Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Work Programme: Some Thoughts.

You know, yesterday was … interesting … ish … 

At least form my viewpoint, it was.

I had my last appointment at the UK government’s flagship Work Programme, yesterday: the scheme that the Government hopes will help the long-term unemployed — like me — back into employment.

I say interesting, when I think the word I’m after — or one of them — is bittersweet.

After all, and even though I only had to travel a few miles, it was an afternoon/morning out, in somewhere other than Brentwood.   The fact something of a routine day-trip has now come to an end is bittersweet: and some I’ll miss, having gotten used to it.

There’s all kinds of issues with that day out, and its end, though.

As I’ve already said, the Work Programme is the government’s attempt to help the long-term unemployed back into work: and is supposed to last for two years.

If you get a job in that period, the staff at the Programme are supposed to supply funding and help for the rest of the two year period, in order to help you keep the job.   So if you get a job, having been on the Programme for a year, they’re supposed to give help and funding for another year, for example.

In my case, though … ?

I have to admit to being something of a tough case.   I’ve something of a patchy employment history: and a personal history best described as colourful.   One I feel means many employers would prefer to hire someone else, whatever upside there may be to hiring me.

Given those circumstances … ?

Given those, you’d think — think — I’d maybe get a little extra help.   That’s possibly debatable.

EITHER way, I was on the Work Programme for the maximum allowed two years.

Two years of getting a bus to Basildon — where my local Work Programme, run by a company called SEETEC, is based — at public expense.   (I buy the ticket, in Brentwood: SEETEC pays me my bus-fare: and then claims it back from the government, as expenses.)

I’ll be frank: I had some three to four (unsuccessful) interviews with various companies, in that first year on the Programme.

And I’ll give SEETEC their due: they covered the cost of the bus-fare for one of those, which was in Basildon.   AND covered the cost of a new pair of trousers, and a shirt: so I could look at least half way presentable.

They also signed me up for a CV writing course: and for a an afternoon workshop on how to write a cover letter.   Something that had a helpful; side: but only in as far as it confirmed a few points I already knew or suspected.


So that’s a point to them, I think.

However, I think I have other areas to complain about.

Doctors … 

Or at least GPs, I should say.   One reason we like having the same family doctor, in my experience, is a simple, old fashioned idea.

Continuity of service.   The simple fact that you get to know your GP over a course of many years: and their knowledge of you, as a long term patient, gives them a touch more insight into you, your behaviour when well, and what could be going wrong for you, just by seeing what you look like, when you walk through the door, today.

The fact is, SEETEC seemed to have an unbelievably high staff turnover.   Certainly at the level of the client advisers: the people who’d be dealing with I, and others, who came in through the door.

Early on, in the first year … ?   I was assigned an adviser called Julie.   I got into the office, that particular Monday, the office manager told me my new adviser was called Julie, and was sitting on “ … that desk over there.”   I had something like a half-hour review with her, where I told her what I was doing to find a job and we reviewed my CV: and looked at potential career options.

When I got back, to weeks later … ?

She’d got another job.

I had a couple of others who lasted for maybe two visits, roughly a fortnight apart.

You see my point, here … ?

There was little in the way of continuity of service.   Little time for a client adviser to get to know their client base, and suggest appropriate actions for each client, on a case by case basis.


Which is the other thing that struck me.

The course on offer.

Now, I mentioned I had a CV writing course and a cover letter writing course?

They were … handy … if not as intense, as possible.

Or as immediately useful as I felt they could have been.

On a personal front … ?   I should point out that I’ve a Level 2 NVQ in Customer Services.

It’s not much: but does at least tell prospective employers I know how to use a till, can be polite to customers, and know where to look for the First Aid box — and the First Aid person — should someone fall over.

In the two years I was at the Work Programme?   None of the advisers turned around and said something to the effect of “Oh, by the way, we do the Level Three Customer Services NVQ: is that something you’d like to sign up for, Paul?   That might persuade prospective employers you’re a good person to hire.”

There’s also a course doing the rounds called  the ECDL: or European Computer Driving Licence.   It‘s a basic computer literacy course.

Granted, I believe myself to be a touch more computer literate than some: but having that to my name was something I feel could again, have been helpful.

It was something that my local job centre has run in the past: and no doubt will do so again.

Of course, when I asked my local jobcentre about signing up for it … ?   They told me to ask the Work Programme.

Who — to be fair — had heard of it.   But couldn’t fund my doing it in Basildon: nor did they have one in Brentwood I could attend.

Encouraging, that … 


There’s possibly more I could tell you, there.


I could be telling you that, according to a Radio Four programme in November of last year, that the Work Programme seems to be not working for a quite a few people like me.

That some charities are critical of how the Programme is structured, as it gives them little incentive to do a proper job of the thing. 

That the Programme really isn’t helping the disabled finding suitable jobs.

That the programme is a waste of money.   Speaking as someone who’s had his return bus fare to Basildon paid for him, with out seeing any kind of return, I cannot disagree.

There’s possibly a lot of things I could be saying.

I will, however, close with this thought.

There are many who would argue that the unemployed need some sort of help to find work.

One thing that would … ?   Is having plenty of jobs around that are both suitable for those out of work: and willing to hire those of us who are — at first glance — tough to see as good employees.

The other thing that would help … ?

Speaking from my own experience, would be a Work Programme that’s more helpful than the one I’ve just attended for two years.

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