A meeting held in March 2018 provided an opportunity for small groups to look at a specific theme that had been agreed as a priority concern and spent time thinking about the following key questions:
1. What are the key things (practice and experiences) that happen on a daily basis to make things harder, and
2. What could the solutions be?
3. Would these solutions work?
4. What would life look like if you adopted these solutions?
An agreed area of work for Stockton Poverty Truth Commission was the Frustrations of a Job Seeker
The full document is below.
In a meeting held in November 2018, issues discussed within the frustrations of a Job Seeker were predominantly around Universal Credit, zero hour contracts, in work poverty and the relationship between a claimant and their Work Coach Advisor.
Community commissioners raised issues in relation to the implementation of Universal Credit. In particular, the following concerns were noted:
- Access to IT and ability to use IT (logging out on computers at library after an hour and not having sufficient time to complete tasks; not being IT ‘savvy’ and having difficulties with checking messages from DWP, making a claim, submitting information or completing journal..)
- Waiting times for first payment and inconsistencies relating to accessing flexible payment schedules
- Implications of tax rebates on UC entitlements
- Variance of pay affected UC payments (not to the advantage of claimants) and people were unable to plan / budget money
- Lack of personal touch with Job Centre staff / work coaches not always working ‘with’ claimants to agree claimant commitment
Wider issues relating to accessing Job Centres were also raised and in particular, the role of the community officers (security) and relationships with Job Coach Advisors. Claimants felt that the presence of community officers were predominantly viewed in a negative manner and their manner was more akin to security and therefore regarded as a perceived barrier
Claimants at this meeting commented that it is important that their issues are listened to. As people with direct experience of job centre practices, they are experienced with regards the implementation and local practices of welfare reforms. They can offer insight (albeit unable to change directives from central government), it is felt that there are opportunities to pilot / showcase good practice which will have positive outcomes for all.
From a claimants point of view UC credit is not working. It is pushing people into further financial difficulty
In relation to the above comments raised by community commissioners / claimants responses were:
- Security / community officers were a requirement and not solely to adopt the role of security. Health and safety is of importance, but not is not their sole function/role
- Uniforms were a requirement – (however it was noted that Work Coach Advisors do not have to wear a similar uniform)
- Complaints/ issues raised by claimants are taken seriously if it is a valid complaint (it was questioned as to who claims that it is a valid point)
Actions going forward
- As part of the Poverty Truth Commission, it is essential that relationships are developed in order to address the issues raised. A positive step forward is to progress the action to convene a meeting between JCP staff and claimants involved in the Poverty Truth Commission
- It was also suggested that claimants involved in the Commission can form part of the induction training for new members of staff
The Poverty Truth Commission also wants to publish a list of Reccommendations for The Job Centre to hopefully take on board or consider in order to maintain better practice.