thought they had access already but I did get my advisor to check that I could still refuse this as they cannot force you to give them access.  If you are one of the many people that do not want

to give the Job Centre access to your account then

be prepared for them to try and sneak it in this way.

click to enlarge

directions, a new way to get sanctioned. click to enlarge

—————————————————————————————————————

Appointment Three, Signing on Day

I had a new advisor who was a lot more helpful and understanding.  First thing that he wanted to check is that I had allowed access to Universal Job Match, which I had, I then questioned what would happen if I went home and removed access, the answer is that I would be issued with another Job Seekers Direction to allow access.  The main reasoning seems to be that by not using UJM or allowing access then it would create the suspicion that you are not trying hard to get a job.

He had a check over my new CV and did let me know that the name that you save your CV under on UJM, such as New CV Finance, is how the employer would receive it, so it is good advice to change it to just your name.

I did ask about completing new JSA forms and he will find out for me by my next appointment on Monday.

He was happy with my job search and I did not have to provide any extra evidence which I had printed out just in case and from now on there is no need for paper evidence, just a daily write up on Universal Job Match of positions applied for and steps completed.  One signing on day completed without sanction!

Im back in on Monday.  If you have not seen the Universal Job Match page on this blog please check it out.  I have added video instructions to how to set up a scheduler to log into Universal Job Match automatically and even if you do not need that, the Firefox add on Remember Passwords is very handy as it means that you do not have to enter your 12 digit code and password everytime you want to use the site.

Thanks also to the commenters that are providing great information and the retweeters that have helped this blog get 3000 hits in ten days.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Appointment Four. Check up

This was a very brief appointment with the same advisor that I had seen at appointment three.  He started off by going over the report from my work programme provider but had very little to comment about on it.  He had a look at what I had done for the last five days, which included going to a jobs fair and applying for five jobs.  Everything was logged on Universal Job Match under the Activity history as I was told that this would mean that I did not have to fill out the job logs that you normally do, turns out this is not the case and I have been given the usual sheet of paper to write job search on.  Next time I am in is on my usual signing day so it feels like they are just relaxing a little bit around me, there has been no more mentions of training courses or them having any problems with my voluntary work.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Appointment Five: Signing On

Different advisor today, seen by an advisor that I had seen a long time ago, even before I started the work programme.  We had a brief look over what I had been applying for and the kind of work that I am looking for.  It was then mentioned that I should be applying for any kind of work, I said that was not possible because I am not good around people anymore because of my mental health problems.  The advisor asked if I needed to see the Disability Employment Advisor again, I said that I have never seen them before and a quick check proved that I was right, I have now been referred to see a Disability Employment Advisor, I am not sure what these people do, so if anyone has any experience around what they are looking for and what kind of help they can offer can you let me know in the comments.  Apart from that the sign on went ok, got paid, next appointment is in two weeks for signing on, so I seem to be off weekly appointments, do not think that is because of the referral to the Disability Employment Advisor as I was told that that could take some time because of the amount of people going from Incapacity Benefit and ESA to JSA.  Are the job centres already finding it hard to see people once a week?  or could it be because in four years I have never failed to provide adequate Job Searching and I have not missed an appointment, the chances of them finding something to sanction me on are low, is that why I am back to just going in on signing day?