It’s only been a week since Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) boss Amber Rudd was rinsed for praising the work of her department and Universal Credit through the medium of a “globe-trotting TV extra”. Now she’s taken to Twitter to praise job centres. And it shows how detached from reality she really is.
“A thriving community hub”
Rudd tweeted that the job centre is a “thriving community hub”:
✍️ Under the Legacy system, the Jobcentre was just a place to sign on
📍 Now the Jobcentre is a thriving community hub where young people access personal support to help them make the right career choices
👇 See more https://t.co/zu34VXFCFo
— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) February 4, 2019
Unsurprisingly, people were quick to point out the reality:
Ahem…JobCentres are made to be feared institutions where staff are trained to be cynical and process led towards those who have recently lost their job/home/family and are going through crisis management. Trepidation before entering, relief at leaving. Not a 'community hub'.
— Neal McTaggart (@NealMcTaggart) February 5, 2019
Where staff won't help disabled or illiterate people with the computers as they say they are not there to help. Where staff boast of sanctions they have got that day.(I've heard them) Where ambulances have been called As Ill people have collapsed when told they've been sanctioned
— kirstym (@kirstym011) February 4, 2019
Others highlighted the number of sick and disabled people the DWP now deems well enough to work:
Just as your DWP crew decide this man should be ordered to work as fit? He's only 6stone and can hardly stand up & YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. Now just tell us all how YOU CAN EVER JUSTIFY THIS. pic.twitter.com/Sgw0JjHEHs
— Annie W–B JC4PM2019 #DPFC I'M CLINT DOG! (@xpressanny) February 4, 2019
My OH had an appt at the jobcentre at 9am today. He was horrified at the number of people on crutches, looking to be in their late 60s, a few in wheelchairs, people with young children all waiting for interviews. We are in a UC area now. Compassionate CONservatives 😠🤬
— 🌹FishWicks bearer.🌹✋ #JC4PM (@eralcbear) February 4, 2019
Actual help with job hunting?
Further people pointed out how difficult it is to find any actual jobs at the job centre:
I was so surprised when I couldn’t actually get a list of jobs when I was out of work last January. The temping agency were more help. Maybe it should be renamed to something more appropriate. Maybe the benefits office?
— Elaine Powell (@makemineavodka) February 4, 2019
Some said that, in reality, it used to be much easier to find work there:
Once upon a time, long before 2010, the Job Centre was a place to go to find jobs & get help applying for them.
— Jane Carnall (@EyeEdinburgh) February 4, 2019
A personal story
I agree with these tweets. 15 years ago, the job centre could be a genuinely helpful place. I was a single mother on incapacity benefit for mental health problems. And whilst a certain level of anxiety accompanied any appointment due to said mental health problems, it wasn’t the dread that people experience now. But importantly, the disability adviser I saw was actually helpful and the system was designed in such a way that she was able to support me.
She agreed that going back to college and doing an MA would be good for my mental health. And she agreed that being able to do the course wasn’t the same as me being okay to work full time. So she arranged for me to study and stay on benefits.
When I felt able to return to part-time work, again, I was supported. I was given leeway where I could have gone back onto benefits if my health had deteriorated. It all worked out. And knowing that support was there made a massive difference.
Although I’ve had to take time off for chronic health problems, I’ve remained in work ever since. I also remained on Disability Living Allowance. Until that is, the Tories got rid of it, and I got called for reassessment for Personal Independence Payments.
The assessment process was horrendous. It made me ill. I actually feel sick trying to write about it. I scored a whole two points and my claim was turned down. But I didn’t appeal. Not because I didn’t think I was entitled to the benefit. But because the whole process made me so ill. In the end, I had to put my mental health first. Which in itself shows just how fucked up the system is.
And compare this to a previous assessment, long before the Conservative Party decided to demonise disabled people, when an assessor could see the amount of distress I was in, and said he’d make a phone call and that we didn’t need to go through the whole process.
Amber Rudd, just shut up. Please shut up.
So no, Amber Rudd, the job centre is not a “thriving community hub”. It’s a place people fear going. It’s a place of dread where any small infraction can mean sanctions and reliance on foodbanks. And it’s a place where people with life-threatening conditions are told they’re fit for work and disabled people are made to feel like scroungers.
The lies and spin aren’t fooling anyone. But they are offensive. Rudd’s government has waged war against sick and disabled people; against the most vulnerable people in society. Either Rudd is happily trotting out lie after lie, or she really does live in cloud cuckoo land. Either way, she really needs to shut up and stop spouting twaddle that makes anyone who’s actually had dealings with the DWP feel physically sick.
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