So much has changed since I first worked for the Jobcentre in the 70s, when it actually offered real training and opportunities
• If you want long-term, meaningful work, don’t go to a jobcentre
I used to work for the Department for Work and Pensions, and before that the Benefits Agency, before that the Employment Service, and yes, before that, the Unemployment Benefit Office (UBO). Oh, and for a short while in the late 70s, the Jobcentre.
When I first worked at the Jobcentre in 1979, it was just that. You had to register with there to be able to sign on for your unemployment benefit or supplementary benefit. In those days jobcentres worked closely with employers to find out what they needed and matched potential employees on behalf of the employer.
Jobs were also advertised on boards in jobcentres, but potential applicants had to apply via an adviser. (Now, if an employer advertises with Jobcentre Plus, they leave themselves open to receiving thousands of applications from not remotely qualified, suitable candidates who were often not even genuinely interested. Why bother advertising?)
Jobcentres used to offer real training with a proper, recognised qualification provided through colleges or skill centres. But proper training is costly, so eventually it was scrapped. The replacement schemes tend to offer poor training from inadequate trainers with a worthless piece of paper at the end: just another example of government wanting something for nothing.
Eventually it was decided it would be a good idea to amalgamate jobcentres with unemployment benefit offices (UBO), and the Employment Service was born. The Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) became the Benefits Agency. I never did understand why those in charge thought joining up the Jobcentre with the UBO was a good idea. Surely it would have been more sensible to join the two benefit departments: UBO and DHSS.
Finally, in 2002, Jobcentre Plus was born, joining the Employment Service with the Benefits Agency. Those of us who had specialised in benefit processing always felt we were the poor relations in this partnership. Many experienced and dedicated staff were ousted, either by being squeezed by the new senior management or through voluntary redundancy taken by staff who felt they could not work for new managers who didn’t care about either the staff or the service users.
Separating benefits assessments and jobcentre services is the most sensible thing that could happen now. But this will only work if real money is spent on helping people into work with proper support and training, and benefits are managed by people who care and understand. Most people who claim benefits are genuine. There will always be those who abuse the system but this does not mean it should be diminished to the point where genuine people are penalised and children in the 21st century are forced into poverty through no fault of their own.
I currently work as a welfare benefit adviser, fighting the broken system on behalf of vulnerable people who are left without money for food, gas and electricity and face rent arrears and eviction. This all costs so much more than paying the benefits in the first place to genuine people in need of support. This government has caused our broken society and is heading this country back to Victorian Britain.