Jobcentres 'failing young women'

By agency reporter
October 28, 2018

Job centres are letting young women down by focusing on universal credit sanctions not support, says Young Women’s Trust, a charity that helps young women into work, and 4in10: London’s Child Poverty Network, which aims to end child poverty in London.

 The charities’ new report, Working Well, reveals that more than half of young women who have used job centres in the past year say they are “humiliating”, with many feeling belittled by staff.

 Young women using Jobcentre Plus reported they are half as likely to find work through the service as young men. In 2018, 43 per cent of male job centre users attributed Jobcentre Plus to helping them find work compared to 23 per cent of female service users.

 Instead of being a centre of support, job centres are increasingly a place of enforcement. Young women have reported being sanctioned for things like missing an appointment because they went into labour and for “not doing enough” to prevent being bullied and stay in a job.

 The two charities have also criticised the lack of time given to identifying and supporting vulnerable clients. Within as little as 10 minutes, prospective claimants are expected to prove their identity, disclose any issues that might impact on them seeking work, such as caring responsibilities, disabilities and domestic abuse, and agree on a job-seeking plan. Staff members can find it hard to establish a relationship in which claimants feel safe enough to disclose their issues within such a limited time, meaning things get missed. The research shows this can result in a job-seeking plan that the client is unable to carry out, resulting in sanctions that can damage their finances and their mental health.

 Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: “Job centres are not working for young women. Young women are telling us that they want jobs that enable them to be financially independent. However, despite the best efforts of staff, they feel they are not taken seriously by job centres, which are instead preoccupied with rolling out universal credit and imposing sanctions.

 “The Government should pause the roll-out of universal credit as a matter of urgency, until a fully functional system is in place. It should then develop automatic rollover to the new benefit, so people are not left for weeks with nothing.

 “Job centre users should be given personalised support that takes account of any vulnerabilities. Simply providing a private space for people to disclose issues that may be affecting them would make a difference. We need less focus on sanctions and more focus on support.”

 Laura Payne, Campaign Manager, 4in10:London’s Child Poverty Network said: “Job centres are already not working well to support young jobseekers. Rolling out Universal Credit, as it stands, will draw many families - whether in work or out – into a punitive inflexible system that is doing more harm than good. We would all like to see job centres helping people back onto their feet and into work, and not pushing people further into poverty.”

 A 21 year-old from Newcastle who uses the job centre and is on universal credit, said of her experience:  “I just had [a] 4in10really bad experience with job centre this morning actually. I left crying! I went with my student finance letter and the way they spoke to me was awful. The women told me I was at risk of losing £400+ a month (when I only get £631 as it is) and the way she was just treating me in general was just horrible. She made me feel so small and like I was stupid… It’s like they’re punishing you for wanting to study or get a job.”

Young Women’s Trust and 4in10 are also calling for outcomes from the Youth Obligation – the Government’s requirement that any young person accessing job centre support for more than six months is given a work or training placement – to be recorded, for fear that young people are not being offered these opportunities.

* Read the report Working Well here

* 4in10

*Young Women's Trust


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