Jobseekers on council-run course face cash fines for tutting or answering phones

It seems this Scottish council was using jobseekers referred to its course by the Department for Work and Pensions as a source of easy cash.

The list of fines [Image: Yvonne Lamont].

The list of fines [Image: Yvonne Lamont].

People on the course found themselves between a rock and a hard place – either they paid the fines for ridiculous offences like having their hands in their pockets, or they would be thrown of the course, triggering an instant sanction from the DWP.

While the Department appears to have done the right thing in this case, one wonders whether the result would have been the same had the course been run by one of the many private provider companies that the DWP employs.

Their methods are more subtle – they aim to spend as little as possible on the service they provide, in order to keep more for themselves – but the end result for jobseekers is the same: No help.

A North Ayrshire Council scheme designed to help out people who are searching for work has been lambasted for fining people who attend it for as little as tutting or having their hands in their pockets.

And the Department of Work and Pensions has now suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme pending investigation into the workings of the fines system.

North Ayrshire Council have hit back at the claims and have backed their programme but one person who attended the course, who wishes to remain anonymous, has hit out at the fines system and explained what it is like.

“Today was day two of the course and we were informed of a “fine” system they have in place that is mandatory.

“Now most of these fines are really cheap for things like hands in pockets etc… but checking your phone or having it go off outside of break time is an INSTANT £5 fine and if you don’t pay it on the spot you get kicked off the course….and since the Job Centre sent me there, getting kicked off the course is an instant sanction.

“One person got fined when their phone went off but only had £3 and had to borrow the rest from other people on the course.”

Source: Jobseekers on a North Ayrshire Council run course face fines of up to £7.50 for a number of things (From Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald)

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21 thoughts on “Jobseekers on council-run course face cash fines for tutting or answering phones

  1. Gavin Proctor

    This sounds very, very illegal, I will be writing to my councillor about this blatant extortion.

  2. joanna

    I meant to say, I would have called the police, because to me that is obtaining money by menaces which, I think is still a crime, I also would have recorded their demands on my phone as evidence

  3. Barry Davies

    It would appear to be something carried out by a single person rather than the company as the fines are handwritten rather than typed or even laminated, if so this person should be sacked instantly.

  4. wildthing666

    Just tell them you don’t agree with their money making scam and you are seeking legal action for them to be forced to stop it and repay everyone with interest

  5. jonathansharpe

    What person in their right mind living on benefit payments would sign an agreement like this ? Which makes me think they must have be coerced / forced to in some way ?

  6. steven mcguire

    this is the most stupid thing i have ever heard what job is at the end of it a teacher

  7. frederick cumbersnack

    It’s impossible to view he full list as the image is of too poor quality. could you reiterate it in the article or provide a link to the full size image?

  8. mohandeer

    Who has the legal authority to issue fines? I know the police, the courts and traffic wardens can issue fines but only the courts can make you hand over the money through a Judiciary process. How is this possible in Scotland?
    Why was the fine system, which must have been illegal, not reported? A swear box is a purely voluntary system and this is all that any Jobcentre could hope to get away with. I wouldn’t have parted with 10p without taking out a court injunction against them if they tried any sanctioning nonsense. Those attending were not being paid and as such did not have a contract of employment, so how could they have had “deductions”? You don’t need a lawyer to take out court action in a case of fraud, which is what this was. What was Ayreshire Council thinking involving themselves in such a scheme? It’s tantamount to blackmail!

  9. Mags

    Is this actually legal, because it seems like a form of extortion to me (pay the fine, or get kicked off the course and lose your benefits)?

  10. Joan Edington

    How ridiculous can you get. Much as I hate phones going off during courses, fines like this are surely not legal. It’s the sort of course I would have thought the DWP would have approved of, if it generated sanctions, but maybe not if no money was going to their pals. I bet the Council claim they need the money to cover funding cuts.

  11. Brian

    Boot camp!, will National Service be back on the cards, Oh no sorry, that’s another area of cuts.

  12. Christine

    All those rights previous generations fought so hard to win, all gone in a few years. When you think things cannot possibly get any worse, the psychopaths think of something more make you suffer.

    Surely the fine system put in place by the Council counts as extortion, and therefore should be illegal. Perhaps I have not kept up with things, maybe this is now legal? Councils do extort money from the public for many other things, e.g. parking in areas the public have already paid for, ridiculous fines for various reasons, etc.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      A fine isn’t a sanction. And as for the DWP not applying sanctions – we’ve seen it before on ‘voluntary’ procedures.

  13. Joan Edington

    The council claims that nobody has been sanctioned who has been put off these courses. Who knows? This is what they claim.

    “The Lennox Partnership insisted that non-payment of a fine would not lead to sanctions, and said no one on the programme has been sanctioned.

    A spokeswoman for the partnership said: “The fine system replicates behaviours that would not be acceptable in most workplaces and is utilised as a preventative measure to change those behaviours, which could subsequently impact on clients both securing and sustaining work.

    “We have been delivering STRIVE in North Ayrshire since 2011 and the fine system has been an integral part of all delivery. Our success rates have seen 80 per cent of graduates securing employment and 84 per cent retention rates with employers across a range of industry sectors. This demonstrates the success of STRIVE and what we are trying to achieve.”

    Unemployed people taking part in STRIVE must wear “business dress”, and, according to the Lennox Partnership’s website, obey: “the same rules / disciplines that would be expected during a probationary period in a new job””.

    “The ‘fine’ system is used as a preventative measure to change behaviours and instil a professional attitude that employers will be impressed with.

    “Any monies collected go towards a fund to provide provision for interview clothing, haircuts and interview travel expenses.”

    As has been suggested by many, if these conditions were actually enforced in most workplaces, the dole queues would be muchlonger than they already are.

  14. Dez

    Low jobsworth who have completely and utterly lost the plot….subhuman behaviour which needs someone in higher authority to stamp out immediately….what the hell next… some of these guys/gals have had to much stick already why not get the carrots out for a change.

Comments are closed.