Today I had to go in to discuss the situation with my advisor and her boss. It was alright, I have been told I can do the 6 hour a week course but that I have to fill out a 'Skills Conditionality' form which will go off to Scotland to be assessed. If they think my reasons for not doing the course aren't good enough then I will lose my benefits.
My advisor basically lied and said I hadn't told her I wanted to do the gardening course. She also said I'd never mentioned that I'd like to be self-employed, which is also a lie. I spoke about all the things I've been doing to improve my situation- but unpaid work doesn't count as 'work' in terms of how confident or job ready I might be, which seems a bit strange as I have been constantly challenging myself since being 'unemployed'. The stigma surrounding people out of work is not doing me any favours at all.
I didn't mention the appalling DWP figures- that only 3.5% of those doing the Work Programme have actually found work, but I will put that on the form, along with references from my non-employers etc- I am going to do a KILLER statement.
After her boss had gone my advisor was unnaturally nice to me, much nicer than she's been for ages- perhaps she's realised that I have my eye on all this. I asked her what has happened to other people that have refused to go on Launchpad and she said that I am the first person to refuse. It makes me a bit sad really- more people should stick up for themselves. The threat of sanctions stops people from voicing their concerns and forces them into unpaid work, without any choice at all.
I have been reading about A4E, the company that provides the courses and they come across as shockingly bad- the allegations of systemic fraud and poor performance are rife, which basically just reaffirms my belief that I'm better off looking for work myself- without having to put up with motivational bullshit and box ticking and all the other demoralising and patronising things I hate about these courses.
Meanwhile, new graffiti has sprung up near to where I go to the Job Centre. A bit dramatic maybe? When you look at what ATOS are doing then maybe not so much.