Well finally everything’s caught up with me and now I’m on the Work Programme – I was supposed to start on it last July, but I kind of threw a spanner in the works by taking along a copy of the consent.me.uk standard latter witholding consent for my information being shared… in Welsh. It might perhaps have been a little inappropriate, given that the letter is aimed at the Workfare exploiters, but hey ho, it staved off going on Workfare for a few months. The interview just kind of stopped whilst the letter went ‘upstairs’.
The letter seemed have become lost in the system, but it did galvanise the JCP into action in one way, and for the first time ever, when claiming JSA I have consistently had a Welsh speaking advisor every week, and when he isn’t available they make sure there is someone who speaks Welsh to see me. My usual Welsh speaking advisor is very professional, polite and helpful, and had obviously heard about the letter incident, he asked me about it, not in a critical or nasty way, but just as to whether I’d had any feedback about it – he later explained that the letter had gone to the main office, somewhere in the West of England, and it being in Welsh would probably have flummoxed them entirely. His suggestion was to just leave things to sort themselves out, rather than to start getting fractious because they hadn’t responded within the statutory 28 days – kind of let sleeping dogs lie. I was happy enough to do that.
However, come March and there was an e-mail, from my JCP advisors immediate supervisor stating that I needed to be signed up for the Work Programme – however, he wasn’t going to do it there and then, but the next time I signed on, a month hence, (I sign on fortnightly, but there was a strike scheduled for the next time I signed).
As part of my being signed up to the WP involved a review of my Job Seeker’s Agreement that went ahead the next signing-on day, but nothing draconian happened, it was more formalising what I was already doing anyway.
The day of my initial Work Programme interview/induction arrived, a week later than originally planned as the WP outfit, Interserve, (working in partnership with Rehab JobFit) had difficulty finding a Welsh speaking advisor…
Well, my Interserve job coach seems to be a nice enough chap, just doing his job, of course, and he claims that he doesn’t want to sanction anyone and that the only reason he’s in the business he’s in is because he wants to help people get jobs… (And seemingly not the fact that he’s probably paid £20k + p.a. for doing his job). He started on the induction process, and started the from filling process – basically he called up my information on the computer, (an unnecessarily costly Windows system) and asked me to go through it with him. It was all the standard stuff from the JCP, and so I didn’t add anything to it, and about the only information they didn’t have was my e-mail address, which of course I declined to provide. All the paper forms filled in and it came to the time that my signature was needed… Of course, I declined to sign the forms, as in no way was I going to give my consent. Well, I thought the poor guy was going to have a seizure! His heart rate certainly went up, and he started to mention the big S word, ‘sanction’, claiming that he had seen people being sanctioned for refusing to sign the action plan. Having read The Void and been a regular visitor to Boycott Workfare and consent.me.uk for the past few months I am pretty well aware of what I can, and can’t do under the regulations, and I know that we don’t have to sign those documents, or indeed any documents they try to persuade us to sign.
The next day I receive a letter informing me of my next appointment – no mention of any intention of trying to get me sanctioned, and indeed, no sanction has been imposed.
I also sent a copy of the standard letter from consent.me.uk witholding my consent to my WP provider from sharing my personal data with Third Parties. I sent a copy to both Interserve, which is the sub-contractor, and also to Rehab Jobfit – by Recorded Delivery. It cost a bit, £3.40 in all, but at least I have evidence that they have been delivered.
Two weeks on…
I’ve just returned from the second meeting with my Interserve job coach. It was another quite strenuous meeting for him, as I again was sticking to what the rules allow them to do, therefore I was witholding my consent on everything I could. The subject under discussion today was my CV… and my job coach wants a copy. Me, knowing that in this business a person’s CV is like gold dust, decided not to actually refuse to give him a copy of mine, merely to not consent to him having a copy. This did not go down well. The S word was mentioned in passing, he implored me to give him a copy, saying that his immediate superior would demand that he demanded a copy of my CV, (may well be true, these scum are like that) and I said that if it comes to that, then that is what they’ll have to do – and issue a MAN outlining the specific legislation and the sanctions. Which brings me to an interesting and important point. How do we know when something is an actual MAN? Does the document have to bear the wording Mandatory Activity Notification? I would think that it does, to avoid any possible confusion.
Anyway after he’d gotten through today’s meeting, he gave me a letter requiring me to e-mail a copy of my CV to him, along with an e-mailed copy of my standard covering letter and speculative letter. I guess he can justifiably require me to send him copies of the letters, but not the CV, and why e-mail? Of course he wants to get hold of my e-mail address, and if I give him a copy of my CV I will have consented to give it. However, having an interest in IT, (I’m a bit of a Linux nut) and a keen interest in how it can be used to counter authoritarianism I know of an anonymous e-mail app called AnonMail, (which, however, isn’t as anonymous as all that, as it doesn’t hide your IP address, the developer’s advice is to use the app in a free wifi zone such as those in cafes and bars) which allows you to send e-mails anonymously. Of course there is an ethical minefield around apps like this, it would be so easy to use something like this for quite nefarious purposes, but I think I’m quite within my rights to use this app in order to protect my privacy. If you are a Ubuntu Linux user you can find the AnonMail app in the Ubuntu Software Centre, it’s a paid for app, but at $2.99, (or £2.05) it’s a justifiable cost. In my (anonymous) e-mail I explain that I am declining to supply him with an electronic copy of my CV, but that I shall take a paper copy along to my next appointment in order to show that I am capable of writing a CV and maintaining it. However, I shall have to find out whether the appointment letter I have been given constitutes either a MAN or a Jobseeker’s Direction. It would be so much easier if there was a requirement for these to be clearly marked as such. But then, in this case the very vagueness could work in my favour should a doubt be raised against me. I shall have to find out what exactly the situation is, and maybe this could be the start of a campaign to make it mandatory that such documents are clearly marked as such, so that there is no possibility of doubt.
I must also find out if Interserve has the authority to issue sanction as they are a sub-contractor of Rehab JobFit and so don’t necessarily have the authority to issue them.
However, I think I’m fairly safe, as though the letter I have does contain the DWP required garbage about noncompliance possibly affecting my benefits and all the spiel about what the sanctions are, it doesn’t conform to another requirement of the DWP, and that is a clear notification that the activities are mandatory, i.e. that I am mandated to do them. But so far, the ploy is to get hold of my personal information – which they won’t.