Unemployed people are being threatened and blackmailed into making entirely hopeless job applications. Those claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) are now being forced to apply for at least three jobs per week, even if they are barred from working in such positions or do not have the necessary skills.
Ex-offenders with serious criminal records but who are seeking to live safely in the community are being threatened with the withdrawal of their Job Seekers Allowance if they do not apply for at least three jobs every week, despite Job Centre Plus (JCP) knowing that those with convictions for sexual or violent offences are often barred from applying for certain jobs and in any case are unlikely to be taken on by unsympathetic employers.
Indeed, research by Loughborough University has shown most released sex-offenders will not even be granted an interview, employers being terrified of the backlash and potential damage to their business that could arise should knowledge of their employment of a sex offender end up in the public domain.
TheOpinionSite.org has spoken to some of those attending a local Job Centre Plus office (JCP) and many report that staff are now openly more hostile and arrogant, one member of staff telling a job seeker, “I pay my taxes. Why shouldn’t you?”
The manager of the JCP declined to comment on the alleged remark.
The Conservative led coalition has taken a clear decision to play to the middle class voters whose support they have lost. This involves the very public policy of bullying people back into work by forcing them to apply for often wholly unsuitable jobs – whilst at the same time refusing to acknowledge the fact that there are those who are also expected to apply but because of their age or criminal record have no hope of success.
The government’s discredited Work Programme, originally intended to help those with the most difficult background to find employment, has also given up on the most difficult cases; particularly those who have been out of work for 5 years or more.
With regards to the lack of help for the 30,000 sex offenders now living in the community, most of whom are unemployed and unemployable, both the WP and JCP are refusing to comment or to even acknowledge that a problem exists.
We contacted the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith for his views on the threats being made against unemployed people and the lack of support for those with serious convictions.
Duncan Smith would not comment but a spokesman told us that under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The new ‘Job Search’ form that is being issued requires claimants to detail:
- What steps they have taken to find work over the current two week period
- Which jobs have been applied for
- Whether there was anything that prevented the claimant for looking for work
- What steps were taken to find employment in the previous two week period
- Any courses the claimant may have attended (signed by the course provider with an assessment)
If the JSA member of staff believes that the claimant has not made sufficient effort to find a job, the claimant will be referred to an ‘advisor’. If the advisor supports the view of the original assessing member of staff, the claimant will likely have their benefit stopped.
The DWP spokesman also told TheOpinionSite.org that the problems encountered by those with serious criminal convictions were not the responsibility of the DWP but of employers:
“It is ultimately a matter for employers as to who they do or do not employ. The government cannot force employers to take on those with criminal records.”
However, when we asked whether it was right to force people into applying for jobs that they had no hope of ever obtaining, the spokesman refused to comment further.
The Regional Manager of one Work Programme provider suggested that those who were experiencing serious problems such as those outlined above, “…should seriously consider whether they should go self-employed.”
In other words, the Work Programme has given up on the most difficult cases, primarily because under the government’s “payment by results” system, the Work Programme provider won’t make any money out of difficult to place clients.
It is not only those with criminal records who are falling foul of the new requirements either; many long-term unemployed and those who are 60 or over are also being penalised, threatened and – as one job seeker put it – ‘blackmailed’ into making entirely hopeless and unsuitable job applications.
60 year old men in particular are unlikely to find work, especially if they have been unemployed for a number of years.
Employers are wary of taking on someone who has been outside of the “work ethic” for even a year or two, let alone those unemployed for more than five years.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that with the government steadfastly refusing to even acknowledge that there is a serious problem for many with criminal convictions or who are simply too old for an employer to consider, the new requirements and regime of the DWP being forced upon disadvantaged job seekers is unfair, unjust and possibly even discriminatory.
Whilst most people would agree that if someone has the opportunity and the ability to work they should do so, there are nevertheless many thousands of individuals whose past criminal history (or even their age) makes them particularly disliked by employers.
Those with serious criminal offences in their history and who are subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) will most likely never be offered a job again – thanks to government restrictions on them together with this country’s obsession with so called ‘public protection’.
If Iain Duncan Smith and his team do not even have the courage to accept that there is a problem, the prospect of thousands of our of work ex-offenders losing their JSA and turning back to crime is a very real probability.
In particular, if sex offenders lose their JSA because they are being forced to reveal highly sensitive information about themselves that could be accessed by vigilante groups and others, they may become destabilised and feel insecure in the community and may therefore reoffend; something that the government seems to have either overlooked or chooses to ignore.
Indeed, in the view of TheOpinionSite.org, the above illustrates the real problem; a problem that we have seen time and again with this government and its miserable predecessor:
When a truly difficult problem arises – often as a result of the government’s own populist policies – ministers do not want to acknowledge that the problem exists, let alone try to solve it.
To do so would necessarily undermine other populist policies – such as those relating to ‘public protection’ and ‘equality’ – which have been put in place not because they are wholly necessary but because they play to the voters and to the tabloids.
If however Cameron, Clegg and Duncan Smith ignore the current bullying tactics being used by those who are supposed to be helping the unemployed to find work, not only will there be more out of work individuals but there will also be more people wandering the streets with nothing to lose by taking direct action against the government and the revenge-driven society that has taken the decision to throw them onto the scrap heap.
When people who are homeless and penniless start breaking middle class windows and setting fire to middle class homes and businesses, the Conservatives will have only themselves to blame – whilst as usual the ineffective Liberals look on helplessly and the Labour party try to make political capital out of the misfortune of others.
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