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Help with Freedom of Information application, please...


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I lost my job about a year ago (the details are not relevant but see my other threads if you would like to know more) and have been looking for work ever since.

 

I have applied for about a hundred jobs in the last twelve months - that might not sound a lot but I live in the middle of nowhere and there really isn't much on offer.

 

About half the jobs I have applied for have been with the local council and through their website.

 

There have been at least ten of those jobs which I felt suitable and two which I fulfilled every stated requirement in terms of quite specific experience yet I have not had a single interview.

 

I initially felt that I had been discriminated against because of my age but wondered how on earth that could be proven. Then I started to wonder if the council ever recruited people who were not already employed by them. It was only when I mentioned this to people who may know, e.g. my adviser at the Job Centre and others who know the area well (I have only lived here for two years) that I started to hear the same story, that it is very difficult to get a job with the council unless you are already working there or have a relative who works there.

 

Ironically, one of the questions asked on their site when applying for jobs is about whether or not you have relatives working for them.

 

I am minded to submit an FOI request to find out what percentage of positions are awarded to non-employees.

 

The more I think about it the more annoyed I get and it occurred to me that in fact they are all the employees of the council tax payers and there should not be any preference given to current employees.

 

If it wasn't for the requirement for me to apply for a quota of jobs every week, I would not bother but it really feels like I am banging my head agains the wall and the more effort I put into my applications the more it hurts! I spent several days on a recent application trying to get everything perfectly worded and measured.

 

Can anybody advise me either on the FOI aspect or the law in terms of the preference of current employees in recruitment, please?

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They don't have to offer vacancies to external candidates; indeed most employers prefer to recruit internally as its better to develop existing staff.

 

If you think it's age discrimination then you could submit the relevant age discrimination questionnaire - but they don't have to disclose information surrounding how many external applicants they employ even if you do.

 

I would suggest that practically speaking, its better to invest your time and energy into finding an actual job, rather than questioning an employer's (most likely lawful) recruiting practices. If you do think its discrimination, though, an age discrimination questionnaire is the way to go.

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Being a council doesn't mean they work within the law, in fact some of the government departments are at the top when it comes to flouting regulations.

Edited by Conniff
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Well, maybe they are acting within the law but advertising vacancies as being open to non-council employees when in fact they have no intention of recruiting non-employees does not sound very ethical to me. It is frustrating enough that they advertise vacancies on their site which, when clicked on, are NOT open to non-council employees.

 

And please don't take this the wrong way but when you spend half your waking day looking at the same limited vacancies, have exhausted your speculative approach option (even though you know that they are a nuisance for employers to deal with) and you are under pressure from the Job Centre to apply for a quota of jobs each week, are feeling close to cracking up with the combination of boredom, financial pressure and sense of purposelessness, anxiety and depression, practical advice to invest time and energy into finding an actual job is the sort of thing that might trigger a psychotic episode.

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If that's the case, then your best bet is a GP, not taking your frustration out on an employer who is acting lawfully or someone on an internet forum. Certainly attempting litigation in your current frame of mind wouldn't be advisable.

 

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that its very difficult to get a job in this climate, and you aren't alone. The other factor to consider is that because of the climate, and the amount of young people out of work (which is proportionally higher than the older generation) - its more difficult to prove discrimination as it can be objectively justified for that reason alone.

 

The fact is, they may act immorally in your view, but it isn't unlawful.

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Sorry Geronimo, by post was meant to say "Being a council doesn't mean they work within the law", which changed the whole meaning of what I posted.

Edited by Conniff
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It is very hard to get employment from a Council and most of the offers they make these days are fixed term contracts. Councils do prefer to employ from within especially as they have so many people at anyone time in the redeployment pool.

Keep sending the applications but unless you have a specialist skill I think you will find that there are probably people already employed by the council that would fit the job criteria.

If I have been of any help, please click on my star and let me know, thank you.

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Thanks Conniff, I figured that. :-)

 

My point in the first instance may not have been clear. The council advertise jobs on their website - some, it states, are only open to internal applications and some are open to everybody. It is impossible to apply for the vacancies for internal applicants only as there is a series of questions preceding the application, the first of which is, 'Do you work for XXX Council?'. If you answer 'no' you cannot proceed.

 

It's annoying enough that the council advertises jobs for all to see which are not open to external applicants rather than, say, having them only visible to council employees who are logged on.

 

So, I have only applied for jobs which are open to everybody. I have not applied for any job for which I do not have relevant experience - in fact this is usually another filter question - and (as I stated clearly) I have applied for two jobs for which I met every criterion - in spades.

 

If the council are not recruiting anybody from outside when they are advertising jobs as being open to applications from anybody, there is something wrong (they are operating a quasi-closed shop which, I believe is not legal). And as stated I have not even had an interview for two positions which I meet ALL stipulated criteria. In fact, in one instance they said they required at least five years experience in a certain field and I have almost twenty.

 

Becky, I am sure you only want to be helpful but from your answers, I would hazard a guess that you have never experienced a protracted period of unemployment whilst trying to support yourself on benefits - let alone living in an isolated area and under pressure from all directions. I have just endured nine months of an Employment Tribunal having moved to my present location from 250 miles away to take a job which failed to meet any of the promises made when it was offered to me and I was left untrained in a position which should have been occupied by two people. I am bound by legal confidentiality but the employer made a financial settlement after nine months of torture only for my solicitor to then tell me that he had forgotten to inform me before I engaged his services that my Legal Aid had a clawback clause and I would not receive a penny.

 

For your information, I had seen my GP because of the issues I was facing at work and the subsequent tribunal and he provided a statement which was used in evidence. But it was clear from that statement that he had not really taken any notice of what I had told him and instead made inference from memory and/or notes (I had a copy of his notes and they bore little resemblance to his statement).

 

Having fought a legal battle whilst trying to find work for twelve months, I now find myself under additional pressure from the Job Centre and have to attend extra meetings with a company who specialise in forcing square pegs into round holes. It won't be long before my car tax, MOT and insurance run out which will leave me ten miles from the nearest urban area without transport. My rent has just gone up by £6.00 per week taking it to £18 per week more than my Housing Benefit. I have just sold an item of equipment vital to my line of work in order to keep my head above water - something which even a court cannot force you to do). I have kept warm this last winter mainly by scavenging wood from trees which fell in last December's storms.

 

I don't normally make use of the maxim in reference to myself but never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. I feel no embarrassment saying this because my profile is quite anonymous but I am generally somebody who stands up for the vulnerable.

 

If we accept the status quo, nothing changes. Some people, I am guessing, who have posted in this thread would not even be permitted to vote had the law not been challenged - not that I believe that voting realistically changes anything.

 

When I was a child, I was probably quite precocious and before I even started school I was repeating most things I heard including television adverts (many of which I still remember 47 years later). This annoyed my Dad so much that he taught me Shakespeare and my Mum often recounts how I cause widespread jaw dropping in the waiting room of the clinic as I was waiting for an inoculation by reciting the soliloquy from Hamlet. I think it is worth quoting:

 

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd.

 

I consider the matter of my original post closed.

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I note your inference that I have judged you, but that isn't the case.

 

My job isn't to look at the emotional aspects of all of the above - my role is to advise on the law as it stands, whether or not the individual wants to hear it. I wouldn't be doing my job properly if all I did was tell people what they wanted to hear and indeed I'd probably end up losing my job if I did.

 

I acknowledge that it must be difficult being in your situation - it still doesn't mean that you have any legal claims, though. That's all I can advise you on, unfortunately.

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.... - my role is to advise on the law as it stands,

 

Can you advise her on how to claim against a solicitor who made a professional cock-up and left her with nothing??

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Can you advise her on how to claim against a solicitor who made a professional cock-up and left her with nothing??

 

Er yes - although I don't think the OP asked for such advice, and I don't see any solicitor making a professional cock up, unless I'm missing something?

 

Edit - is this in terms of the statutory charge on the Legal Aid work? If the OP signed any sort of client engagement letter on a legal aid basis, it will have been buried in the T&C's somewhere that the statutory charge applies. If not, this may be grounds for complaint.

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I am here, sort of. I was dealing with a computer issue for my girlfriend and had to prioritise.

 

Incidentally, I am male but I am flattered that it was not obvious from my writing.

 

The issue of Legal Aid clawback was the topic or subtopic in another thread regarding my Employment Tribunal and it is currently a stalled ongoing situation. My solicitor has told me that he was aware of the clawback rule introduction (last April, I think) but had not thought it had been implemented at the time I started my Employment Tribunal action.

 

My solicitor admitted to me on the phone that it he had 'ballsed up' and that there was a possibility of appealing against the clawback on the grounds that it would cause hardship on my part. As one of the main strands of my Employment Tribunal claim which, on the face of it, appears to have been successful (in that I was made a settlement offer by my employer after having heard four days of evidence) was based on the resultant financial hardship it ought to follow that the appeal against the clawback ought to be a formality but my solicitor does not seem to think so.

 

In any case, I am waiting for the outcome of that before I do anything. As far as I know, despite the Employment Tribunal settlement being agreed over two months ago, there has been no formal acceptance - at least I have not signed anything. I have tried to contact my solicitor to get updates but he simply says that he will be in touch when the time comes.

 

I feel that I ought to state that it had not been my intention to use a solicitor - I made an appointment simply to get an assessment of my case - I knew that successful constructive dismissal cases were rare. I normally fight my own battles and in the last three years have fought eON, Equity Insurance Group, O2 and Scottish Hydro at length and won in each case. It was only because the solicitor made such a compelling case for his services that I decided to engage him on the terms he laid out, i.e. with no mention of clawback. Indeed, he brought to my attention a couple of times that he needed to make representation to the Legal Aid Board that there was a justifiable case for renewing the funds as the case progressed. And when the employer made an offer which was half of what I eventually accepted, he advised me that it was 'generous', which could only be interpreted as a suggestion to take it. Had I done so, I would have been no worse off than I am now. In fact, had I not even pursued the case I would have been no worse off than I am now. I had been off sick with stress and would have been better off staying sick rather than resigning and insisting that my employer address the situation before I returned to work - but I was in too much of a rush to get back to work and as a result had a 'meltdown' and subsequently resigned.

 

Bottom line, though, I have only had three dealings with solicitors and they have all been bad experiences. I have also learned that whilst lawyers are happy to fight each other whilst representing clients, they don't like to act against each other, so whichever way this goes, I will not be engaging a solicitor to represent me.

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