I don’t normally name the people that I run into, but this fella deserves a special mention. He stalked me monthly face to face and over the telephone, paying no respect for my privacy; or indeed no respect for me whatsoever. Here is a reminder of my run-ins with the delightful Work Programme Standguide.
To make things clear, Standguide is a Workprogramme provider and is owned by a bigger company which is called Seetec. They are employed by The Department Of Works and Pensions (DWP) to provide and oversee the dreaded Workprogramme. The Workprogramme is, to put it mildly a horrible place to have to go to. I was unlucky enough to have to experience it for three days, and I’m sure that they will never forget the three days that I attended their building.
Disabled and non disabled people are herded into rooms after signing two forms to prove that they are actually attending. Those were the only forms that I signed, because otherwise I wouldn’t have received my money. I had already found a job previous to attending, but my so called Jobcoach who wasn’t the nicest of people, decided that I had to attend or I would be sanctioned my last three days money. I attended because I couldn’t afford to lose three days money, and also I had the foresight to realise that I would gain valuable research material there. So I went.
It’s a long story, which I have covered in a previous blog over a year ago, but I saw some horrible things there. We had no privacy, we had to discuss matters in front of everyone. We were spoken to like we were idiots and not intelligent people, and people who were obviously too ill to attend were forced to attend, but to make matters worse they were put in the same groups as able bodied people. The rooms were small, crammed full of aging computers on which we were made to undertake some kind of so called intelligence test to test our abilities. I, personally, completed the same test with the same answers three times and it came out with a different result each time. Set up to fail and confuse? Yes I think so, it all seemed very deliberate.
I, of course, refused to sign any of the forms thrust in front of us. I was already armed with my rights, and most of the group of people with me refused to sign also. This caused the so called teacher a bit of a headache. You see they get commission for each signature received,and a mass panic ensued. We refused to sign. I signed the register under duress, and they let me leave early on my last day. I had also photographed everything that I had seen, all the forms that they had tried to fool us into signing…. I had the distinct feeling that they couldn’t wait to be rid of me. But not signing the documents is where Bernard comes into the story.
Because I had refused to sign the forms, and also had refused to tell them where I was working they felt compelled to phone me at home, first on a daily basis, which dwindled down to a weekly basis. As soon as they heard my voice they realised that they wouldn’t get any information from me, so they would put the telephone down in a huff it seemed. It was then that the home visits started.
It was a winters evening and it had gone dark early as it often does in winter. Unusually there was a knock on the door. I don’t have visitors except by appointment, so I opened the window and shouted out to whomever it was. Out of the shadows walked Bernard. He was either a near retired, or retired gentleman, and if I saw him on the street would have thought that he was a harmless character. He told me his name, and that he was from Standguide. Immediately my heckles raised, Standguide as you can imagine are not my favourite company to deal with. I asked him what he wanted? He had no right to be standing on my property. I hadn’t signed any contract. Therefore he shouldn’t be bothering me. indeed he shouldn’t be bothering anyone. He was waving the forms that I had refused to sign, saying that it was in my best interest if I signed them. I replied, saying oh no you don’t, this does not benefit me at all, but it benefits your company. You receive a quite substantial sum of money for me signing, therefore I will not be signing. I shut the window, noting the rather expensive sports car that he was driving.
Bernard then took it upon himself to visit me monthly. Yes, this was harassment, yes this shouldn’t be happening , but I had the strength to stand up to him, and I also enjoyed asking him questions regarding the cost of his rather expensive car, and was he proud of the fact that the money that probably paid for this car had been gained from exploiting the poorest in the area? This pantomime carried in until this time last year. After refusing to sign year again, he walked down my path and into the lovely sports car that he was driving round in. Happy anniversary Bernard!
This did however highlight several points for me.
He told me that he did this on a regular basis to lots of people in my area, he was proud if this, and didn’t quite understand it when they told him to go away under no uncertain terms. But for every strong person, there’s probably at least five that aren’t as strong. This is harassment and I urge people to contact the police if this does happen to you. They have no right to visit you at home, or to phone you constantly.
It also showed me how desperate they are to get vulnerable people to sign their documents. This releases a large sum of money, but it also contracts you to this company for two years. Do you really want this company to control your life for two years? You don’t really, so don’t sign.
It highlighted the terrible conditions that claimants were forced to endure. We may no longer have workhouses, but we now have the work programme and workfare. Both intended to exploit you as much as they possibly can.
This is only a brief synopsis, therefore I haven’t included links etc etc. Those are in a previous blog. But I would like to wish Bernard a happy leaving anniversary and I hope that he learnt something from his actions, although I doubt this somehow. A leopard never changes its spots.