Could you do a job that you hate? Well, many of us do. But could you do a job which you are ethically, politically and morally opposed to? For the anonymous Job centre Mole, this is a reality. Every day he goes to work and in the evenings he secretly documents his colleagues' actions and speaks against the Department of Work and Pensions on Twitter.
But why is he doing this? "I guess its just my way to stick it to the man, and also throw out some help to members of the public who are treated unfairly," he said in a recent interview. The Mole has revealed that Job Centre staff get bonuses for sanctioning benefits claimants and that Job Centres with lower levels of sanctioning are reprimanded. The ideal, he claims, is for every Job Centre advisor to sanction two people per day. A system of 'sister offices' and 'clusters' enables Job Centres' sanction levels to be appraised.
"I once saw a guy who works for us sanction 23 customers in one day! It took him a ridiculous amount of time to do all the paperwork! Had he done this to get a better box marking? or to warrant his job? No he did it because the night before he had watched a programme on TV," he said. "We have weekly meetings, in these meetings we are encouraged to sanction customers for various reasons mainly not actively seeking employment in adherence to their jobseekers allowance. Now not a lot of customers know this but its a lottery who gets pulled, it depends on the member of staff, and also on the customer, example, if a 6ft 2 big aggressive builder was to walk over to the signing section I can assure you he would not be challenged, however the more weaker clientele are. We give customers a JSA1(ils) form and are encouraged to get them to sign it to (re-open their claim if sanctioned), what we don’t tell the customer is that signing this form puts another 2 weeks on the sanction."
A system of incentives appears to be in place which encourages Job Centre staff to sanction benefits claimants. "I was acting front line manager for 12 months due to me being the most experienced member of staff and the manager being on long term sick. During this time I was reprimanded repeatedly regarding the team I had and how little DMA we had done (not enough benefit sanctions ect). I was told that it was my team’s fault that our office had no one kicking and screaming at the security guards, and this was a bad thing as it reflected that my office was not strict. I have seen many advisors and front line staff waiver their end of year bonus, we get box markings ranging from 1/2/3, 3 = £0 bonus, 2 = £300, 1 = £500, this is my grade, the amounts go up the higher up the ladder you get. I have seen advisors and front line staff get a 3 because they are not sanctioning enough customers."
Since setting up his Twitter account three months ago, the Mole has been quickly gathering followers. People are intrigued about what really goes on in Job Centres. Others say the article proves how the system is corrupt and blame the government for treating the poor, disabled and unemployed badly. An issue less often discussed is: Would you apply for a job at a Job Centre? Could you turn up every morning at nine to a job which disgusts you? And would you have the courage to speak out- even anonymously-about an unethical workplace?