Dispatches shows our Job Centres have a lot of work to do

August 15, 2012 11:40 AM

Monday night’s Dispatches programme ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats’ documented the experiences of the unemployed in their efforts to find work using Jobcentre Plus. Every claimant of Jobseeker’s Allowance must sign a ‘Jobseeker’s Agreement’ in order to start claiming benefits. It is a contract between the unemployed and the state. If you stick to the terms of the agreement, the job centre should be there to help you find work.

But Dispatches painted a very different picture of job centres where advisors do little to help claimants back into work and even less to catch those who want to avoid a job and stay on benefits.

Every week, claimants must fill in a work diary - a document which should contain all their efforts to find work such as checking newspaper adverts, searching websites and contacting agencies. This is meant to be rigorously checked by staff at the job centre. But one of the programme's subjects, a 30-year-old unemployed graduate, found that staff so rarely checked his job diary that he was able to fill it in using his shopping list – and still continue to claim benefits.

Another job seeker wrote on his CV and covering letter 'please don't give me the job, I don't want it', yet this went unnoticed by his advisor who failed to spot the anomalies.

It should be pointed out that these were experiments carried out by these individuals - they believed from their past experiences that they would be able to get away with such blatant acts, and did so for the purposes of the programme. But they highlight the worrying fact that these documents are not always rigorously checked, both to ensure that jobseekers are doing their bit to get a job and to ensure propriety.

Job centre staff are the first line of defence to protect the system from fraud, error and abuse yet, one of the unemployed participants in the programme was able walk out of his job centre in painter's overalls with his claim still being approved and with little more than a cursory question asked by his job advisor.

The findings of Dispatches are concerning not least because job centres should be helping people achieve employment, rather than simply administering their benefits without checking the genuineness of their claim. Taxpayers who fund this expensive organisation deserve a system that properly helps people find work and weeds out the fraudsters. Job seekers, many of whom have paid into the system for years, should be getting the support they need.Monday night’s Dispatches programme ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats’ documented the experiences of the unemployed in their efforts to find work using Jobcentre Plus. Every claimant of Jobseeker’s Allowance must sign a ‘Jobseeker’s Agreement’ in order to start claiming benefits. It is a contract between the unemployed and the state. If you stick to the terms of the agreement, the job centre should be there to help you find work.

But Dispatches painted a very different picture of job centres where advisors do little to help claimants back into work and even less to catch those who want to avoid a job and stay on benefits.

Every week, claimants must fill in a work diary - a document which should contain all their efforts to find work such as checking newspaper adverts, searching websites and contacting agencies. This is meant to be rigorously checked by staff at the job centre. But one of the programme's subjects, a 30-year-old unemployed graduate, found that staff so rarely checked his job diary that he was able to fill it in using his shopping list – and still continue to claim benefits.

Another job seeker wrote on his CV and covering letter 'please don't give me the job, I don't want it', yet this went unnoticed by his advisor who failed to spot the anomalies.

It should be pointed out that these were experiments carried out by these individuals - they believed from their past experiences that they would be able to get away with such blatant acts, and did so for the purposes of the programme. But they highlight the worrying fact that these documents are not always rigorously checked, both to ensure that jobseekers are doing their bit to get a job and to ensure propriety.

Job centre staff are the first line of defence to protect the system from fraud, error and abuse yet, one of the unemployed participants in the programme was able walk out of his job centre in painter's overalls with his claim still being approved and with little more than a cursory question asked by his job advisor.

The findings of Dispatches are concerning not least because job centres should be helping people achieve employment, rather than simply administering their benefits without checking the genuineness of their claim. Taxpayers who fund this expensive organisation deserve a system that properly helps people find work and weeds out the fraudsters. Job seekers, many of whom have paid into the system for years, should be getting the support they need.

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