Tag Archives: Disregarded

David Dennis – Disregarded? Not anymore!

David Dennis, the author of Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme, seems to have a hit on his hands. The book has attracted considerable interest, following my article earlier this month. It is therefore with pleasure that I am publishing the following interview with him, conducted by writer Alex Laybourne.

After reading the new bestseller “Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme”, I knew I had to interview expose genius David Dennis. Not only did the book hit a chord with me, it has also hit a chord with readers and is currently flying high in the Amazon.co.uk chart. David is a curious guy, he doesn’t like to show his face. I asked him for a photo to include with this interview. He declined to share one and said he is choosing to remain anonymous. I asked him why, and thus our conversation began.

Q) So, tell me, why don’t you want your face out there? Your name will be on everyone’s lips soon. This book is hot! Don’t you want to be famous?

A) I’m not concerned about being famous, Alex. This book was written for the millions out there who are suffering and unemployed. Millions of faces, men and women, all different. Just one face can’t represent everyone or take credit for a small part in trying to improve things.

Q) David, how does it feel, now that you’ve got a hit on your hands to be away from the “Work Programme”.

A) Well, Alex, I guess it’s not exactly apt to say that I am away from it. It still haunts me and it makes me feel sick when I think of all those other people having to go and slave away day after day for the sake of a few quid.

Q) By “a few quid”, you really mean millions that are heading into the pockets of private companies – companies that could well afford to hire and pay employees to work for them.

A) Exactly– private companies are milking our taxpayers of money and our unemployed of their dignity to make vast profits. It’s disgusting to say the least and illegal to say the most.

Q) Illegal? Didn’t a court say it was legal?

A) A court might have said it was legal, but I think the definition of slavery fits like a glove. To work for your ‘benefit’ is to work for something like £71 a week. That isn’t a wage anyone would ‘choose’ to work for. Now, if the companies were happy to add in the rest to make it up to a living wage, that might be a fair deal people would agree with. There’s got to be some leeway given. Somebody has got to give and the unemployed have given too much as it is. It’s the private companies’ turn to put some money into the coffers if they want the benefit of workers.

Q) You believe those on benefits should get them for nothing then?

A) Of course not. I believe there should be a programme where people learn skills and get experience the fair way. REAL help needs to be offered. I do not believe sending people into a multi-billion pound company to stack shelves for free is in any way beneficial to those on the programme– it only serves to help a rich company that’s already rich.

Instead, let’s start getting people into university, college and supporting them through it. Let’s bring back jobs for people– real jobs. The government are paying their private training companies up to £14,000 for every single person on the work programme, over and above the cost of their regular dole. Couldn’t less money be spent sending people through college courses, university or other programmes where we would see a higher return? The way I see it, the unemployed are becoming less employable with every passing day on the work programme. I believe everyone can have productive work, work they enjoy and are fulfilled by, and I think it’s unfair to tar those genuinely unemployed with the same brush used to tar ‘layabouts’.

Q) So Dennis, you believe there are ‘layabouts’ milking the system?

A) I do, and I know that there are more than a few out there. The government has every right to try and keep those people from sucking precious monies from the public purse. But should it be to the detriment of those actually trying to find work? No, absolutely not.

Q) How many people did you actually meet who found work on the programme?

A) (laughs) Found work? None. Sanctioned– many.

Q) Sanctioned?

A) The sanction is the way the government and the system control the jobseekers– if they don’t do as they’re told, then they just cut the money off. If you miss an appointment or you’re ill, you can be sanctioned. Then, how are you meant to survive? There are “crisis loans” available, but good luck getting one. It’s a fear-based, bullying system.

Q) So, you believe the government are willingly cutting people off from benefits and squeezing them to try and make them drop off?

A) Well, I don’t remember saying that, but, yes if you’d like to put it that way– yes– I think there are probably mandates out there that ask the Job Centre to cut people off as much as possible.

Q) What’s the difference between the Job Centre and the work programme?

A) The Job Centre is one of those things that we all know about. It’s the first stop. You go in and see an advisor and they, on the whole, do try to help put you on the right track towards finding a new job. They have targets and regulations, but on the whole, they are pretty straight up and if you follow the basic rules, you receive your dole payment without issue.

The “Work Programme” is something else altogether. I think you could sum it up quite easily as ‘forced labour’. You are sent into a work placement, whether you want to or not; whether it suits your skills or not; and you work. For free. I’ve heard some horror stories and I, myself, had an awful time.

The other part is the “Work Programme” scheme to teach people supposed new skills and help them to write CV’s. The training centre I attended was a complete waste of time. The turnover of staff seemed as though there was a revolving door. The CV’s are useless and to my knowledge sending an architect to a basic maths course is just a weak way to waste money.

Q) Care to elaborate?

A) Sure. I was sent to a placement at a leading gardening store and was shown a health and safety video– then I was sent out to work in a busy warehouse without protective clothing– gloves or the like– legally mandated by health and safety law. When I complained, I was told it was too expensive and we didn’t need them.

As for the architect in one of my classes– there were also health and safety officers, accountants and other professionals sitting through a very basic maths course and to my knowledge many are still doing the same course six months on. As I said– it’s just a way to keep bodies in seats so these training companies can keep charging the government.

Q) Can you tell me which store?

A) The name doesn’t matter. Take your pick. I have heard horror stories from charity shops, supermarkets– you name it and it’s been heard of. As far as I can see, it’s the same across the board, no matter which store it is.

Q) So what do you intend to do now?

A) I am promoting the book. I have several interviews lined up. I had a journalist call me the other day offering to set up a TV interview– the works. I can’t wait– I want to fight for those guys who have no one to fight for them. I believe people should have freedom and choice. If you are unemployed then you shouldn’t automatically become a slave to the system. You should be assisted to find a career that is right for you.

Q) How does the programme affect working people?

A) Good question. Well, as you know, Slavery was abolished many years ago. If we bring back slavery– who will want to pay people to work? This system is bringing down wages across the board. The end effect will be simple– more people will become unemployed and then be thrown in as slave workers. The government will create a wider gap between the rich and the poor. The middle class will disappear and years of hard work will be thrown down the drain.

Q) I believe you are very brave to even attempt to sell this book. There are people out there who are going to call you a liar.

A) Alex, I know, and there always are. The truth is in the book and if people want to insist that those on benefits are having a great time, I suggest they try it for themselves. Let the Tories go down and work at supermarkets and perhaps they would be kind enough to give their real, well-paid job to a work programme worker. I can tell you, there are qualified people out there who would be able to do it just as well. I don’t believe all this crud about “knowing your place”. The world is there for those who want it– the world is everyone’s– it doesn’t  just belong to those guys with huge bank accounts.

Q) Have you got another book in mind?

A) Yes. I am half tempted to compile case-study interviews with people who went through the “Work Programme”. It would be an interesting eye-opener for all those who say that my experience was some sort of aberration. Let people see what real people are going through and let’s give everyone a voice.

Q) Are you a ‘Working Class Hero’?

A) No. John Lennon was a working class hero. I am just a guy who wants people to be treated fairly. I don’t believe in sitting at home on my arse all day. I believe in work and let’s get people into jobs that will give them a fair lifestyle. Let them add to the economy and let them enjoy the prosperity others enjoy.

Q) Thanks, David, I better let you go, you seem to be pretty busy!

A) I have got a long road ahead of me spreading the word of the silent majority and I intend to see it through to the end.

David was busy with other interviews at the time. I spent enough time with him to realise that he has a story here that is growing daily. His book is a hit and he himself is certainly driven enough to realise it. I wanted to give you a taste of what this guy is like. I have read the book and I know it’s a good one. Find it here and then tell David what you think of it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Disregarded-Story-Failure-Programme-ebook/dp/B00AO6O9QG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1356273446&sr=8-2

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Disregarded-The-True-Story-of-the-Failure-of-the-UKs-Work-Programme/433776256677128

Would a Bill of Rights squash terrorism – or promote forced labour?

I have read only the BBC website report on the commission that was set up to decide whether we should ditch the Human Rights Act in favour of a new ‘Bill of Rights’, but a few things appear clear:

This is being treated as an argument between those who are pro- and anti- the European Union.

People are being asked to consider changes to human rights legislation as a way of combating terrorism.

Both – as we know – are well-worthy of debate, but I wonder why we’re not discussing the elephant in this room. We already had a very well-publicised human rights case in our courts this year, and it had nothing to do with terrorism; it was the case against the Department for Work and Pensions that was won by Cait Reilly, the graduate who was forced to leave her voluntary work in a museum to stack shelves at Poundland on the government’s Workfare scheme.

Oh, you still think she lost?

To refresh your memories, Ms Reilly took the DWP to a judicial review, claiming that being forced to undergo Workfare contravened article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.” Mr Justice Foskett found in her favour.

He stated: “I would be inclined to grant her a declaration that there was a breach of Regulation 4(2) in her case … Her original complaint arose from what she was wrongly told was a compulsory placement on a scheme that (a) impeded her voluntary efforts to maintain and advance her primary career ambition and (b) having embarked upon it, from her perspective, did not offer any worthwhile experience on an alternative career path. It is not difficult to sympathise with her position from that point of view.”

I know, it’s entirely different from what the mass media told us, back in August when the ruling was made. They cherry-picked this for us to digest instead: “Characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking”.

The judge was actually saying that, if Ms Reilly had been properly informed of the regulations, she would not have been led to believe she was being put into forced labour. He said the issue arose “from events that occurred in the early stages of the Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme when the advisers with whom they communicated were less experienced” and added: “Whether the problems … were merely “teething problems” remains to be seen. The issues raised … were properly raised.”

He went on to say: “Whilst there may be others who have experienced similar issues and have had similar problems, the evidence is that a large number of other individuals will have taken part in the scheme, some of whom would doubtless say they have benefited from it.”

We have since found the opposite to be the case. On November 27, we all heard that, during its first 14 months, only 3.53 per cent of jobseekers who took part in the government’s mandatory work activity programme – of which Workfare is a part – actually found a job for six months or more. They would have had a better chance of finding a job if the work programme had not existed.

I wonder what Mr Justice Foskett thinks now, bearing in mind his words then?

Whatever the case, the government is ploughing ahead with the scheme, and one has to wonder why. It is an embarrassment. It doesn’t work. It has broken the law on human rights.

What if it wasn’t supposed to get people into work, though? What if it’s supposed to do something different?

What if it’s a way of providing a cheap workforce to companies that may (or may not) donate money to the party currently in government, thereby also ensuring that unemployment stays artificially high in order to discourage the workforce from seeking increased pay?

What if it’s a way of funnelling taxpayers’ money off to profit-making companies such as the ‘Work Programme Provider’ firms, that receive £600 for each jobseeker referred to them, plus £200 for the ‘activities’ they offer to prepare those jobseekers for the world of work (see my article on David Dennis’s new book, Disregarded, for a first-hand account of that waste of time)?

If that was the case, then a law that had already led to not one, but two court actions against the government (the other being by Jamieson Wilson, also considered and upheld by Mr Justice Foskett) would be… how can I put it?

Inconvenient?

It’s just a thought, but if you don’t see the sense in it, you might just as well be buying your own set of chains.

Disregarded: New book exposes Work Programme’s failures – from the inside

The Coalition’s Work Programme is a sham system designed to funnel money from the government to so-called ‘providers’ – private companies whose idea of training forces participants to prove they have the simplest literacy and numeracy skills before placing them in six-week limited positions for companies keen to exploit free workers.

That’s the grim message in Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme, by David Dennis. He’s a man who knows his subject – the book is the result of his own time as a participant.

According to the book’s publicity material, “shocking descriptions of his time spent at a for-profit skills training centre show that the unemployed are considered a scourge on society and are treated as such.

“Despite the government’s assurances that the scheme is working to reduce the millions of unemployed, Dennis shows, through his own experience with the programme, that it is inefficient, inept, and fundamentally unhelpful to those who need it most – those hungry and able to work.”

That’s it in a nutshell, according to the author. “What I witnessed at my training centre was a complete shambles and a waste of time for everyone involved,” he told Vox Political. “I spent about 12 months there, on and off, and I don’t know anyone who got a job through them.”

The book itself makes the situation explicit:

This programme essentially uses the unemployed as unpaid slave labour forces for six weeks’ duration for some of the country’s largest companies – highly profitable companies that can absolutely afford to hire people for a decent wage… This would not lead to paid employment… This was a simple case of a company taking advantage of a recession.

“The classes are not put together with a view to the skills of those on the programme,” explained the author. The architect with 20 years’ experience and the recent school leaver both find themselves in the same basic maths class. Literally, we were doing computerised tutorials that were primary school level.”

I arrived early for my first interview at the learning provider building. The building had several stories and as soon as I entered I could see what the entrance requirements were– long term unemployment. The lift, with its dank smell of urine, was unappealing. I walked four flights of stairs and finally reached the right level. “Training” the sign shouted. I walked towards it and opened the door. 

The entrance room was small, a pot plant in the corner and a dishevelled man sat behind the desk. 

“Name?” he asked.

“David Dennis,” I replied.

“Occupation?” he said with a grin. “Oh wait, you haven’t got one!”

“I will have someday and I’ll be paying your wages,” I bit back.

“Sure,” he said with a grin. “Take a seat.”

I sat down as he picked up the phone and dialled through to explain that Mr Dennis had arrived.

“Dennis, David?” the woman said, as she entered the waiting room. “Follow me,” she said without even looking at me. I stood and followed her into a classroom. “We need to do a diagnostic test to see if you can read, count and do the most basic of learning.”

“I can,” I replied. “I have GCSE’s and A Levels and I received very high marks.”

She didn’t take any notice. “You have one hour to complete these tests.”

“Excuse me,” I said as I began to feel like the invisible man. “I can talk, you know.”

“I do not wish you to talk,” she snorted. “I wish you to do your diagnostic tests,” she explained. “I do not wish to hear about tests you passed once upon a time.”

I was shocked. I sat down at the computer and took the diagnostic tests.

To my mind, they were a complete joke. Questions such as: Where does the full stop go in this sentence? “Anna walked down to the beach” Well, let’s see? Where does a full-stop normally go? Where does the capital letter go in this sentence? “the alligator swam through the water”. Ninety-eight more of these basic literacy questions followed. The maths assessment was equally as ludicrous. I was completely insulted by this absurdity. The very fact that not only had I passed my GCSEs and A-Levels, I had received very high marks on them, should have exempted me from this degradation. There was obviously no pre-vetting process based on previous educational credentials.

I dutifully completed the test and waited for her to come back. Eventually, an hour passed and finally she returned.

“Have you finished?”

“Yes,” I replied with a smile. “Within about ten minutes.”

“You rushed them,” she accused. “Don’t blame me if you have failed.”

“I didn’t fail them,” I replied. “I know where full stops go and I know how to add and calculate percentages.”

Without listening she took the computer and looked at the results. I had scored highly and I thought I had proved my worth.

“You did alright,” she said with a shrug. “We can improve on that though.”

“How can you improve on 100%?” I asked.

“Those tests are the easiest we have,” she said . “We expect people to pass with at least 20%.”

“Well let me have a bash at your others,” I asked as I grew older every second.

“No,” she said dryly. “You are not ready yet.”

“I see,” I replied, already knowing what the game was. This woman knew she was stuck with me and needed to show some improvement to claim payment from the government. This way she could say that I had started favourably with the lower test scores and passed the higher ones with her guidance. What a complete scam.

“You will begin intensive revision on Monday.”

“I thought I was going to learn ‘retail’ here?”

“Well, you’re not,” she decided. “You must learn Maths and English first.”

So that was the game plan. This company would teach me skills I already had mastered and then charge the government for the pleasure of it all.

“I was told by my advisor that qualifications gained in school were irrelevant and I should not put them on my CV,” he said. “The mandatory CV template is useless and allows for no self-expression.”

“I was also sent on a Workfare assignment to “a leading gardening company”, and again, that was a complete farce. I have 13 GCSEs and three ‘A’ Levels and they sent me to do manual labour – and here’s the good part: When I asked for protective gear like a pair of gloves, which were mandatory in the health and safety video we watched, not I, nor anyone else, received them.”

The book reveals that there is a high turnover of staff on the Work Programme: “In the months I was on the programme, my tutors and advisors changed endlessly. There was no continuity and the calibre of the teaching staff was appalling. To my knowledge, none had a teaching background and many were completely unprofessional.”   Sanctions are used to discriminate against the unemployed and used to bully them, the book states.

And ex-prisoners attend the Work Programme skills sessions along with school leavers. “I find this to be not only socially irresponsible, but again indicates everyone just gets lumped in together without regard to personal experience or qualifications,” said Mr Dennis.

“I was approached by an ex-prisoner with an offer to get into less-than-legal dealings. Had I been desperate or more vulnerable, I could have easily fallen into a deep trap.”

Disregarded is available from Amazon as either an e-book or in a standard, print version. My understanding is that it costs just £2.

I’ll leave the last word to Mr Dennis: “It’s a good-ol’-boy system between the owners of these companies and Cameron’s cronies. Either that, or just a pass the buck situation whereby the government can say they’ve “handled the problem” by putting it in the hands of these training centres but with no obvious supervision or managed thought from the top.

“This programme really needs to be exposed for what it is – a way for these private training companies to take taxpayers’ money from the government. They certainly aren’t helping those in true need.”