Category Archives: Workfare

What’s the point of a ‘Cameron’ job that can’t make work pay?

[Image: Eoin Clarke.]

[Image: Eoin Clarke.]

There are several reasons we should be sceptical about David Cameron’s pledge to make the UK a nation of ‘full employment’.

Firstly, his campaign poster has lied about his record so far. Why should anyone believe his claims about what he’ll do in the future?

Secondly, everybody knows that the Tories’ rubbish neoliberal ideology demands a large number of people have to be unemployed, in order to keep wages down – and Cameron very much wants the UK to remain a low-wage economy.

Thirdly, look at the jobs he has managed to create: zero hours contracts, part-time work, under-employment rife. If that’s his idea of what we need in order to create full employment, then he should be looking forward to his own P45 in May.

[Image: Eoin Clarke 9again).]

[Image: Eoin Clarke 9again).]

Or, as David Schneider put it on Twitter: “Cameron’s promise of full employment to guarantee everyone in the country a job that doesn’t pay enough for them to live off.”

The social media were quick to dismiss this latest nonsense from the PR genius behind “compassionate Conservatism”, “hug a hoodie” and “Green Tories” – remember those flops?

MagsNews on Twitter reported: “Cameron says everything’s wonderful in the jobs market! [Nine out of 10] new jobs are [full-time] jobs. ITV news asks why, if so, tax receipts are so low?!!”

And the Labour Press Team pointed out: “Tory record on jobs: more than 1.3 million people work part-time because they can’t get a full-time job. Tory record on jobs: 3.5 million people in work say they want extra hours. Tory record on jobs: 1.4 million zero-hours contracts in the economy.”

He doesn’t seem to realise what a diabolical mess he has made of the British jobs market – but don’t worry! Here’s a way to clarify matters for him:

Are you stuck in part-time work when you want to be earning full-time wages?

Have you been forced to accept a zero-hours contract, so you don’t know when you’ll be working but can’t claim benefits when you’re not?

Are you on a temporary contract, rather than in permanent work?

Are you earning less than the minimum wage – on a government work programme, for example – or are you earning less than a living wage in a full-time, part-time or zero-hours job?

If so, it’s time to stop calling it a job.

Call it a ‘Cameron’ instead.

“Hello, Bob – how’s it going?”

“Not bad. How about you? Did you get a job yet?”

“Meh. There’s nothing worthwhile to be had. All I got was a ‘Cameron’.”

Even then, he might not get the message.

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Fact trumps Tory fiction on the #RoadToRuin ‘Twitterstorm’

You’ll be aware that David Cameron and the Conservative Party metaphorically shot themselves through the head with their very first appeal to the voters in advance of May’s General Election.

Today (January 3) saw a mass movement on Twitter to get the facts of Conservative-led government across to the masses, using images and information to hammer home the realities.

The impact was so great that the campaign’s hashtag, #RoadToRuin, did not just trend in the UK but also in the USA, with around 30,000 messages sent between 6pm and 7pm. That’s 500 every minute.

Let’s have a look at some of them.

We’ll start with the infographics:

ruin1 ruin2 ruin3 ruin4 ruin5 ruin6 ruin7 ruin8 ruin9 ruin10 ruin11 ruin12 ruin13 ruin14 ruin15 ruin16 ruin17 ruin18 ruin19

ruin20 ruin21 ruin22 ruin23 ruin24 ruinsecondlast ruinlast

And here are some of the comments:

Meals on wheels for elderly in 63% decline under coalition, analysis finds. http://gu.com/p/44hjt/tw

Coalition’s VAT rate hike four years ago has cost families an average of £1,800 over four years.

1.5 million people on #RoadToRuin courtesy of the Work Programme.

#RoadToRuin when NHS pay private care home thousands of pounds for two week bed but won’t pay for nursing funding for 95-year-old.

Millions relying on foodbanks because Tories and FibDems put them on the #RoadToRuin.

Tory policy of taking money from public purse into privaet hands is #RoadToRuin.

They said they were “paying down our debts” but we know they haven’t. They said they have halved the deficit but they haven’t.

200,000 people waiting for first PIP assessment on the #RoadToRuin.

Tories will bring more low pay more insecure employment weaker employment rights in return for tax cuts for the rich.

90,000 children homeless, millions of people reliant on food banks; Tories call that a recovery.

2.25 million sanctioned – wiped off statistics. 3.45 million children in poverty. 900,000 use foot banks. Political poverty creation.

Rents and landlords need regulations. Rents are far too high and too many landlords are greedy and/or untrustworthy.

Independent Pay Review recommendations for nurses pay ignored on the #RoadToRuin.

220,000 less meals on wheels served to vulnerable people in 2014 than 2010 because of Conservative cuts.

Public sector workers didn’t cause greed-driven global banking crisis – that was bankers – who are still being rewarded today.

Mervyn King says no-one to blame for financial meltdown. Tory fibbers blame previous government.

After housing costs, 14.6 million (23.2 per cent UK population) in absolute poverty 2012-13, up 600,000. iaf.gd/lts

If you think things are bad now, Osborne still has 60 per cent of his planned cuts to make.

Govt doesn’t want public to challenge their policies in the Court of Human Rights so it wants to scrap Human Rights laws.

UK government to sell Eurostar stake before general election. Selling off family silver is #RoadToRuin.

Austerity is an excuse to shrink the state and sell off profitable public assets like Royal Mail leaving us on a #RoadToRuin.

Iain Duncan Smith to accelerate benefit reforms to stop Labour reversing them fw.to/EM13uib

Povery, hunger, foodbanks, privatisation of OUR NHS, zero-hours contracts, workfare, lies and broken promises!

Two companies to run more than half of privatised probation services. #RoadToRuin or complete insanity?

How many of these new jobs are low paid, don’t reach the tax threshold and have to be topped up by tax credits?

David Cameron is taking UK down a #RoadToRuin by forcing fracking and removing landowners rights.

The Tories scrapped rent controls for housing.

The Conservatives must go because they can never admit they are wrong e.g. badger cull. They will keep us on the #RoadToRuin.

Tories don’t care that we’re on the #RoadToRuin – they already have profitable consultancy positions lined up and the cuts won’t affect them.

400,000 children being taught by 17,000 unqualified teachers. Just not good enough. Failing our kids’ future.

With 400 tankers going to every fracking well every road will be in ruins.

Government is not properly regulating private companies and are allowing private companies to rip off public.

If the Conservatives win in May, our NHS will be lost forever.

If majjority of ‘jobs’ created are unpaid workfare, what happens to existing workforce competing against free labour?

Children shouldn’t go to school hungry or go home knowing they won’t eat till the next day. David Cameron, shame on you.

Tories like to keep us in a climate of fear and insecurity – makes their progress on the #RoadToRuin easier – that is, the road to OUR ruin.

Most of us plebs aren’t too savvy when it comes to economic stats but we know by instinct we’re worse off and being lied to by government.

For generations, people fought for a better world. Much of what they achieved has been undone in five years under the Conservatives.

I wasn’t born at the start of the war yet I paid the war debt down. Why the rush down the #RoadToRuin to pay a debt so quickly? We have time.

Bankers crippled the country. They got off. Decent people suffer.

They are taking away the dignity of the disabled.

Don’t become sick, disabled or old. You will be chucked out of Dave’s limo like a fag end discarded at the traffic lights.

The last word – in this article – goes to Yr Obdt Srvt, because it’s important:

Every Tory campaign statement is a step along the #RoadToRuin – let’s make sure they are ALL debunked as thoroughly as their first poster.

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Dying woman ordered onto the Work Programme

The following message appeared on the Vox Political Facebook page. It is reproduced in the hope that somebody from Prospects might have the courage to explain their organisation’s behaviour – and in the hope that this further evidence of the Coalition Government’s inhumanity to the citizens it has a duty to protect may encourage anyone who still thinks it’s a good idea to vote Tory or Lib Dem to think again. Here’s the message [boldings mine]:

I have terminal cancer. My prognosis is 0-3 years and I was diagnosed in March 2014 with my brain stem glioma.

In April 2014 I was placed in the support group for three years and I have gone from being able-bodied to hopelessly disabled. I have many neurological deficits including diploplia, dyspraxia, dysarthria and dysphagia. To save you Googling, this means that I have double vision and am going blind, I’m very clumsy and most days I drop everything I pick up, my speech is failing and one day I won’t be able to communicate verbally at all and I have such difficulty swallowing that I now have a feeding tube. I cannot leave the house alone and I’m at risk of choking and need 24 hour care. They speak of me going into residential care, but they hope to keep me in my own home for as long as possible.

The trouble is degenerative, nothing will get better, only worse, the cancer can’t be cured. I’m 37.

Now, I can deal with all that. I’m alive! And I can still do stuff!

What I cannot deal with is that I am on the work programme! I received this letter today (too late to ring the WP) demanding I come to an appointment with the Work Programme on Tuesday or they’ll stop my benefits.

141216charlotteryanMWAnotification2

HOW SICK DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE BEFORE THE HARRASSMENT STOPS?

It should be noted that Ms Ryan did not realise that the letter was for a telephone appointment until it was pointed out to her that she did not have to go to Prospects’ Bristol office. This is because the letter is very poorly-worded, as any reader can see.

You are encouraged to comment.

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Unemployment rate could be twice as high as figures claim

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

The Office for National Statistics has put out new figures on the number of people in work – and it’s more than last month. Hooray!

But, as ever, the devil’s in the detail and – as usual – the small print is annoyingly devoid of the detail we need. Boo!

We are told that figures for September showed employment continued to rise (by 112,000 since the April-June period) and unemployment continued to fall (by 115,000 people). There appear to be 3,000 people for whom these figures don’t account. Interesting…

(Perhaps they’re now on Universal Credit – as those figures aren’t counted in these figures, meaning the current way of calculating these statistics is misleading from the start.)

Pay rates – excluding bonuses – was 1.3 per cent higher than at this time last year. This was being trumpeted as a huge success, as pay has risen about the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculation of inflation, which stood at 1.2 per cent in September. What a shame the more accurate (which is why the government doesn’t use it) Retail Price Index (RPI) calculation of inflation stood at 2.3 per cent, well above in increase in pay rates.

Let’s all take a moment to remind ourselves of where those wages are going, too. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, has a little graphic for it, which is stolen and reproduced below:

141112average-uk-pay-risesTomPride

So all those bankers, directors and MPs are taking all the cash, leaving the rest of us with – what? This article suggests that, when you take out all the variations – like bonuses, wages for people who do real jobs (unlike bankers, directors and MPs) increased by just 0.6 per cent in the past year. That’s from the Bank of England.

If employment has increased – and there’s no reason to say it hasn’t – we can also conclude that the reason employers are more willing to take people on is that they can pay peanuts for them and rely on the government to top them up with in-work benefits. It seems likely that the work was always there but employers weren’t going to take anybody on if it meant increasing the wages bill and reducing the amount of profit available to them. Now that zero-hours contracts are available, along with part-time schemes that deny people pensions and holiday pay, it’s a different matter.

Of course the trade unions are in no position to stand up for workers’ rights – they have been stripped of any influence over the past 35 years of neoliberal, free-market rule.

The number of people who were self-employed increased by a staggering 186,000, to reach 3.25 million, while people working as self-employed part-time increased by 93,000 to reach 1.27 million. That’s 4.52 million – almost one-sixth of the total number of people in work. If you think that’s great, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember this article, warning that the increase was due to older people staying in work? And what about the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings we discovered at the same time?

How many of these are people who have been persuaded to claim tax credits as self-employed people, rather than jump through the increasingly-difficult hoops set out for them if they claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance – and do they know they’ll have to pay all the money back when their deception is discovered?

The number of people in part-time employment has also increased, by 28,000 to reach 6.82 million. Are we to take it that this means under-employment has increased again?

Public sector employment has fallen again. If you want to know why the government keeps messing you around, there’s your answer. There aren’t enough people to do the job. This month’s statistics show 11,000 fewer public sector employees than in March, and 282,000 fewer than this time last year.

Unemployment is said to have dropped – but remember, this is not counting people who have been sanctioned. A recent study by Professor David Stuckler of Oxford University suggests as many as half a million people could have been sanctioned off-benefit in order to massage the figures, meaning that the total listed – 931,700 – is probably wrong. Remember also that Universal Credit claimants aren’t counted, nor are those on government work schemes – another 123,000 people.

This means the actual unemployment rate is likely to be double the number provided by the official statistics.

And what about people on ESA/DLA/PIP?

It’s said that the numbers don’t lie.

What a shame that can’t be said about the people manipulating them.

The Conservative Party – nasty, stupid and clumsy

Is this the face of a 'Caring' Conservative? Or is he nasty and clumsy? And if he is, does that mean the supporters behind him are stupid?

Is this the face of a ‘Caring’ Conservative? Or is he nasty and clumsy? And if he is, does that mean the supporters behind him are stupid?

Independent luminary Andreas Whittam Smith reckons the Conservative Party in its current form is both nasty and stupid – and also clumsy, if his latest article is to be believed.

Nasty because of its aggressive behaviour – such as the decision to withdraw support for rescue operations that save thousands of migrants from drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Or because of benefit assessment policies that mean people living with progressive and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and rheumatoid arthritis are being subjected to what a group of charities describes as “upsetting and unnecessary” examinations to see whether they will recover enough to look for work in the future – a pointless exercise because their conditions are flagged up from the start as progressive and degenerative; they’re never going to get better.

Or because, after the Resolution Foundation found that one-in-five employees (4.9 million people) earned less than the living wage, George Osborne is promising that if the Conservative Party wins next year’s general election, then most welfare payments that the working poor rely on – including child benefit, tax credits, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support – will be frozen in April 2016 for two years. They are currently rising by 1 per cent a year. He will make the working poor poorer.

zTorypromise

Clumsy because they have imposed unpopular decisions on the people in an unfair way. Mr Whittam Smith defines fairness in terms of “the four main elements that go into creating a sense of procedural justice: Those concerned should have been able to play an active part in the process. The rules should be applied with sensitivity to individual situations. Decision-makers should be impartial and fair. And the agents of the system with whom people have to deal should treat them with respect.”

He continues: “There is no evidence that people living with progressive and degenerative conditions or members of the working poor or families struggling to pay care bills for elderly relatives have been consulted. There is no evidence of sensitivity to individual situations or else the bedroom tax legislation would have recognised the special difficulties of disabled tenants who are unable to share a bedroom and would have taken into account where homes have been specially adapted.

“As for the agents of the system with whom people have to deal, outsourcing many of these tasks has not produced happy results. Naturally the outsourced staff work by the book. They cannot be flexible or understanding. They are chiefly concerned with getting the job done as quickly as possible so as to reach the profits targets set by their employers. And then, in the final analysis, claimants are not dealing directly with the state at all but with a sort or mercenary army. Mutual respect cannot exist in these circumstances.”

Let’s expand on the last point for a moment, and connect it with the previous points about benefit assessment, with this snippet of information: An academic report from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling has confirmed that the Tories’ welfare reforms are not helping people to find work.

According to Alan Wyllie on the A Working Class Man blog, the report showed:

  • “The current welfare system is not helping people find work. Those who had moved into employment found work independently and not due to Jobcentre Plus services;
  • “There was limited support on offer to help recipients of out of work benefits move into work. Those participating in the Work Programme did not report that it was helpful;
  • “Most people wanted to work but issues such as childcare, illness and training made it difficult for them to do so;
  • “The current welfare system also does not appear to meet its aim of ‘make work pay’. People who had moved into work felt only slightly better off and continued to find it difficult to make ends meet;
  • “Benefit freezes or restricted increases have meant falling real-term incomes, with many study participants finding it hard to meet basic needs.

“The report concludes that: ‘Participants with a health condition or a disability, and those who were lone parents, reported that they wanted to be in work but faced considerable barriers to doing so, which were unlikely to be addressed by increasing conditionality.

“’According to the views of participants, stronger conditionality is unlikely to get more people into work, due to a lack of suitable work and barriers in the areas of education, skills, employability, childcare and health.’

“The researchers found that claimants who did not abide by the new conditions faced serious consequences.

“’The impact on benefit recipients who fall foul of new rules – or who are affected by a mistake on the part of a benefits agency that is not their fault – can be severe,’ they said.”

That’s nasty – not only have benefit changes been forced onto people without any regard for them, but they don’t even work.

However, this – moving back to Mr Whittam Smith – may be the Tories’ downfall. He points out: “Nowadays we are no longer a homogenous mass but an agglomeration of minorities. In my own circle of family and friends, for instance, there are people who are disabled and others with serious illnesses. There are those who are single parents, others who are retired. There are middle-aged people with back-breaking mortgages, others who are and young and ambitious. There are regular Church-goers as well as non-believers. There are people in jobs, and people who cannot find work. There are Londoners who can’t conceive of living anywhere else (I am one of these), and people who resent the capital city and all its works.

“Each of these minorities has its own particular concerns and needs, prejudices and resentments, but yet feels sympathy for any group that is badly treated.

“The Coalition led by its Conservative ministers has often gone about its work in an unfeeling, insensitive manner. And for that shortcoming there could be a price to pay at the next general election.”

Quite so – especially as they came into government under the banner of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’. What a terrible joke.

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If only we could sanction Iain Duncan Smith’s pay

IBelieve-IDS

The chickens really are coming home to roost this week.

Earlier on, we had the Million Mask marchers blockading the BBC after the corporation failed to cover other demonstrations, and Ben Elton dealt a final blow to Michael Gove’s First World War delusions by profiting from the former cabinet minister’s criticism of Blackadder Goes Forth – using it as the inspiration for his latest novel.

Yesterday, this blog reported how the Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised Iain Duncan Smith over the failings of the Work Programme.

Today we can look at the sanctioning regime operated by Mr … Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions.

The Public Accounts Committee took … Smith to task about the sanctions operated against people on the Work Programme.

“Sanctions can cause significant financial hardship to individuals, and it is not clear whether the sanctions regime actually works in encouraging people on the Work Programme to engage with the support offered by providers,” said committee chairperson, Margaret Hodge.

“Feedback from some constituents suggests that the number of sanctions has been increasing and that some providers have been recommending sanctions more than others. The Department confirmed that Seetec has referred more claimants for sanction than other providers.

“The Department should monitor whether providers are making the right sanction referrals to the Department and that they are not causing unfair hardship. It should publish the number of sanctions by provider.”

Are they making sure they aren’t causing unfair hardship? Of course not! They couldn’t care less.

And it’s not just in the Work Programme that sanctioning is being abused.

“It emerged during an ongoing inquiry instigated by the parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee that Research conducted by Professor David Stuckler shows that more than 500,000 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants have disappeared from unemployment statistics, without finding work, since the sanctions regime was toughened in October, 2012,” writes kittysjones.

“This means that in August 2014, the claimant count – which is used to gauge unemployment – is likely to be very much higher than the 970,000 figure that the government is claiming, if those who have been sanctioned are included.

“The research finding confirms what many of us already knew.”

She tells us that “the Work and Pensions Committee decided to conduct a further in depth inquiry into benefit sanctions policy, following the findings of the research. This inquiry will consider aspects of sanctions policy which were outside the remit of the Oakley Review. (You can see the terms of reference for the inquiry, and submissions are invited, all details of which are here – Committee launch inquiry into benefit sanctions).”

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams is quoted as follows: “Sanctions are being applied unfairly to job-seekers, as well as the sick and disabled.

The reason the Government is doing this is that it gets them off the JSA claimant figures, so it looks like there are fewer people unemployed.”

This is all good, but we should bear in mind that the Work and Pensions committee has been singularly unsuccessful in its previous attempts to get Mr … Smith to reign in his murderous spree against benefit claimants, and any recommendations are likely to be as toothless as those applied by the Public Accounts Committee to the Work Programme, earlier this week.

kittysjones also quotes an angry exchange between Debbie Abrahams and Mr… Smith during the Work and Pensions Committee questions session on Wednesday, when he said Ms Abrahams’ claims were “’ludicrous’.

“But the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth said : ‘People have died after being sanctioned, Minister.’

“’No, I don’t agree with that,’ Mr Duncan Smith answered. But he has yet to provide any evidence that supports his view.”

There is plenty that supports hers. It’s just a shame that the government denies it.

This is the heart of the matter. We have a government that simply will not accept any evidence that it is harming others – not because the evidence does not exist, but because it doesn’t want to. And ministers believe that there is nothing the public can do to reverse the situation.

Well, there is an election coming. If the Tories fail to gain office next May, they will be exposed and may face legal challenges – not against their department but against themselves – in which they may be made to account for their actions against the mountain of evidence that has been piling up against them.

Tick tock, Tory boys…

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IDS should be a candidate for his own Work Programme

zParked

Iain Duncan Smith has failed to get Work Programme providers to “support” harder-to-help claimants into work, according to the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee.

It used the example of Employment and Support Allowance to illustrate its criticism, saying almost 90 per cent of claimants on the Work Programme have not moved into jobs.

This is no surprise to anybody. If it’s news to you, where have you been for the last three years?

Work Programme providers hit back against criticism in 2013 by saying they needed more money – a move that Vox Political reported as “an insult to everyone they have mishandled”.

This week, that criticism was justified: “Evidence shows that differential payments have not stopped contractors from focusing on easier-to-help individuals and parking harder-to-help claimants, often those with a range of disabilities including mental health challenges,” said the PAC report.

“Data from Work Programme providers shows that they are, on average, spending less than half what they originally promised on these harder to help groups.”

Here’s the knockout blow: “It is a scandal that some of those in greatest need of support are not getting the help they need to get them back to work and are instead being parked by providers because their case is deemed just too hard.”

Why is it a knockout blow? Because it is using the language of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan ‘Returned To Unit’ ‘Services No Longer Required’ Smith.

Almost two years ago, on November 22, 2012, that blowhard appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, where he told Owen Jones that his DWP would make sure that nobody stayed parked on benefits.

“I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration,” he ranted.

And yet, here we are today. “Some of those in greatest need of support are… being parked by providers [chosen by Iain Duncan Smith, no less] because their case is deemed just too hard.”

In February 2013, Vox Political received BBC figures that suggested the Work Programme providers were being paid £1 billion per year by Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP – to park people on benefits where “nobody saw them”.

That day’s article suggested that the government should “adopt a strategy that we all know these companies use in order to boost their profits. Because they get paid on results, they concentrate on people more likely to generate a fee and sideline jobless clients who need more time and investment – a process known as ‘creaming and parking‘.

“It’s time to “park” all the work programme provider companies… The money saved will total billions.”

Alas, VP‘s recommendation fell on deaf ears and we have all paid the price – literally – in the year and nine months since.

Of course, as with all critical reports by Parliamentary committees, the PAC report falls flat where it makes its own recommendations.

“The Department must do more to encourage providers to work with harder-to-help groups by tackling poorly performing prime contractors and sharing information on what works. It should also collect and publish information from each provider on how much they are spending on different payment groups.”

For crying out loud – what’s the point of that? We know that Work Programme providers are never going to do anything other than park people in the ‘harder-to-help’ groups, as long as the taxpayer is funding them for results.

This report says nothing on how ‘poorly performing contractors’ are to be ‘tackled’, therefore that is not going to happen.

And publishing information on how much providers are spending on different payment groups – why? This information will not be made available if it is uncomplimentary to the government. Freedom of Information requests will fall on deaf ears – like those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants.

No, there’s only one way to use this information: As ammunition against Iain Duncan Smith.

He said he was going to help people who had been parked. He didn’t.

He said – to the Work and Pensions committee only yesterday, that the Work Programme was “outperforming” expectations and was “set to do even better”. It isn’t.

Let’s tell everybody we know about this liar. Get him kicked into his own Work Programme and see how he likes it.

Further reading

Other sites have produced excellent articles on this subject; here are some that have come to VP‘s attention:

Order of Truth

Ipswich Unemployed Action

Same Difference

 

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Hospitalised heart attack victim told to attend work scheme – Liverpool Echo

Colin Rogers with wife Carol [Image: Liverpool Echo].

Colin Rogers with wife Carol [Image: Liverpool Echo].

DAYS after suffering a major heart attack and as he lay in a hospital bed wired to monitors facing a bypass operation, a Wirral dad was phoned and told he must continue a government work programme, writes Kirsty McHale in the Liverpool Echo.

Colin Rogers, 58, from Irby, had been admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital and then transferred to Broadgreen, in Liverpool, after suffering chest pains.

His wife, Carol, said she was later told he was moments from death as his heart failed and then specialists said he must undergo a quadruple heart bypass operation after he was taken ill on September 27.

Yet, days later – despite his wife informing the Job Centre of her husband’s condition and asking that this be passed on – as he lay in bed in hospital he received a call about his place on the Government’s Work Programme, delivered by public services company A4e.

Colin, who had worked for Champion Spark Plugs until the factory closed and he was made redundant, was told by a manager from A4e that he was committed to the work programme he had been signed up and would have to continue it.

Colin, who came out of hospital a few days ago, said: “I couldn’t believe that they were ringing me because I had given my wife a list of people who needed to be told and she had contacted the Job Centre and told them A4e needed to be informed what had happened to me. So I was completely shocked and I said to the guy I couldn’t believe he was phoning me, that he was supposed to have been told that I had a heart attack.

“This guy was persisting about wanting to discuss the next plan of action but I said I was ending the conversation and put the phone down.”

Colin said within minutes of this a nurse, who had noticed his heart monitor, came and asked if there was a problem, but Colin said: “I didn’t want to say anything because I was embarrassed I was being phoned up like that.”

He added: “But I was disgusted with what had happened. I want to work, but all I seem to be doing is fighting these people.”

A spokeswoman for DWP said correct procedures had been followed.

To read their incredible excuse, visit the Liverpool Echo website.

This is happening too often to be coincidental. Perhaps a Freedom of Information request, on the procedures staff are asked to follow, is in order.

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Social security/welfare: How badly has the Coalition failed the nation?

 141010CoalitionWelfare

Does anybody remember the Coalition Agreement? This was the document drawn up between the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties, either in May 2010 or in March that year, depending on who you believe. Did they stick to it?

Of course they didn’t!

The whole thing seems to have been a Con job. A glance through it today reveals inconsistencies with what has happened, deviations… some might even say outright lies. Let’s have a look at a chapter, shall we?

19. JOBS AND WELFARE

This seems an obvious place to start because of the incredibly reckless behaviour of Iain Duncan Smith. Here’s the introduction:

The Government believes that we need to encourage responsibility and fairness in the welfare system. That means providing help for those who cannot work, training and targeted support for those looking for work, but sanctions for those who turn down reasonable offers of work or training.

Experience shows that “help for those who cannot work” meant ending unnecessarily complicating the benefit assessment system to ensure that any evidence supporting a claim of illness is treated with suspicion if not discounted altogether, and ensuring that those on the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance were shunted off the benefit after a year, whether they were better or not. “Training and targeted support for those looking for work” meant work programme providers who were supposed to be helping those on ESA find appropriate employment in fact ran a ‘cream and park’ system in which only those for whom it was easiest to find work ever received serious attention; the rest were left to rot until their term on the benefit ended. For jobseekers, this training involved silly ‘lowest-common-denominator’ education schemes in which graduates were asked to relearn simple English and arithmetic or how to write their CV, being forced into ‘Workfare’ schemes at the taxpayers’ expense while the participating companies made a huge profit, and being pressured into registering with Universal Jobmatch, a job advertisement system that quickly gained a reputation as a home of identity thieves and sex industry predators. “Sanctions for those who turn down reasonable offers of work or training” suffered ‘mission creep’, and very soon people were being sanctioned because they were being offered driving jobs when they didn’t have a licence, or because they arrived for Job Centre appointments slightly late.

Let’s go into the details:

  • We will end all existing welfare to work programmes and create a single welfare to work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work. Did this ever happen?
  • We will ensure that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants facing the most significant barriers to work are referred to the new welfare to work programme immediately, not after 12 months as is currently the case. We will ensure that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under 25 are referred to the programme after a maximum of six months. We know that those with the most significant barriers were ‘parked’ on benefits by the work programme providers, despite Iain Duncan Smith’s protestations that his DWP was “transforming their lives”. Transforming them into misery, perhaps.
  • We will realign contracts with welfare to work service providers to reflect more closely the results they achieve in getting people back into work. This never happened. Work programme providers are supposed to receive payment based on results but it seems they are still receiving payment based on the number of jobseekers who get put on their books.
  • We will reform the funding mechanism used by government to finance welfare to work programmes to reflect the fact that initial investment delivers later savings through lower benefit expenditure, including creating an integrated work programme with outcome funding based upon the DEL/AME switch. What?
  • We will ensure that receipt of benefits for those able to work is conditional on their willingness to work. Unfortunately this willingness to work has become subject to arbitrary decisions by Job Centre staff, based on the number of people they need to get off their books at any particular time. There is no consistency to it at all, and certainly no justice.
  • We support the National Minimum Wage because of the protection it gives low income workers and the incentives to work it provides. Can either Coalition party then explain why the minimum wage has suffered below-inflation increases until now, when an above-inflation rise has been programmed in time with a forthcoming general election?
  • We will re-assess all current claimants of Incapacity Benefit for their readiness to work. Those assessed as fully capable for work will be moved onto Jobseeker’s Allowance. The assessment was based, not on any rational system, but on a regime devised by an American insurance company as a way to prevent people from receiving the support they clearly deserve.
  • We will support would-be entrepreneurs through a new programme – Work for Yourself – which will give the unemployed access to business mentors and start-up loans. Has anybody ever heard of ‘Work for Yourself’?
  • We will draw on a range of Service Academies to offer pre-employment training and work placements for unemployed people. Did this ever happen? If it did, how many people have won proper jobs (not part-time or zero-hours positions) because of it?
  • We will develop local Work Clubs – places where unemployed people can gather to exchange skills, find opportunities, make contacts and provide mutual support. Did this ever happen?
  • We will investigate how to simplify the benefit system in order to improve incentives to work. This would be the ongoing and exorbitantly expensive fiasco that Iain Duncan Smith calls Universal Credit.

What a catalogue of calamity. Viewed in the Coalition’s own terms, it is easy to see that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government has done nothing to improve jobseekers’ chances and everything to fatten the wallets of their friends running the sham ‘Work Programme’ schemes or build the profits of the companies taking part in Workfare programmes.

Policies for the long-term sick or disabled have been nothing short of catastrophic, with tens of thousands driven off-benefit and into an uncertain life with no income, either forced to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance (and be refused because they are too ill to work) or to beg from friends and family, or to commit suicide or die quietly of malnutrition. The Department for Work and Pensions conveniently keeps no record of what happens to those who are bumped off-benefit, and is stubbornly refusing all legally-submitted requests for statistics on the number of people who have died while in receipt of benefit.

Bear in mind also that this is just one policy area out of 31, and you start to get an idea of the chaos that has been caused by this single rogue administration.

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More work programme provider shamelessness… – Kate Belgrave

Angela Smith is a woman with a Master’s degree and a long history of working in policy and disability support, writes Kate Belgrave.

She also has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair to get around. I’ve been accompanying Angela to her compulsory fortnightly Wembley jobcentre signons and meetings with the Reed Partnership, her work programme provider in Harrow. We’ve shown how difficult London buses can be for disabled people to use. We’ve also shown how pointless those fortnightly meetings at the jobcentre and the work programme really are when it comes to finding work.

Anyway. Angela has a new job. She got it without any help whatsoever from the jobcentre or the Reed Parntership. She found the job advertisement, filled in the application form, went to the interview and got through.

She did the whole thing entirely by herself. But that hasn’t stopped the work programme provider from trying to claim the result for itself. I went with Angela to her final meeting there a couple of weeks ago and saw this in all its glory. Her work programme adviser – a pleasant enough woman – congratulated Angela on finding a job. Then she said something along the lines of: “look, I know we haven’t helped you get this job at all – but would you be prepared to be featured in our Success Stories poster campaign? We could get your photo done and get a poster made. That would be really good.” There were posters on the office walls of people working at various jobs and saying things like: “I’m now running a successful business.” Angela and I decided that they must have been a bit short on successful-placements-of-disabled-people-in-work stories so they’d figured they’d have hers.

Pity they had nothing to do with it.

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