Speaking at the hearing, Cathy said:
“We have lots of clients who come to the Cardinal Hume Centre who are simply not computer literate. The claims system, the whole system in fact, doesn’t work for them, so people are excluded almost from first base. This is about our common aims: getting people into jobs. The digitalisation of the processes has obviously increased exponentially compared to people’s grasp of how to use computers.”
Asked why these clients fall through the net, Cathy explained:
“It’s about the time allowed and the level of assessment – it’s ten minutes to get to the root of somebody’s issues and find out what barriers they face in getting into work. For example, we have an assessment tool at the Cardinal Hume Centre which we go through face-to-face, that takes 30 to 40 minutes – that’s quite a time commitment but it works.
“I would like JobCentre Plus to acknowledge that one size simply does not fit all, and to encourage and allow their staff to spend more time with applicants or refer them to people like ourselves”.
Cathy was asked to speak to the Select Committee on behalf of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), of which the Centre is a member and Cathy is a trustee. CSAN submitted a written response to the inquiry in April, and responded to questions concerning the likely effects of the planned digitalisation of Job Centre Plus on claimants, the capability of JobCentres to provide new, tailored services for particular groups of people, including people with mental health problems, and opportunities for coordination with other local services.
The response was a collection of the frontline experiences of the CSAN network, namely: Brushstrokes, the Cardinal Hume Centre, Caritas Care, Caritas Middlesbrough, Caritas Salford, Nugent Care, Marriage Care, the Passage, St Vincent Depaul and Our Lady of Gillingham Parish.
The submission advocated more support for vulnerable clients and clients without digital skills, and recommended that JobCentre Plus cooperates with local charities and organisations.