I did actually work for the JCP (at Upper Parliament st and Station st in Nottingham) and have many tales to tell, I’m currently considering legal action due to my treatment over the past 3-4 years. Whilst working for the JCP I was told in the last 6 months or so of my employ that I was supposed to sanction at least 1 person per week (this flies in the face of the term ‘we don’t have targets for sanctions’ and moral ethics), being a human being I found that unless someone wasn’t doing as asked I’d issue them a warning, tell them what they were doing wrong and see them on their way. Not once in the last 6 months or so of my employment did I sanction anyone much to the chagrin of my manager (Avis Denton a horrible woman that I nicknamed Medusa or The Gorgon from Greek myths).
This was my final struggle whilst in their employ however, I’d been having several health issues whilst working there, from hearing loss to blackouts and a couple of fractured ribs from a cycling accident. All of which were recorded, but due to my manager I was unable to seek help or take a break (book off a holiday) to rest and recuperate, since she decided to add in draconian rules regarding booking time off or using flexi-time (flexi-time was virtually non-existent due to staff cuts). The work I did whilst there was hard, I was seeing upwards of 60 ‘customers’ per day, giving each person roughly 5 minute interviews where I was supposed to do several things incluing, security checks, checking their work diary, doing a jobsearch on an archaic system and checking their signature before processing their benefit payment (all in 5 minutes). This I was just able to do and did so for about a year, before I started having problems with my health and the Gorgon.
Eventually this all came to a head and was told that I would be facing disciplinary action for my attendance, since I’d not been given the support I think I deserved I spoke to my union rep (PCS) and began proceedings to appeal and fight against the disciplinary action. After pointing out several failings in the managements treatment I was able to leave with a small payment (about an additional months wage) as compensation for the treatment received. After leaving the JCP I started to look for work immediatley and began signing at my local JCP.
Within a year of leaving I was diagnosed as having Ménière’s disease, this was after having several bouts of dizziness and nausea over the course of about 6 months. Having something like Ménière’s disease came as quite a shock and I lost a great deal of confidence in myself (I’m probably still not 100%), after a period of about 6 months on ESA I returned to the JCP and was told that I’d be attending the Work Programme via A4e. I spent about a year dealing with these idiots who apart from idly chatting and flirting with each other were possibly the most incompitent people I’ve had to deal with outside of the DWP. Anyway after the year was up (I had a total of 2 interviews due to their ‘help’ during this time) I was returned to the JCP, where after about another 4 months was told I’d been allocated to daily signing (this has yet to run out).
Whilst attending a daily signing at JCP Arnold (Nottingham) approximately 2 weeks ago I was confronted by a hideous woman (Denise) that I now call Jabba (the hut), who told me my jobsearch wasn’t sufficient, I was moving house during the same week and was therefore quite busy packing my belongings and dealing with Electric/Gas/internet providers. When asked what I would do if I’d been working and was moving house, I replied ‘I’d book it off on Holiday’ (which I have done in the past, including whilst working at the JCP!), to which she asked me why I didn’t do that now? So I asked if I could book off the next few days on holiday and was told that I wasn’t allowed to since I’d actually have to go away i.e. on holiday! Also during the conversation she told me that I was supposed to treat my jobsearch as a ‘full-time job’ i.e. my jobsearch should take 35+ hours a week to do, bearing in mind at least an hour a day is taken up wasting time going to the JCP! After about another 30 mins of discussion (the normal 5 minute interview lasted about an hour) I told Jabba that I was considering legal action against the DWP, and I explained my previous problems and mentioned Ménière’s disease, at this point she asked if I’d seen a disability advisor to which I told her no. This rained on her parade to the point she was visibly stunned, she then rushed to book me a appointment and stopped harrassing me from then on during that interview.
If by some random chance Jabba ever calls me out again for signing I will simply refuse her and ask to be signed by someone else, since I believe this is still within my rights. Now I’m more confident than I have been in a while, and thanks to Jabba and Medusa, I’m now angry enough to do something about it, so will be looking to take legal action against the DWP within the next year.
On another note, I too have been making enquiries about self employment due to an online project I’ve started recently, and the funny thing is they still expect me to sign-on on a daily basis and still provide a ‘full-time equivalent’ jobsearch!
Today by some random chance Jabba called out my name for signing, again she decided to try to hassle me to the point where I’d insult her and therefore give her a reason for sanction. I sat and took it for a good 45 minutes (bearing in mind the interview should’ve ended after about 5 minutes), after which she asked me why I was being rude? (I wasn’t I was just being blunt with my answers, i.e. she asked me what my address was when it’s on the screen in front of her, this was for my self employment details, it’s not rocket science to press ctrl+c and ctrl+v now is it?). Anyway my reply was ‘since you’re being rude and obnoxious to me, if I had the choice I wouldn’t like to be signed by you!’ after which she got up and stormed off in a huff. Upon her return she told me to go back to reception where someone would call me out to sign me in a few minutes. Before leaving her however I took a photo of her, she asked me what for, I said ‘I’ve an online blog and have already mentioned you, welcome to the internet and have a nice day!’ before I walked back to the reception area. Already I’d spent an hour there so I asked the receptionist if I could speak to a manager, after about another 10 mins of waiting the manager appears and asks me to follow her to a desk so she can sign me. Upon sitting down she tells me that the police have been called since it’s now illegal to take photo’s of civil servants at work (who knew?), I point out that there’s no signs displaying this which she waves off like I should know this already. After another 5 minutes of being interviewed the police turn up and I’m interviewed, I explain the circumstances about how she has been harrassing me in interviews and is generally rude and obnoxious whenever I’ve seen her. They basically ask me about the photo and why I took it, I said something along the lines of ‘for evidence, and I was thinking of uploading it to my blog (aka here). The interview was ended when I agreed to delete the photo in question (so as well as wasting about 3 hours of my time today they also wasted about an hour of police time too!). After which I’m returned to the manager who continues the interview which is finally terminated about 2 hours after my actual signing time. So apparently it’s now illegal to photograph scum? Weird since I see pictures of David Cameron and George Osbourne in the news on a daily basis? 1 rule for them, 20,000 rules for the rest of us?
That’s pretty much my story so far, I wish you luck in your endeavours with dealing with the DWP and it’s inhumane incompetent underlings.