Imagine: you’re unemployed. You’ve been in and out of jobs, never really feeling valued or a sense of belonging. Responsibilities like rent, bills and groceries mean you have to work, but constantly moving between roles leaves you with uncertainty. Soon, family activities like a pizza or a cinema, decrease. One day, you’re told you can access financial support if you register with the local job centre. Brilliant.
Policies have no impact without service design
Being Italian, I’ve been following what’s happening in my country. The Citizen’s Basic Income is very often in the news as one pillar of the Italian Five Stars Movement economical proposal. The name itself is confusing. They’re not proposing unconditional income for every citizen, but social support for those living below the poverty line.
Access to this support has multiple conditions:
- at least 18 years old
- unemployed, or receiving a salary or a pension lower than the poverty line
- registered to a job centre
- accepting one of the first three jobs offered
- working a number of weekly hours in community service and attending training and upskilling courses
The role of job centres within this proposal is crucial. Though currently, they don’t work very well. Only 2.4% of the registered people found a job.
In Italy, there are 552 job centres with 8000 employees that have been helping 2.8 million people looking for a job. That means each job centre has 14 employees helping 5072 people. That’s a big difference. Each operator can help on average as many as 362 people. In other countries the ratio between staff and unemployed customers is much lower: 1 to 24 in the UK, 1 to 70 in France and 1 to 49 in Germany.
Registering with the job centre is easy, but getting in contact with staff is nearly impossible. Staff are overwhelmed with cases so when they do answer, they don’t recall your story or your skills and they don’t truly understand how to help you.
This is a prime example of a policy having no impact because it doesn’t include service design. The needs of the individual haven’t been considered. Services work in a transactional way, rather than taking a design-led, user-centred approach to build relationships that understand people’s needs. The gap between what the policy says, providing social support, and the services that are actually offered leave citizens in the grey area, unable to get the support they actually need and access to what they were promised.