Sunday, 17 August 2014

Men At Work Placement

OK, OK … 

It’s a Sunday evening!

But there’s not much on TV at the moment.   There’s not a lot on the radio, either.

And frankly … ?

Frankly, there’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest: about being out of work.


Now, you’re probably aware I’m out of a job at the moment: and that I’m finding it difficult to find a position.

Just to give you an example, I’ve recently had some five or so interviews: either in person, or via phone.

And got nowhere with them.

I’ve ALSO been to an Open Day — at my local Jobcentre — and, while I got through that, I didn’t get through the online testing procedure: a version of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory used to screen out potentially unwanted employees.

Discouraging, as you can imagine: and very demotivating.

So, a few months back, my advisor told me she’d putting me forward for a Mandatory Work Placement scheme: just to get me back into the swing of things.

Not something I was totally happy about: I like being told what to do about as much as you do.

But something I was ready and willing to do as it would:

  • Get me into a working routine

  • Hopefully give me an updated reference

  • Get me out of the flat

  • Be an extra point on my CV
  • All of which I felt I needed.

    Still do, in point of fact: if you’d like to provide me with a reference … ?


    At any rate, it was something I was willing to do: I felt, and feel, it’s something that could be of use to me.

    I — and about five other people — had our initial assessment in Basildon: with a training provider called SEETEC.

    Now, I’d had experience with SEETEC, before now.   They’d been the state-sponsored providers of the two year Work Programme I’d had to attend.

    From what I’d experienced whilst I was with them … ?   I felt they were well-meaning.   But very ineffective, as far as I was concerned.   Organisations like theirs are paid by results: so place the people they can easily put into work, get their money … and let the tougher cases, like me, fall by the wayside.

    At least, that’s my thinking.

    I’m also very aware the Basildon branch had quote a formidable staff turn-over: to be fair to them, that could — could! — have had a bearing.

    At any rate, I and five other people had our Work Placement assessment at SEETEC.

    I — the only person to have come from Brentwood — was told SEETEC only had two possible places to offer.

    A charity shop in Brentwood High Street.

    And a local charity — in Shenfield — that took in donated, second hand, furniture, repaired it and sold it on.

    I went for the shop in Brentwood High Street: the Shenfield charity has a better reputation for helping hard luck cases, but was harder to get to.

    As you may or may not know, the placement at the charity shop in Brentwood High Street didn’t go well for me.

    I had a short interview, on the Thursday I was due to start.

    But was — effectively — sacked, after two days.

    The manageress found that I had “unsatisfactory references”, and gave me my marching orders.

    I immediately informed two groups as a result:

  • The Job Centre

  • The folk at the Job Centre were sympathetic: but told me I’d have to wait to see what would happen, and would let me know about any paperwork.

    The woman who handled my case at SEETEC told me that she wouldn’t be sanctioning me as — in her words — I’d done nothing wrong.

    I was pleased to hear that.

    And pleased that any benefits paid to me were not stopped.

    And pleased I could pick a different set of referees: having double checked on the two I’d given to the charity and found one was unflattering, and that the other … had sold their phone and its associated number.   In other words, the new owner WASN’T the referee, and I had no other contact number for them.


    Any pleasure I had about that soon stopped.   As, not long afterwards, I received what’s called a Sanction.

    In other words, the money I receive from the tax payer, to support myself, has been suspend for three months.

    I … 

    Was … 

    FUMING … !

    As I felt I’d been unnecessarily sanctioned for something beyond my control.


    What made things worse?   Was that I got the letter about the sanction on Saturday: so, frustratingly, couldn’t do anything about it, until Monday, the next day.

    Which I did.

    I’ve managed to get food from a local food bank, I’m receiving hardship payments in lieu of Jobseekers Allowance, and I’ve put in for what’s called a Mandatory Reconsideration: the first round of the Appeals process.

    THAT’s taking its own sweet bloody time, frankly!

    At ANY rate, I’m now in the position where I’ve roughly a fortnight to go, before I found out if my Reconsideration has been successful or otherwise.

    I am, to use the old saw, hurrying up and waiting.


    There’s a ‘But’, though.

    You can TELL there’s a ‘But’, couldn’t you … ?

    But, in the intervening weeks since the placement blew up in my face, I’ve had … 

    Thoughts … 

    Yes, thoughts is possibly the best way of putting it.

    For starters … ?

    For STARTERS, I’m glad I’ve had the interviews I’ve had, over the past few weeks.

    Granted, I’ve not bagged a position with anyone.

    But the various bits of training I’ve had since leaving the two year work programme — a Level Two European Computer Driving License, and a Fresh Start course to sharpen basic job-hunting and interview techniques — have got me meeting people, and polished some skills up.

    I’ve ALSO had thoughts about the Work Placement Scheme.

    I am bitter about the whole thing.   Understandably, I think.

    There’s something else, as well.

    I few paragraphs back, I told you I got interviewed for the placement in the Charity Shop … ?

    Now, I don’t know if that’s a usually done thing or not.

    But I felt it was a good thing:

  • It gave me a chance to practise my interview technique.

  • It gave me a chance to see what the shop was like, and how I could fit in.

  • It gave the branch manageress a chance to assess a potential recruit: to see if I was suitable or not.
  • Please, pay attention to that last point, there: to see if I was suitable or not.   Apparently, the branch of the shop had been persuaded to accept Community Sentence cases she’d found unsuitable: and could not refuse them.

    Indeed, I’d been warned by SEETEC that this was the case: and to be very polite, as a result.   Just in case.

    I believe the manageress found me unsuitable from the minute I walked into the shop for that interview: at least, did not feel she wanted me there.   There were a few questions about my health that have never come up in other interviews I’ve had.

    Either way, I feel she found me unsuitable from the get-go.

    But was not in a position to refuse to have me there.

    My thinking, here … ?

    Is that, if she had been in a position to phone SEETEC and say “Can you place so-and-so elsewhere, please: I don’t think he’s suitable for my shop,” she would get a better class of (non) volunteer, and I would not have been sanctioned.   (I’m under the impression the charity that ran the shop was in favour of the scheme: leaving individual managers in no position to opt out of it.)

    That’s ONE thing.

    There’s another.

    Went I initially went to SEETEC, I was told the group only had two possible placements in Brentwood.

    I got the distinct impression from what I was told there, AND by staff at the Job Centre, that SEETEC had recently returned to this aspect of employment work.

    But that the lack of placements in Brentwood… ?

    Wasn’t necessarily something they’d be able to remedy in a hurry.

    I could well be wrong, there.

    I’m also aware that a friend of mine runs a charity shop, as branch manager.   When we talked privately about this, she told me the charity she worked for point blank refused to have anything to do with this scheme.   Partly because they felt that people who volunteered of their own accord — rather than being assigned to them by the Job Centre — were better motivated volunteers.

    And partly because they didn’t want to deprive jobseekers of the minimal income they received, should things go wrong.


    Now … 

    How am I feeling about this … ?

    All SORTS of things, actually.

    For starters … ?

    I am incredibly grateful: to both friends and family.

    All of who have shown me a lot support, both emotional and otherwise, to me through the past few weeks.

    Even if only on the level of tea and sympathy.

    I reiterate that: I’m grateful for ALL the help, and say thank you.   (They know who they are.)

    I also feel the charity my friend works for … ?   Is incredibly sensible to wash their hands of the Work Placement Scheme.

    I know I have a huge sense of anger about the scheme.

    While I’m aware that it’s supposed to be helpful — and can see that many will find it so — I’m also in a position to say that, for me, it hasn’t been.

    I feel a great deal of anger at not having had the chance to show what I can do.

    Anger about a sanction I feel is needless.

    And anger … 

    About being let down by a scheme that is supposed to help.

    I can only hope that, somewhere, someone has a post for me.

    Or, at least, a workable scheme that results in a job.

    The schemes I’ve been put on have only left a bitter aftertaste.


    Alfy said...

    I hear you, loud and clear I've been out of work 12 years... :( No one wants to hire a bipolar schizophrenic lady with a bad ankle an back. -Angie

    Nik Nak said...

    I’m RIGHT with you, Alfy … !