Inside the Kafka-esque word of the Work Programme

Various private companies have been awarded contracts for the Work Programme, intended to get the long-term unemployed back to work. One person “lucky” enough to receive their “help” sent us this account. They have asked to remain anonymous.

So, I got a letter to do a training course with my Work Programme Provider. It read:

Dear Feckless Person,
It has been arranged for you to attend at a training course at the centre on Tuesday morning. It will take three hours. If you don’t wanna come, get a job. SCUM!

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but it didn’t tell me what training course I was coming in for, and I’d discussed a number of potential workplace skill courses that I think would help me. I phoned to ask what the training course was.

‘Oh well, it’s a course in *mumbles*’

‘Sorry what was that?’

‘It’s a course in *mumble even more*’

‘I don’t know what you’re saying.’

‘Just come to the session and it’ll be explained then.’

So, there I am, waiting for an unknown training course, with another external organisation from the Jobcentre. One of those ‘skills providers’ with a terrible number pun in its name. A rise in illiteracy in Britain could be blamed on the terrible number wordplay in these businesses names names. So, the Skillz4U2Day trainer asks us all to follow him, still keeping the nature of this course to himself.

He begins ‘You’re all here to attend this workshop on how to attend your appointments on the Work Programme, because none of you have been attending your appointments.’


‘Yes, the provider has informed me that all of you have been failing to attend, so I’m here to tell those of you in attendance to come to your appointments.’

Everyone looks around the room. Ten identical letters are produced, sent from the same advisor.

One guy pipes up. ‘I didn’t miss it. He was on leave. I saw someone else.’

Another adds ‘I didn’t miss anything, he was off sick.’

Another adds, ‘I didn’t miss any appointments, he booked me in on a Sunday.’

The trainer looks confused. ‘Erm…did anyone here actually miss an appointment?’ Nobody replies.

The trainer decided we should all just listen to the training anyway. This training was a Powerpoint Presentation. Powerpoint presentations are bad enough when you need to hear them, but when you don’t? It probably didn’t even have any cat gifs.

Cat gifs make everything better.

Anyway, this scrawny weed of a man was suddenly surrounded by some very hard-looking men of the Vinnie Jones mould. They made it very clear they weren’t sitting through his Powerpoint presentation.

Frustrated by this, I went upstairs to speak to the advisor.

‘Well, I was off sick, so I don’t know if you came to your last appointment or not, so I just assumed you hadn’t.’

The computer in front of him, with my profile open, showed a short summary of what had happened at that last appointment.

‘But when I called you up and asked what this training course was, why didn’t you just tell me that. I could have rearranged the appointment?’

‘Because then you wouldn’t have attended the course.’

‘No, because I hadn’t missed any appointments.’

‘If you hadn’t gone to that training course just now, you would have missed an appointment.’

‘So I had to come to this training on how to not miss appointments so that I knew not to miss any appointments because I hadn’t missed any appointments so I didn’t know how not to miss any appointments?’


My ‘training course’ was a sub-contracted powerpoint presentation that was going to take 30 mins, not 3 hours. It wasn’t anything that would give me a skill.

As for the actual training I wanted to do? I’d previously worked in admin, but jobs were drying up in that unless you were someone trained in accounts and bookkeeping, and could use things like Sage 500. What about the training course that I was going to do in that?

‘Oh, we can’t provide training in that. It’s expensive. You can only do the training if you’ve got a job offer for something that needs Sage. Otherwise, we can’t pay for it.’

Now, granted, Sage is a pricey training course. If it wasn’t, I’d pay for it out of my own pocket. But, it’s also mentioned in 90% of the job ads, and especially the permanent ones. So, if I could do it, there’d be a lot more jobs I could apply to?

‘Well, I mean, you can find someone else to pay for it, like an employer. They don’t have to hire you, just pay for the training’

So… I’m supposed to go look for an employer to pay me? Why would an employer want to do that.’

‘Well, they might.’

Triple Facepalm
So, what we have, ladies and gentlemen, is a Work Programme Provider preventing you from doing actual relevant training in a skill required in a large number of job adverts, because it’s too expensive and instead sending you to sub-contracted Powerpoint presentations, that you’re not informed of in advance, where you’re told that if you don’t come to your appointments you won’t get any money.

The Work Programme lasts for two years, as the advisor gleefully reminded me.

11 thoughts on “Inside the Kafka-esque word of the Work Programme

  1. I’d just like to say thanks to the anonymous person who sent this to me. And what’s been bugging me is this…If all these people were told they were going for “training” and then discovered it was to be lectured on the importance of not missing appointments that they hadn’t missed, what was this provider telling the DWP they were doing for these people?

  2. Head In Hands. That is all.

  3. That is their training.. thats all their “training” involves..It is called Black Box approach the people running these schemes can do ANYTHING to you to get you a job. Think pauling of the league of gentlemen, a whole raft of pointless courses,,

  4. Another fine example of software tools and assumptions. Had the appointment letter not been so … misleading is the wrong word but honest and upfront, then someone might have twigged that something wasn’t right. Maybe they could spend money on re-branding to WastingR3sources-4U dot com

  5. Thank heaven I am now on my state pension and out of this junk. Let me tell you what happened before that. Go back a year to when I had my last WCA which I got through thanks to my CPN. If she hadn’t been there, it would probably have meant another appeal. She had to correct the assessor several times about inappropriate questions and working on her computer and not listening to what I was saying. Anyway after that, I got called in to the Job Centre. The assessment said ‘may be able to work within 12 months’. I was at that point just 8 months off my state retirement age.

    Job Centre Advisor says, fine, you won’t get hassled to go on any back to work stuff as too close to retirement. In December she writes and says please come to Job Centre and says sorry, Gov have changed their minds and even though 5 months closer to retirement, no way out of it. So she fixes an appointment with a local charity called Wheatsheaf Trust which are subcontracted to AforE one of the main contractors. I comply, I go along and we have a chat. Wheatsheaf Trust agree that this is totally pointless but say if I will just go for half an hour a month they can keep DWP happy. The guy at Wheatsheaf is useless. He doesn’t remotely understand what I did when I was in IT and why it is so hard to get back in (skills change, technology change, ageist attitudes etc etc). He DOES understand that no employer is going to be interested in taking ANYone on just for a couple of months till they retire.

    I offer, out of the goodness of my heart and a sense of social responsibility to help other of their clients with basic IT skills a couple of times a week. This offer is refused. Why? Because I am not CRB checked and they won’t pay for it. I’m on ESA, where am I going to get the money to pay for a CRB check for the sake of a few months. I already am CRB checked btw for another purpose altogether but this won’t do. So, I say, OK, that’s your loss then.

    Guess what. One week after my first state pension is paid, the guy from Wheatsheaf Trust calls me and says that DWP have asked him why I haven’t been in for my appointment (for May – pension date was 6/5/12). He asks me to go in with a copy of my pension documentation (which he actually already had photocopies of) so he can FAX another copy of the original to the DWP. Then I had a letter from the DWP saying ‘we are stopping your ESA because you are no longer entitled to it’ along with several pages saying we are paying you zero for this that and the other and the end result is – zero.

    HOW do these timewasting idiots stay in a job? There must be far more competent and intelligent people in the dole queue.

    • Just about your penultimate paragraph; my partner and I lost our Working Tax Credits about a year ago. We got a letter telling us we were no longer elligable and we wouldn’t be recieving any more pennies from the government as we were both in better paying jobs now. Fine, whatever.

      A few months later we recieved a letter (both of us, the same letter with the order of our names swapped around) asking us to check over all the details for our now non-exitent WTC application. We ignored it as nothing had changed. A few months later we both recieved another letter telling us that we would be removed from the tax credits programme as we were earning enough to take us over the threshold. Great, we knew that already.

      A couple of months after that we recived ANOTHER letter, this time only one, addressed to me, listing what we were entitled to and then what was being deducted. It ammounted to £0. We hadn’t re-applied, we hadn’t contacted them about anything.

      We’ve recieved one more letter since then to tell us, again, that we are no longer elligable for WTC. Eugh. Someone is getting paid to do this?

  6. Having had my appointments messed up in bizzare ways, I can quite believe the first story.

  7. We’re all paying for this nonsense! It’s pretty obvious who really should be unemployed, isn’t it? The only difference I see between these rip-off ‘service’ (ha!) providers and the ‘benefit scroungers’ – much beloved scapegoats of leader writers on the Daily Wail, the Daily Excess and the Dreary Torygraph – is that this particular type of benefit cheat (RipOff4U) costs a lot more and does real harm.

    Never mind, in ‘The League of Gentlemen’ Pauline and her pencils are fired and she ends up a claimant being lectured by an ex-claimant. I blame the ancient universities for all this: Camerrhoid has a First from Oxford but really hasn’t a clue how to put his own underpants on…

  8. i can relate to this. my providers are actually competent and do give me an easy time when I demonstrate to them that I clearly want work. the only problem is, the work I am aiming for and am most likely to get is teaching in korea. for that i need a CRB check, notarised and apostilled. they won’t pay for it though. it’ll cost me £50 to get a CRB, it’ll cost me £170 to get it notarised and apostilled. I’m on JSA, for pete’s sake. I’m having to sell a fair few of my belongings to be able to raise the funds. surely they are supposed to be helping with these kinds of costs?

  9. Well this doesn’t surprise me AT ALL!! I’m trying my very best to look for a a job and these work programme people don’t help one bit! I don’t want to me a jsa at all! I’d rather go work and earn my own money, my story is simular to this; I got a letter today saying I didn’t attend an appointment a month ago WHICH I DID ATTEND!! And no threatening to stop this shit money! Well they can if they want to I don’t even wanna be on this money anyways; it barely pays my rent and I go without food! These ppl are ment to help us get a job but all they do right now is cuss your job search saying its not enough! I apply for 25 jobs a week. And out of that I get about 3 interveiws, just to be told I haven’t got enough experience, well; this work programme is ment to help with that but they refuse to give me a work placement! PATHETIC!! I’m 20 and since leavin college at 17, I’ve only had 3 jobs, which to me payed really well. I just wanna work again and the work programme are useless!

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