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Unemployed Mother Told To Take Degree Off CV By JobCentre Staff

November 26, 2013

Readers, this mother, Rachel Sawford, hasn’t revealed a disability. However, I am sharing this article because something like this could so easily happen to anyone.

I have a degree myself, and if it was me, I would feel that all my struggles for an education were worth very little if I was not allowed to reveal my achievements when it should matter the most. This is exactly why I, personally, am scared of JobCentres, and thankful that I only claim DLA.

Are benefit claimants not human? Do we not have a right to an education? Someone needs to remind Jobcentre staff that not everyone who goes to university can go to Oxbridge and get a job immediately afterwards.

A mother who escaped an abusive relationship to get a degree was told to remove it from her CV by Jobcentre staff to avoid ‘scaring off’ employers.

Rachel Sawford, 29, proudly told the careers advisor about her 2:1 in social work as she asked for help finding a job.

But she was advised to leave her qualification off applications because it would hamper her chances of getting work.

Ms Sawford, from Portsmouth, has blasted the advice, which ‘made my degree seem like nothing’.

She said: ‘They are saying everything I have achieved in the past four years is worthless.

‘I have worked since I was 16 and this is the first time I have been on benefits.

‘I want to get off benefits but I will not take my achievement off my CV.’

The mother-of-one, who graduated from the University of Portsmouth in July this year, hoped to use her qualification to help other vulnerable women in violent relationships.

But straight out of education, she struggled to find work and was forced to sign-on for Jobseeker’s Allowance later that month.

To her dismay, the staff informed her she would be ‘more employable’ for the jobs they had to offer if she hid her BSc (Hons) from would-be employers.

However, the graduate – who now has a £30,000 student loan to pay off – refuses to do so.


She said: ‘I knew it would be difficult for a single mum to find a job, so I went to the Jobcentre to get advice, which is what I thought they are there to do.

‘The contract you sign says after 13 weeks you will have to look for jobs outside of your remit.


‘When they were building the contract on the computer, they asked if I had my CV, so I gave it to her.

‘She said ‘this is lovely but you will have to amend it’ because I would be overqualified for some jobs.

‘She said I would scare employers with my degree. I was shocked.

‘I said I was not happy with that advice because I had worked really hard for four years to achieve it.

‘If I did not want to get a job in this area, I would not have gone to university.’

Ms Sawford, who has a six-year-old daughter, said if she couldn’t find a job as a social worker she wants to do support work or youth projects.

But, currently on a four-week placement as a substitute teaching assistant but, she is still struggling to find employment for when her placement finishes.

Her case follows a study by the Office for National Statistics showing half of recent graduates are in jobs they do not need a degree to do.


Liz Holford, a careers advisor at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘If people’s circumstances mean they can’t move, it is about seeing what other roles she could consider.

‘A lot of social work jobs say you need experience, but graduates do manage to find employment.

‘I have heard other students say employers only want people with experience but there are a lot of jobs for new graduates, too.’

A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions spokesman did not deny staff tell jobseekers to omit the fact they are a graduate.

He added: ‘Jobcentre Plus advisors work with jobseekers to ensure they have the best chance possible of moving into work.

‘This may include helping someone to highlight relevant skills, experience, and qualifications to ensure their CV is focused towards the job they are applying for.’


Almost 40 per cent of people over the age of 21 are now graduates, compared with 17 per cent in 1992.

The Office for National Statistics say non-graduates experienced the highest unemployment rise during the recession.

But some are are still finding it hard to get a job to match the skills they are qualified in.

Many cannot find work at all.

The University of Portsmouth said 93 per cent of social work graduates from its course were in employment six months after graduating.

The research does not show, however, if these are graduate jobs.


14 Comments leave one →
  1. Netizen K permalink
    November 26, 2013 12:52 am

    Arguably the job centre are asking Rachel to commit fraud by omittance. This is seriously illegal and I would hope that some one inform her of this. I would suggest that Rachel contact the CAB or legal professional as soon as possible.

    Obtaining a bachelors degree shows both commitment and a hard working ethic. To use the DWP’s response of “focusing” out parts of ones academic achievements is an abhorrent abuse of their remit in helping people into work. Not to mention that Rachel would have to explain what happened in these missing 4 years.

  2. pete permalink
    November 26, 2013 1:38 am

    i was asked to “dumb down” my cv many years ago by the dwp, its nothing new, now other people can share the dwp nightmare

  3. nobody permalink
    November 26, 2013 8:59 am

    I too was bullied into doing this by a Jobcentre many years ago under Thatcher, and sent for a job lifting boxes for £60 per week. The job lasted for 6 months, but left me, a five foot nothing female, with multiple herniated discs and scoliosis by the age of 29.

    Worse than this, the result was that I missed the boat careerwise, and at best was only ever able to get minimum wage clerical and retail jobs after this.

    The kicker was a few years ago when a colleague in the bookshop I ended up working (still for minimum wage) took me aside and warned me kindly how other staff were gossiping and laughing at me behind my back – FOR MAKING UP STORIES PRETENDING I’D BEEN TO UNIVERSITY.

    I kind of just keep quiet about it these days, like a dirty, guilty secret, and pop the prozac.

    • samedifference1 permalink*
      November 26, 2013 9:12 am

      So would you say the job gave you scoliosis? In other words, made you disabled?

      I’d like to publish this as a post in itself, anonymously of course, with your permission.

  4. Grayling permalink
    November 26, 2013 9:08 am

    OK …you ” lose ” the degree as employers will think she’ll be off ASAP given half a chance …how do you explain the ” missing years ” ….in Prison ? , missionary work …doubling the problem

    • Netizen K permalink
      November 26, 2013 1:00 pm

      The problem here, is that by omittance you are falsifying your credentials. This would allow the employer to terminate your contract with an immediate effect. Sadly one can easily be over qualified for the task at hand, but to be asked, cajoled or suggested to omit information is not only questionably illegal but morally wrong. It would be akin to selling your house and neglecting to inform the buyers of all its detail.

      My thoughts are with Ms Rachel Sawford, don’t give in to such pressure and don’t give up searching for your employment.

    • Shaun permalink
      December 9, 2013 9:24 pm

      Neitzen K, I suspect the that that are on offer are so low grade that questions with respect to previous employment are not considered relevant. Whereas, having a degree tends to make an employee have expectations that are not appropriate for the type of employment being offered. What’s needed is an employee does what they told without question and so is totally flexible.

  5. November 26, 2013 9:54 am

    Unfortunately, Front Line Advisers within Job Centre Plus are unlikely to have been trained or qualified to become Professional Careers Advisers…. and it is therefore not surprising that, in attempting to “practice medicine without possessing a license”, some FLA’s should dispense Quack Advice.

    However, one wonders whether the FLA within JCP is at fault here, or are they simply reverberating an insidious and insolent attitude from Managers and Senior Executives – We know that the sociopathic George Iain Duncan Smith failed to achieve anything at College, was caught lying on his CV, and in addressing the Cait Reilly Workfare Case, know that he despises anyone who achieved any qualifications at University.

    Hopefully, the candidate in question will ignore such quack advice from any FLA within JCP.

  6. kevin abraham permalink
    November 26, 2013 11:56 am

    Ok say..I’m a Chartered Surveyor, and I get a job as a shelf stacker, because I failed to mention that on my CV.
    A month later I get a successful interview as a Surveyor and hand in my notice. The first employer looses money because, if he had known I was a surveyor, he would have appointed a less qualified person.
    So he sues me for non disclosure on my CV, for the cost of rehiring someone else.
    I think a CV is supposed to reveal all your history.
    How would I explain the years I worked as a surveyor?!! Add another lie? This is very dodgy territory, and no one should be advised to lie, as the job center seem to have done.
    I would ask the job center, in writing, to confirm that they require me to lie on my CV before doing so. I bet they would not.
    To say an omission is not a lie is spurious. A potential employer is asking for all the facts, not just those you consider convenient. If you omitted part of your history, you would compromise your integrity and reputation if and when they discover the omission. Do you think if you left for a ‘better’ job. the employer would give you a glowing reference?

    • Netizen K permalink
      November 26, 2013 1:03 pm

      I wish there was a way I could vote up this statement Kevin.

  7. Alan permalink
    November 26, 2013 4:15 pm

    This has been going on for years. Nothing knew here. It is both moraly wrong and illegal to alter your cv in such a way. Strange how this is now being highlighted as IDS falsified his cv. On his cv he claims to have a degree and to have taken business studies. The latter is true, if you take a six part, weekend module, as being having taken long-term business studies, and the degree he was claims to have was even from the wrong university.

  8. November 28, 2013 3:54 pm

    Reblogged this on londonfoodbank.

  9. May 29, 2014 6:08 pm

    An employer will see she has a degree and feel intimidated by her as she will probably see through their Bullshit, and not give her the job, if didn’t know she could be the breath of fresh air they need but won’t give the chance to because of her being over qualified.

    Good luck in the future to her and people like her 🙂

    • May 29, 2014 6:11 pm

      ^ if “they” didn’t know she could be the breath of fresh air they need but won’t give the chance to because of her being over qualified.

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