My very first article last year was about a Manchester jobseeker who I referred to as "Pam". She had her benefits threatened if she didn't withdraw from her part time college course, which following jobcentre guidelines she should have been entitled to do alongside her search for employment. Following the article, her benefits were stopped, but eventually reinstated after a successful appeal. However since then Pam was inundated with appointments from the Jobcentre, which coincided with the two days in which she needed to be at college.

Forced to drop out of college

The college were understanding about this and tried to help her as much as they could.

Eventually Pam had to settle for a lower qualification and leave college sooner than she had planned as she was too behind and unable to catch up, even with the full support of her college.

More recently, she has been made to attend the jobcentre every weekday and is constantly told that she is going to be put on a work placement. This is where they place a jobseeker in a workplace, except there is no payment for this. The only incentive is being allowed to keep receiving benefits and this work placement could be for any number of hours and as many as full time. Pam has accepted this will happen and hopes that she will be placed somewhere where she can gain relevant experience. While she waits for this placement to materialise, she is looking for paid work and voluntary work in areas which interest her.

This has only seemed to agitate the advisor who Pam sees at her regular jobcentre appointments. The advisor has told Pam the work placement has to come first.

Things came to a head this week when Pam asked permission to attend a job fair in order to meet with prospective employers and hopefully secure a paid job. The job fair coincides with the time she has to be at the jobcentre.

She was told by her advisor at the jobcentre that her work placement has to come first. Pam pointed out that she hadn't actually received a start date or location for a work placement yet. Her advisors response was to tell her not to be disrespectful and then to proceed to grab the attention of the jobcentre security staff, before asking Pam to leave.

Pam left the jobcentre before security could remove her, but feels the actions of the jobcentre staff were extreme at best. From my dealings with Pam, she doesn't appear to be a confrontational person and it is difficult to imagine that she could have behaved in such a way that deserved this treatment.

Prevented from doing all she can to find paid work

The fact that the jobcentre advisor is placing such great importance of Pam's yet unconfirmed work placement over other forms of job search for real paid jobs seems to go against the agreement Pam was made to sign when she first made her claim for jobseeker's allowance. The agreement lays out how many jobs she must apply for each week and steps she must take in order to improve her chances of securing employment.

It includes writing to, phoning and visiting a certain number of employers. However the limitations that the job centre are placing on Pam are interfering with her job search and she is being prevented from taking all the opportunities available to give her best chance of finding employment. Surely in a time where it's harder to get work, those who are actively looking should be encouraged.