UNEMPLOYED people are ordered by Work Programme advisors to spend hours cold calling businesses asking if there are any vacancies MSPs have been told.

A woman from Glasgow explained the weekly ritual of calls ending in demoralising rejections and demands from angry firms to stop calling.

The Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee heard from two women Jake and Donna from the east end of Glasgow.

Both said the experience of the Work Programme was “depressing”.

The two women appeared at the committee under their first names only and told of their experience of the Work Programme and the conditions and expectations put on jobseekers.

Jake, a mother of three grown up sons, has since found part-time work through friends, which also allows here to carry on with voluntary work in her community.

She said the cold calling, knowing there was no hope of a job, was “depressing”.

She said: “Sometimes they make you sit on the phone from 9 to 5 making calls for jobs, but you know you’re not going to get anything. It’s depressing.

“You are given a big booklet of businesses with phone numbers to call them up. You are told no, no, no.”

Committee convenor, Hugh Henry, said he was surprised by employing cold calling for job seeking tactics.

He asked: “Are you given a list of vacancies to follow up? What is the response if you are calling cold?”

Jake said: “The book I got was a list of cleaning and laundry firms. I was often told No don’t call here again”

Mr Henry said: “If you are doing that how many others are calling the same companies?”

Jake replied: “Everyone. They sit at their desk calling up. Then told to do the same the next week and it’s still the same answer. No.”

Donna said the atmosphere of the Work Programme environment was also depressing.

She said: “There is no privacy, you can hear all other people’s problems and the whole place stinks of Red Bull and depression.”

She added: There’s a horrible fearful atmosphere in the places.

You are instantly stigmatised. I felt like I was labelled as not trying.”

Neil Findlay Labour MSP and committee member said he was disgusted by what the women went through.

He said: “This session has disturbed and upset me. It has disgusted me what is happening to people.

“It disgusts me what they are doing to public servants expecting them to deal with government policy.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said:“Our Jobcentre staff work very hard every day to ensure thousands of people in Scotland get the right benefits advice and the help they need to move into work.

"The truth is that almost 41,000 of the hardest to help claimants have been supported into employment through the Work Programme in Scotland.

"That’s a real success, and the Work Programme has been recognised by the UK Work and Pensions Select Committee as providing better value for money to the taxpayer than any previous scheme.”