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DWP forcing jobseekers to apply for roles they're 'entirely unsuitable for', research finds

Employers are being "bombarded" with applications as Jobcentre work coaches push jobseekers to apply for "Any Job"

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A man walks past a Jobcentre. Image: Oli SCARFF/AFP/ Getty

DWP Jobcentres are failing both job seekers and employers looking for staff by forcing candidates to apply for jobs they are “entirely unsuitable for”, a leading research institute has found. 

A focus on meeting job application targets to avoid being sanctioned means that jobseekers end up bombarding employers with applications for roles that are inappropriate for them, wasting everyone’s time.

Researchers at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) heard from people currently using the DWP’s Jobcentre Plus service, which takes the approach: ‘Any Job, Better Job, Career’ (ABC). This encourages people to apply for any paid role, ideally full-time, before progressing to a better job. If the jobseeker doesn’t follow the steps advised by their work coach, they could have their benefits cut.

Melanie Wilkes, associate director for work and the welfare state at IPPR, said: “The Jobcentres’ approach of relying on sanctions to push people into jobs reinforces insecure, poor quality work and is simply a waste of everyone’s time.”

Sandrine Mpongo, a London-based 38-year-old lone mother to two sons, was unemployed for two years due to the high cost of childcare and inflexibility of work coaches at the Jobcentre, who tried to push her into full-time work. 

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“I can’t leave my child alone to go to work, I can only work according to the hours my sister is free [to takeover childcare],” she told the Big Issue. “I was telling them that the times I can work were the most important thing, but they weren’t listening to me.”

“[One job coach] said I had to take any job that is available, even if it is full time, and when I am in the job, I can explain my situation and ask to reduce the hours. But I don’t think it works like that. It’s better to tell them the truth from the beginning,” she added. 

To be eligible for the current system of Jobseekers benefits from the DWP, claimants must prove they are taking “reasonable steps to look for work” which require them to spend 35 hours a week working on job applications, regardless of how suitable the position is for their circumstances. 

“At a time when our whole economy is being held back by workforce challenges it’s more urgent than ever to ensure everyone can access genuine help finding the jobs that work for them and their wider circumstances,” continued Henry Parkes, IPPR principal research fellow and co-author of the report. 

Employers are struggling to recruit enough workers in a whole host of sectors including farming, hospitality, healthcare, prisons and education. While employers are increasingly desperate to hire, a lack of inflexible work and the high cost of childcare is preventing many people with caring responsibilities who want to work from doing so.

The IPPR is calling for a “new universal public employment service” from the DWP that would dial down the conditions placed on people claiming jobseekers’ benefit. Under the new system, people with health conditions and single parents would be exempt from sanctions. 

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The Institute is also calling for Jobcentre work coaches to be retrained with greater emphasis on how to support jobseekers who require job flexibility and to work with employers to encourage them to offer more flexible roles. 

A Government spokesperson said: “Tailored, flexible advice and support is available from Jobcentre Plus as part of our core offer and falling levels of inactivity, down more than 300,000 since the pandemic peak, show our plan is working.

“We are investing an additional £3.5 billion over the next five years to deliver tailored employment support for jobseekers, focusing on what people can do, rather than what they can’t.

“With our expansion of free childcare, one-to-one work coach support, and new Universal Support programme, we are also helping millions of parents, older workers and the long-term sick return to the workforce.”

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