Jobseekers 'set-up to fail' by Jobcentre services

Jobseekers and employers are being failed nationwide by Jobcentre employment services displaying a lack of care and support, a think tank has suggested.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found people with qualifications and work experience in specific sectors are being forced into irrelevant industries.

Work coaches and advisers within the service are accused of not doing enough to support candidates in applying for jobs that they are suited to or qualified for.

Melanie Wilkes, one of the report's authors, is the IPPR's associate director for work and the welfare state.

She told Sky News: "People are being pressured to take any job regardless of if it meets their circumstances. It's impossible to sustain that over a period of time so people are cycling between periods of unemployment and periods of work and the jobs they're getting are insecure, low-paid, [and] with very little opportunity for progression."

Ms Wilkes said jobseekers' existing skill sets are not being developed.

"The core issue is that the support people are getting is support in name only," she said.

"People didn't feel that they really were getting help or support from their work coach, instead quite a few felt that they were being set requirements to apply for any job.

The think tank said they have heard from jobseekers who are disheartened and frustrated by the process.

The government has what it calls an ABC policy - with a view to helping jobseekers get "Any job first, a Better job next and into a Career". It's this approach that the IPPR says is failing.

Ella-Mae Michalski from Hampshire began looking for a job with her higher qualification certificate in social studies.

Her sights were set on a career in the criminal justice system or youth work as she sought out a job related to her field.

But she says she received no tailored support from her adviser and was pushed into a retail role.

She told Sky News she felt like she wasn't being listened to.

"It was definitely not something they wanted me to take forward, it was very much a case of which job can you get now, how many hours will it be.

"They completely disregarded anything that showed my interest in the legal field.

"It was more than a feeling of being discouraged; it affected my mental health.

"I felt very strongly that actually everything I'd worked for to have that certificate was kind of pointless and that it wasn't taken seriously and it didn't really matter what I was doing because I was going to end up in retail anyway."

The issue also impacts employers as it wastes their money, time and resources.

Emma Freivogel, a recruiter with decades of experience, said: "For a recruiter, this is a really massive consideration for the employers that we work with, because they spend huge amounts of time and money recruiting the right people and inducting staff into their businesses so the government's 'any job first and a better job later' approach seems counter-intuitive."

Ms Freivogel's agency, Radical Recruit, supports marginalised people who have had adverse life experiences to acquire the skills to apply for and get jobs.

Ella-Mae said if services offered more care towards their users, it could change the way jobseekers feel about the Jobcentre and its role.

She told Sky News: "I feel that there needs to be a tailored approach to each individual when they come into a situation where they sit down with a work coach and they discuss their skillset, their wants, their needs, their passions - those shouldn't be dismissed at face value.

"It's so important we invest in people to help them fulfil what they are capable and desire to do."

Read more on Sky News:
People coming to UK on skilled worker visas find there's no job
Prison 'job centres' help boost ex-offender employment
Call for more help to get millions of long-term sick back into employment

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions told Sky News: "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 £3.5bn 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."

Ella-Mae has recently gained a law degree, alongside caring for her twin girls.

She wonders what she could have achieved if there had been more encouragement from the career adviser she met from the outset.

But she has vowed that she will work in the legal industry in the future and pursue a career she loves.