Running the country is easy when you’re not the one doing it – it’s why so many politicians and political parties perform incredibly well in Opposition roles, but can’t seem to get a grip when they manage to get elected.
But, since that’s never stopped any politician – or mediocre businessman – to date, I may as well throw my t’uppence worth in.
The good thing about running a country, from my point of view, is that you always start with the negatives – something is wrong, and you have to fix it. (Even if it isn’t actually wrong, and doesn’t actually need fixing, you’re like a kid who just has to fiddle with things, so you tell everyone it’s broken, and you’re going to fix it, and you usually end up making it worse.
One of the things we’re consistently told is broken in the UK is out of work benefits – Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – the latter is paid to individuals who are disabled and/or living with long term health issues, the former is paid to people with no health related barriers to employment who are looking for work.
The UK government is endlessly wringing its hands over what to do with people who are “economically inactive” (they could start by being factually accurate in their descriptions, really – no one who is receiving welfare payments from the State is “economically inactive” – they can’t afford to be. Welfare recipients are not stashing money in off-shore accounts or tax-free ISAs: they’re spending it, on food, clothing, utility bills, public transport. The money they receive goes straight back into the economy, pretty much in its entirety. Welfare recipients are certainly not “economically inactive” – however much it might suit ministers and Jobcentre advisers to pretend otherwise.)
The UK government spent over £17million to develop its flagship “Universal Jobmatch” site, to soothe the chattering classes’ sneaking suspicion that those awful unemployed people weren’t doing anything in exchange for their benefits – they couldn’t be, because surely, if they’d actually applied for a job, at all, they’d be working by now, rather than mooching off the poor, hard-pressed tax payer. The running costs for Universal Jobmatch are £6million per year. That means, in the first year of Universal Jobmatch, an extra £23million will have been added to the UK Jobseekers’ Allowance bill – and, since Universal Jobmatch has been beset by “teething problems” almost from its conception, that £23million is a redundant cost – it’s not enabling the unemployed to contribute more to the wider economy, since they won’t see a penny of it, and it’s almost certainly not helping them secure employment. It’s literally just another recruitment website in a sea of recruitment websites who are all advertising the same jobs, because the same recruitment agencies simply post all their vacancies to every major website – Universal Jobmatch is run by Monster (the recruitment website, not the energy drink), for pity’s sake!
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) like the idea of Universal Jobmatch, because it enables them to interfere – claimants are literally expected to hand over their log in details, so that advisers can “recommend” jobs – in many cases, people have felt pressured into taking jobs that weren’t suitable, because of childcare commitments, public transport logistics, or simply that the job was in a sector they had no relevant qualifications or experience for – none of which were options to elaborate on “why didn’t you apply for this job?” (And which really should be options, because it would help advisers identify potential barriers for their clients’ jobsearch, so they knew what they should be working on with each individual client.)
The thing is…the DWP have spent £17m + on a system that, err… is already available, and free to use.
Reed Recruitment already offer full, intuitive, role and location specific search capability. They already mark jobs that have been applied for as “APPLIED” -meaning an adviser, whilst not able to interfere directly in the process, would be able to see what jobs a claimant had applied for, and discuss reasons why other roles they felt were suitable had been passed over. Reed already offers suggestions of “recommended jobs.” Reed’s site allows the candidate’s CV and sample covering letter to be clearly visible. It allows candidates to upload a profile image.
The DWP didn’t need to spend £17million creating Universal Jobmatch. It doesn’t need to spend £6million a year maintaining it. IT ALREADY EXISTS – with someone else paying the maintenance costs. All the DWP had to do was require every JSA claimant to have an active account with Reed – which is a sensible measure anyway, as they’re a company with massive reach and reputation, running an accessible, easy to use site which produces highly relevant search returns, from almost every major recruitment agency. Advisers would be able to look at the layout of their clients’ CVs, the kind of things they were including in covering letters, and what they felt was an appropriate professional image, all on one site, in a single setting, and immediately give feedback on what was good and not so good about the profile. They would be able to see what jobs their client had applied for – at the start of each signing-on session, the claimant simply clicks through to their Reed profile – as the Jobcentre offices now have internet access as standard – and the adviser can see which jobs have been applied for at a glance. Once the client’s activity on Reed has been discussed, the adviser can move on to discussing other jobsearch activities – something which, from anecdotal evidence, doesn’t seem to happen so much, with advisers believing that all jobsearching activity should be going through Universal Jobmatch, and sanctioning people who applied for jobs advertised in the local paper, or who popped a CV in after seeing a poster in a shop window.
Advisers could watch clients perform a search on Reed, and suggest additional search terms, based on related sectors and job roles, and commutable locations that the claimant may not have been aware of. (For example, I live in Lowestoft, and it may not occur to me, if I were scrabbling by on £73 a week, that, for the right job at the right salary, taking into consideration rail fares, etc, I could get to Ipswich, Cambridge or Central London by train, as well as the more obvious bus route areas of Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Beccles, Gorleston and Southwold, and places such as Dereham, Swaffham, and King’s Lynn – further out, and requiring a change of bus in Norwich, but still just about feasible.) Likewise, I may not, faced with trying to keep everything ticking over on a limited amount of money, and ensuring I complied with every tiny whim and rule so I didn’t lose that limited amount of money, realise that, while my primary skills are written communication and administration, sectors such as marketing, PR, advertising, digital communications, B2B, events planning, etc, all used those skills – I may have just searched “Admin”, for example.
In many cases, the solution large companies, and governments, need, are already there – those companies and governments simply need to look for them.