Monday, 10 December 2012

Right, just printed this off in the scummiest internet cafe in the whole entire world. Going to drop it off at the Job Centre now. Wish me luck!

Dear Sir/Madame,

I hope you find the following relevant. It is my account of why I think I am not suitable for the Launchpad course and following work experience.

Please bear in mind I have only been ‘officially’ seeking work for the last six months.

In the last 7 years I have done various placements and personal projects to improve my chances of finding work, including applying for an MA (for which my funding unfortunately fell through), writing and having a book published and volunteering in a primary school for six months.

When my daughter started school full-time I approached the Arts and Literature Collective ‘Mercy’ with a view to interning for them. They took me on and during my time with them I managed a team of interns, put on a successful exhibition in Liverpool, did research and promotion and helped to publish a book of art and poetry. I would like to pursue this kind of work and now have excellent references and an up to date CV to assist me.

Primarily however, I have been training as a Horticultural Assistant. I undertook an evening course ‘Introduction to Gardening’ in 2011 which I paid for myself. I also did the first part of a Permaculture course which is a recognised qualification.

In 2012 I did a City and Guilds Level 1: Certificate in Gardening which I successfully completed. I went on to find and take part in a ‘Striding Out’ course on how to start your own business with a view to perhaps starting my own gardening business while also continuing with my creative work. I have included a copy of the certificate I gained.

In June this year I enrolled onto the City and Guilds Level 2: Certificate in Gardening which I was due to start in September. I was also volunteering at the nursery where I did my course. It was around this time that I was told I would have to take part in the Launchpad course. I was told by my job advisor that I would not be able to do the second part of my gardening course as Launchpad is mandatory. This would also mean giving up my volunteering.

I have since spoken to my advisor and her manager about the course being mandatory and they have confirmed that this is the case.

Subsequently I did not start the City and Guilds Level 2. Not to be deterred I asked at the plant nursery if I could do a work placement there, which they agreed to, but was told by my advisor that I do not have a choice where I do my 4 weeks work experience. This doesn’t make sense to me as I do not want to work in retail.

I went along to the first day of the Launchpad course and explained my situation- that I felt I was already making credible steps towards employment. Even A4E said they didn’t think I was suitable for the course. I was told they had a different programme that would be more suitable for me which I agreed to take part in for 6 hours a week as I think it would be beneficial for me.

Launchpad’s ‘Module objective’ is the following-

‘To progressively develop ability and confidence in managing personal circumstances, overcoming barriers and developing skills, such that participants are better equipped to make realistic decisions about returning to the labour market’.

I really feel that I have been making realistic decisions. I believe that to do a course on how to motivate myself when I am already enthusiastically trying to do what I want to do does not make sense. I am currently looking for somewhere to start my City and Guilds Level 2 in January.

I’d like to make it clear that since being on JSA I have been actively seeking work and have applied for many jobs- obviously I am prepared to work part-time while I continue training. One position I applied for recently had received over 200 applications. However, this will not stop me from getting a job as I am positive and resourceful.

One of the last paid work positions I did was as an HR assistant, screening CVs and application forms. I know how to write a convincing application. I feel within the next two months I will have a job. But I cannot do this if I am working in Poundland or similar getting experience in a field I have no interest in and that will ultimately only look incongruous on my CV.

I'm a single mum who wants to balance working towards the good of society and the people around me with bringing up a healthy and happy daughter. I believe I can do both and the best way to go about that is to pursue a meaningful career in subjects that I am becoming proficient in.

I hope you can take the above into consideration. I am not, perhaps the typical benefits claimant (if such a thing exists), and being pigeonholed is extremely frustrating. Being treated as if I am trying to get out of working even while producing evidence to the contrary has really affected my morale. I feel I have done nothing but try to help myself yet I now face losing my benefits which seems somewhat upside down. I have included some references.

Thanks for your time

Monday, 3 December 2012

Today I had to go in to discuss the situation with my advisor and her boss. It was alright, I have been told I can do the 6 hour a week course but that I have to fill out a 'Skills Conditionality' form which will go off to Scotland to be assessed. If they think my reasons for not doing the course aren't good enough then I will lose my benefits.

My advisor basically lied and said I hadn't told her I wanted to do the gardening course. She also said I'd never mentioned that I'd like to be self-employed, which is also a lie. I spoke about all the things I've been doing to improve my situation- but unpaid work doesn't count as 'work' in terms of how confident or job ready I might be, which seems a bit strange as I have been constantly challenging myself since being 'unemployed'. The stigma surrounding people out of work is not doing me any favours at all.

I didn't mention the appalling DWP figures- that only 3.5% of those doing the Work Programme have actually found work, but I will put that on the form, along with references from my non-employers etc- I am going to do a KILLER statement.

After her boss had gone my advisor was unnaturally nice to me, much nicer than she's been for ages- perhaps she's realised that I have my eye on all this. I asked her what has happened to other people that have refused to go on Launchpad and she said that I am the first person to refuse. It makes me a bit sad really- more people should stick up for themselves. The threat of sanctions stops people from voicing their concerns and forces them into unpaid work, without any choice at all.

I have been reading about A4E, the company that provides the courses and they come across as shockingly bad- the allegations of systemic fraud and poor performance are rife, which basically just reaffirms my belief that I'm better off looking for work myself- without having to put up with motivational bullshit and box ticking and all the other demoralising and patronising things I hate about these courses.

Meanwhile, new graffiti has sprung up near to where I go to the Job Centre. A bit dramatic maybe? When you look at what ATOS are doing then maybe not so much.