Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC's piece of 'managed' news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC’s piece of ‘managed’ news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

It isn’t very often one can say a news report was shocking – not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it was reported.

That was the situation tonight with the BBC’s item in which Work Programme providers complained that they need more money to “help” the most challenging jobseekers into work.

This group, of course, being benefit claimants in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

This group being the most consistently abused and neglected element of the new underclass created by the Conservative-led Coalition government, demonised and hated by the right-wing press, often attacked in the street (to judge from first-hand accounts), many of whom have been driven to suicide or death caused by their conditions, which have been worsened by the unacceptable (and to most people reading this, inconceivable) amount of stress the DWP, Atos (the private company assessing their fitness for work) and the private Work Programme providers have put them through.

This group who have been sent on so-called “back to work training” with Work Programme providers, consisting of minimal and elementary exercises that are an insult to the intelligence, rather than an aid to employment. Does anyone remember the exercise in which people are asked to draw a pig? Apparently the direction it faces indicates whether you’re the kind of person who faces their challenges head-on, or someone who takes a more circumspect attitude (so, nothing to do with whether you think a side view is more interesting, then).

This group, being cynically exploited by Work Programme provider organisations in a blatant bid to screw money out of the taxpayer, despite having done the bare minimum to “help” people back into work.

This group, consisting mostly – if not entirely – of people who belong in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance but were placed among those who should be able to go back to work within a year because the Atos Work Capability assessors are under orders to place no more than 12 or 13 per cent of everyone they see into the support group. Oh, you don’t believe me? Ask yourself why, when the fraud rate for disability benefits is 0.4 per cent, the percentage of people being told they are lying and are fit for work is 70 per cent, to which a further 17-18 per cent can be added who are deemed likely to be fit for work with this so-called training from the WPPs.

This is why the Work Programme companies can’t get these people into jobs: They are too ill to work.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t about the facts. This is about ‘managing’ the news, to present the public with a cosy story to make Work Programme providers look nice and friendly. They’re not failing because of any lack of will on their part (the BBC story tells us); they’re failing because the government isn’t making them rich enough!

Let’s take this BBC story apart. We’ll use the article on the corporation’s website.

First factual claim: “Of those who have been on the scheme for at least a year, a third have begun a job, figures seen by the BBC show.” This may be true. Unfortunately, statistics tend also to show that these jobs do not last long and the individuals in them end up back on the Work Programme within a few weeks or months. The DWP’s own mark of success is a person keeping a job for six months or more. That’s not exactly permanent by anybody’s standards.

Second factual claim: “In the most challenging group – who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – only 10 per cent have found work”. This may also be true. Readers will recall the fuss over government lies that 900,000 people had signed off ESA rather than take the Work Capability Assessment, that were proven to be the normal “churn” of claimants signing off for perfectly ordinary reasons such as finding a job they could do, even though sick/disabled, or getting better. ESA is not a lifetime benefit!

So with this figure – totalling around 1.7 per cent of the total number of claimants over a 12-month period – it is entirely likely that some will have found a job they can do, or got better, after taking the assessment. The figures for fraud aren’t touched by this possibility, as there is no reason to believe a fraudulent claimant would be put in the WRAG.

In other words, the 90 per cent of WRAG members left on the Work Programme are, most likely, those who belong in the support group, who are unlikely to find lasting employment because (let’s repeat it): They are too ill to work.

Work Programme providers have their own representative organisation called the Employment Related Services Association, or ERSA. This organisation claimed that the Work Programme cannot “fix” the “complex” health and skills requirements of ESA claimants on its own, but needed to tap into “skills and health budgets”. This is fascinating, because the Work Programme is supposed to be specifically designed to meet the needs of its users. We know it doesn’t, because it has been running since 2011 and we have first-hand accounts to the contrary from people who have been on it, but that was the claim.

ERSA figures “suggest around a quarter of ESA jobseekers have been unemployed for at least 11 years”. This seems likely – they belong in the support group, not the WRAG, and are unable to work.

“The DWP says it recognises the ‘particular barriers facing many of the hardest to help’. Hang on! Wasn’t the DWP under heavy fire only weeks ago because work programme providers were ‘parking’ the most difficult claimants – admitting there was no way to get them into jobs? And that, after the Secretary of State, no less, Iain Dunderhead Smith, went on the BBC’s Question Time and railed about people who had been “parked” on benefits for decades at a time, making it clear in no uncertain terms that he was going to get them off benefits, come Hell or high water?

This is the same story, but now the providers have got the begging bowl out. They’re already paid millions (don’t believe the payment-by-results claim) but they want more money.

Have they forgotten the aim is to save the taxpayers’ cash?

I thought George Osborne’s Mansion House speech would be the most infuriating thing I’d hear this evening.

I was wrong.

24 thoughts on “Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

  1. Noctilu Centish (@Centish)

    All of the monies paid to WPs can be found in the monthly DWP payments over £25,000 CSV files here.
    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/supplying-dwp/transparency-in-procurement/what-we-spend/

    Now they have ex prisoners on their books their monthly totals are increasing. Ingeus took a whopping £13 million in April 2013 alone. A4e managed a measly £10 million.

    The info in the files can be sorted to personal requirements through the DATA tab at the top I usually go for 1 Supplier, 2 type of expense and 3 date.

  2. Alex Casale

    These ostensibly non-governmental organisations performing governmental functions, often in receipt of funding or other support from government. Numerous quangos were created from the 1980s onwards.
    An essential feature of a quango in the original definition was that it should not be a formal part of the state structure. The term was then extended to apply to a range of organisations, such as executive agencies providing (from 1988) health, education and other services – private companies! Particularly in the UK, this occurred in a polemical atmosphere in which it was alleged that proliferation of such bodies was undesirable and should be reversed.
    My question is, “How much do we pay to these private companies to do the government’s work, and what are the benefits, if any, to the people of this country?”

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’ve just read that the cost of benefit fraud (ALL benefit fraud) to the taxpayer is £1.80 per year, while the cost of all the welfare reforms we’ve had to put up with, including paying the Work Programme provider companies, is £480 per year, for everyone of working age, including the unemployed.

      1. A4e Sucks

        That just goes to show how disgraceful it is of the tabloids to continually highlight cases of benefit fraud in a way which implies that it’s a major problem. It would be far more accurate if they highlighted the huge amount of taxpayers’ money which is being squandered on the failing Work Programme.

  3. tony

    I have had the indignity of having to go through this futile and de-humanising process, regardless of all the medical information names and contact numbers ATOS decided to ignore all of this information and place me in the WRAG. In one report it clearly said “unfit and unable to work due to his condition that is unlikely to improve”, however someone latched onto the “unlikely” and felt that their knowledge of my conditions was better than the report writers knowledge so placed me in the WRAG.

    ATOS by their own admission did not use the evidence provided to them, so the system is failing on that level. How on earth is someone supposed to work with that level of disability or illness, so PARKING has become the norm for people like me, however the down side to this is that people have taken their own life because of the way they feel and are being treated. I too got to that point, where I was happy to take my own life because of the way I was made to feel by the system and the government. I count myself as being lucky in that I do have a good support network with the mental health system; if I had not, I am sure I would not be writing this today.

    IDS & DC HAVE created a new level of people in society and because of them we are now seen as scroungers and lazy. I hope one day that these people will have to live the same way we do, but I am sure that will never happen in my time. Maybe then they will understand the hardships many face each day.

    On a closing note, I wrote to IDS and had a reply from his office saying we are out of office at the moment but will reply to you on Monday. That was two weeks ago. I have left two voice messages and sent three emails now and not a word; maybe it’s because I provided the contact names and numbers of the people who talked me away from taking my own life because of the system, and by acknowledging my letter they have to acknowledge they are responsible?

  4. kickingtoryassonwelfare

    Reblogged this on kickingtoryassonwelfare and commented:
    Searing critique from the excellent Mike Sivier at Vox Political – do subscribe, we highly recommend – on the despicable triumvirate of government persecution of people TOO ILL TO WORK, corporate welfare recipients managing patently failing and unjust workfare schemes who now want still MORE money, and BBC lies and collusion. Time to chuck out the TV and get your news from bloggers telling the truth about what is happening? Just a thought. As ever, love and solidarity xxx

  5. Queenie

    Something that baffled me, they allowed me to have my mandatory interviews by phone as it caused me a lot of pain getting to and from interviews. How was I meant to get to and from work if they found me a job? Teleport?

  6. Maureen Collins

    since being taken off support allowance in december, i have had to do 4 weeks (work experience) two days on a back to work course, where by the way, i was told to make a cv on a computer,when i asked for help, i was told in no uncertain way that” you have to do it yourself with no help” now i have signed again, and i ve been invited to attend a “Give Yourself a Chance” careers event, where they told me is abit like speed dating, you have to sit with 6 employers for 10 minutes each one, and talk about what they offer.hows a invite be manatory?? i don t like meeting new people, scared of answering door & phone at home, suffer from stress, and each day it becomes clearer to see why people are ending their lives. i have another appointment tomorrow with Pathfinders at the job center, who ever they are, thanks for your acticle, its good to know we re not alone regardless of what they throw at us next..xx

    1. Aletheia

      You need to appeal the decision that put you in the WRAG group. If you can get a letter from your doctor supporting the risk to you. Ie. suicide risk you will be passported into the support group according ESA50 rules.

  7. davidhencke

    Reblogged this on David Hencke and commented:
    This is not good news for the BBC, the work programme or the government. If you take in context the scandal involving A4e which provided placements under first programme I did an extra investigation on top of the work done by the Public Accounts Committee exposing failings in A4e internal audit. My investigation revealed in one small town Bridlington A4 e had placed people with as firm going into liquidation, one run by people from a a house in Rotherham that never filed accounts, another with a company not registered at Companies House, and two with a cafe and taxi firm that subsequently went bust. In other places it turned out they had sent one person to a lap dancing club in Liverpool and a person with a criminal record to a firm which didn’t want to employ people with criminal records. See my own blog http://davidhencke.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/exclusive-how-you-got-state-funded-work-experience-in-a-strip-club-with-a4e/

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  9. Mrs Kerry Russell

    I was put on the work program in August 2012, I have only had two appointments and had to go to my local MP for help as the work program just constantly made excuses why they haven’t been in touch with me, and might I add they are still getting paid even though I am not getting any help. I also complained at the job center as I really want to get back into work after bringing up my family and they kept telling me it had nothing to do with them. I have finally received an appointment for next week, 25 June 2013, after my local mp had emailed them might I add. I have encountered many people in the same situation as me, so please tell me, why are they asking for more money if at the end of the day they are being paid for doing nothing in my case. I am so angry, angry for the tax payers, angry that I have had to waste time to fight for my rights and angry that there are people out there that really need help and unfortunately don’t know how to go about it. I would also like to add, that one of the employers of Bexleyheath job center, pulled me aside and said “You did not hear this from me, but the work program is being investigated, so go to your local MP as we need more people like you to complain so something will get done about it” I rest my case Mr Cameron.

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