Future Jobcentre

Blade Runner meets JobCentre Plus

Back in April this year I got involved with a programme called Beyond Unemployment which is being hosted at Impact Hub Birmingham. Beyond Unemployment is an initiative funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and hosted at five Hubs across Europe which aims to “collectively build intelligence and real-time, evidence-based perspectives on the future of (un)employment in our city.” I won’t waffle on here because other better writers have already described what it is elsewhere. Click here to get a fuller explanation as well as some blogs that cover the sessions we have had so far in Birmingham.

Birmingham cohort of Beyond Unemployment

We’ve now wrapped up the first part of the programme which focused on research and learning and we are now moving on to the second part where we start building and creating. From the offset of the programme I have known that I wanted to be involved in something which aims to impact the way the JobCentre works in the UK. This blog is asking you guys for help on doing that.

The JobCentre and I have a history. I graduated from University in the summer of 2008 just as the recession was getting into full swing and my first job was in Dudley JobCentre working on the signing on desks. My experience at the JobCentre was horrendous and I’ve always looked for ways since then to try and improve the JobCentre both for the customers who use it and the employees who work in it. A few years ago I wrote a relatively well read blog which covered some of my ideas at the time. I now want to use the Beyond Unemployment programme to create a plan based not only on my experience but also on data, research and the skills of the people I can get involved on this journey with me.

Illustration from session 2 of the Beyond Employment programme by Katie Tomlinson

Why

  • JobCentre attendance is compulsory. For most unemployed people the JobCentre is the only service they will ever access with regards to their employability and therefore any change to the JobCentre will have a huge impact. I’m not interested in setting up alternative provisions for jobseekers, there is no doubt that these do good and important work but I really want to strike at the core of the system which impacts all Jobseekers. In addition there is more to the JobCentre than advice and support for Jobseekers. In my experience support and advice is actually a tiny portion of what they actually do which pails into insignificance compared to it’s function as part of the benefits processing system.
  • I genuinely feel that the JobCentre has the potential to be an instrument for huge positive social good. A correctly functioning JobCentre has the ability to move people from unemployment into work, it has the power to empower people to improve and enrich their lives and it has the potential to turn from an experience that is adversarial between DWP staff and claimants to a relationship that is positive, supportive and effective. By giving local managers and staff agency over how their JobCentre operates based on the needs of their communities a more tailored and effective JobCentre can be created which improves the experience for everyone involved, no matter which side of the signing on desk they sit on.
  • I have experience of working in the JobCentre and therefore it makes senses to work on something which I understand.

How

  • Gathering qualitative and quantitive data to enable a strong understanding of the current JobCentre.

This data includes but is not limited to;

  • Current and past claimant figures, expenditure, staffing numbers etc.
  • Current programmes / practices.
  • Current and past rules and systems that are in place to stop and suspend payments of various benefits.
  • Open / anonymous feedback from current / past JobCentre and DWP employees.
  • Open / anonymous feedback from current / past benefit claimants.
  • Interviews with current DWP employees and claimaints.
  • A “Dropbox” where people affected or involved with the JobCentre can leave information / feedback in a format of their choice.
  • Ideas from the public on how the JobCentre could be reformed.

I plan to use all of this information to draw up a brief plan on tangible realistic changes that can be implemented in the JobCentre which I will bring to a hack day taking place in September at the Hub where it can be pulled apart, chopped, changed and improved before publishing it and taking steps to see if we can talk to the DWP about our findings.

What I need

  • Employees of the DWP / JobCentre who are willing to talk to me on / off the record so that I can get a real clear understanding of the current JobCentre system. It’s important for me to get an idea of what’s happening in there right now with regards to workload, morale, DMA action etc. My time at the JobCentre ended in 2010 so an updated picture is essential. I’m happy to do this via instant message, over the phone, Skype, in person or whatever suit you.
  • Current / previous JSA claimants willing to talk openly and honestly about their experiences.
  • Writers, designers and artists with ideas on how to turn this data into something that is impactful and interesting for people from all backrounds to look at.

How to get involved

Firstly you can email me at thombartley@hotmail.co.uk with your experiences or any further questions. If you wish to remain anoymous then that will be respected.

Alternatively if you prefer I have set up a submission form where you can send me text, images, video, audio or whatever format suits you with regards to this topic in an anonymous way.

Finally you can find me on Twitter @ThomBartley if you want to say hey.

If this isn’t relevant to you then if you could share this with some people you know who may be interested it would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

Thom