Sunday, 7 September 2014

nick again

And besides. Work.

New sets of protocols to familiarize himself with, new forms of psychometric assessments, ways of assessing risk and assigning people to the most appropriate Giveback programmes. Just this last Saturday he had lunch with one of his colleagues from the Dover branch, Chloe, a very pleasant girl in her late twenties who he met on a training course and immediately struck up a friendship with, front line at the local Claimant Centre and thoroughly demoralized.

She had spent the whole of the workshop on new assessment processes, Claimants: Evaluating MIndsets and Mindtypes with her jaw set tight, almost audibly grinding her teeth, bad body language, dead give away, Nick as usual neutrally poised and alert, pen and pad at the ready. After a few role plays in which she seemed reluctant to participate and a long Prezi presentation on forms of psychological assessment that front line staff would have to carry out on claimants, in which such words as populate, migrate, colonize, terraform, deforest and re-wild were used to describe the entry of figures and the deployment of ticks (not crosses) circles (not lines) and lines (not circles) on a new flotilla of forms they retired to the kitchen to eat some Pret sandwiches and bond.

Now we have to make psychological assessment of claimants. I am not trained to do that.

Well, Nick said with gentle irony, you will be after today’s three hour lecture and the follow-up webinar.

She gazed out of the window. Our office now, she said, looks more like a detention centre, security guards on every floor, no phones, no computers for the claimants to use, the slightest discrepancy and we sanction people, really complicated forms to fill out and job search diaries to fill out, and if you don’t sanction people and it’s discovered you have been too lenient, then. I wish they would just make me redundant.

Nick nods. Every new government has to introduce.

Now I have to assess people’s what? Their character, their mental health, their attitude and assign them to motivational therapy or sanction them? She has the handouts rolled up into a baton, clenched tight in her fist. What does that mean “systemic inability to act entrepreneurially”, “clear problems of dependency”, what does “psycho-social neoteny” mean?

That they haven’t grown up to.

I know, she snapped, I know what it means.

Nick paused, took a bite of salt beef and guacamole on seeded dark rye.

Don’t take it personally he said. This is the new compliance regime, we will all comply, then it will all change again and again.

We need to take a stand at some point though. This is. This is people dying. Vulnerable people. I had someone last week. She breathes out heavily shakes her head.

Well me too, we all have. If we don’t do it, someone else will. Better us than someone who relishes the role right?

Even if we are powerless to stop or change anything?

Well, within the limits imposed on us we can try and treat people with courtesy, with some recognition of their humanity, I mean.

The human face of an inhuman system? she said under her breath then glanced around nervously.

He shrugged and smiled. The humane element within it, maybe.

I used to be scared of being on the other side of the desk. Now I can’t see much difference. USPG. Except the money.

How badly do you need the money?

I signed up to an agency, I work through BettaTemps.

Nick pulls a tight smile and nods. Ah.

I didn’t know that any future employer, they don’t make it clear to you, would have to buy me out of my contract with them. You know. When there's so many people out there looking for work, why would a company take on that extra expense? I could buy myself out but it’s thousands of pounds and I am already..

I know it’s.

It’s indentured servitude. Her voice tailed off as the programme organizer mingled his way toward them, face a mask of bland solicitation.

Hi, he said, I am Tony and I just want to share with you my excitement about the prospect of us all working together to really get this project momentumized going forward. my digital door is always open so to speak, we really welcome your input. You are the key element, the client-facers, the implementators, the faciltationers.

Nick coughed on a rye crumb, half wished Jerome were there.

What exactly are the purposes of these tests that staff have to take? I don’t quite get it.

An older lady, a fellow trainee, had joined them now, discretely removing a spot of creme-fraiche from the side of her mouth with a napkin. Psychometric testing has been used in the corporate sector for years, Chloe, she said. This facility for remembering everyone’s name at a glance, something Nick still struggles with. It’s a way of ensuring that Clientfacers don’t have or aren't developing a claimant mentality themselves.

Empathy can be a powerful conduit for infection, Tony says.

So it’s a way of weeding out the compassionate ones, you mean? Chloe asked. Nick smiled. Aha! well now she is going to get herself sacked.

Goodness no, Tony said, he was short with a beaming, bright red face, a shiny bald pate and fleecy banks of soft white cumulus moored above his ears, avuncular, unthreatening. Compassion and empathy are what we need more of, what we build our relationships on, collegiate and empathetic co-creativity. What we want to check is that the empathy doesn't become


Ah. Nick winced. Don’t do it Chloe. Don’t get sacked.

A form of interference. A block on full implementation of USPG protocols and practices.  Empowering through Empathy. That’s the phrase, he said with a chuckle, eyes twinkling.

Making sure empathy, he said with an upswing in his voice and raised eyebrows, a beatific smile, doesn’t become; grumpy face, furrowed brow, big no-no! Compassion.