Tag Archives: work placement provider

Part-time Chance(llo)r and towel-folder to explain how impoverishing people makes work pay.

Not fair at all: We love this shot of George Osborne because it clarifies perfectly that, as with Michael Howard before him, there is "something of the night" about him. Will YOU believe him when he says it is fair to punish the poor for an economic recession they never made, while rewarding the rich who did the damage?

Not fair at all: We love this shot of George Osborne because it clarifies perfectly that, as with Michael Howard before him, there is “something of the night” about him. Will YOU believe him when he says it is fair to punish the poor for an economic recession they never made, while rewarding the rich who did the damage?

You know the Tories are scraping the bottom of the barrel when they wheel out Gideon George Osborne to defend benefit changes as “fair”.

It’s hilarious (unintentionally, I’m sure) that they’re wheeling out a man whose appearance in last year’s Olympic Games prompted an international crowd in a full-to-capacity stadium to ‘boo’ him – in order to try to popularise their unjustifiable crimes against the poor.

This is a man whose only proper job was folding towels at a department store, if I recall correctly!

He’s due to make a speech at 12.30pm today (April 2, so it can’t even be defended as an April Fool) in which he is expected to say the Tory cuts mean “this month we will make work pay”, and nine out of 10 working households will be better-off.

They’ll be better of than the remaining one-tenth of households, maybe, but the Tories are never going to convince intelligent people that they’re making work pay by cutting anything! Common sense tells us that, in a country where wages are deeply depressed (such as the UK – oh yes they are) the only way to make work pay is to offer a living wage!

But what can we expect from a political organisation that is now focusing its efforts on redefining the dictionary?

The lexicon here at Vox Political gives multiple definitions for the word “fair”, so I’ll pick out those that may be applied, as follows:

“1. Reasonable or unbiased.” The changes include a below-inflation cap for people on working-age benefits and tax credits, meaning they will become worse-off, year-on-year, while the cap remains in place. Meanwhile, people in the top tax band – who therefore take home the most pay – are getting a £100,000 tax break. Reasonable? No. Unbiased? Not a chance in hell.

Let’s also remember that Osborne is the Chancellor who thought it was a good idea to promote tax avoidance schemes on the Daily Politics TV show, on January 9 this year.

“2. According to the rules.” The Tory-led Coalition is the government that changes the rules to suit itself. Let’s all remember that when Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions was found, by a court, to have been breaking the law by imposing sanctions against people who refused to take part in the ridiculous ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ schemes that take more than a billion pounds out of the economy every year (almost £900 million for companies offering placements, along with hundreds of millions more for ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies), this administration’s answer was to introduce retrospective legislation to wipe away its guilt.

“3. Describing light-coloured hair or skin, or somebody with this.” Let’s widen this definition a little; a person who is “fair to look at” would be deemed attractive, so let’s go with that. Are these changes attractive? Most definitely not. They are designed to make the claiming of benefits unattractive.

“4. Sizeable, as in ‘a fair number of responses’.” This is accurate – the changes will affect millions of homes, throwing many of them into abject poverty.

“5. Better than acceptable.” If they were acceptable, then we would not have seen thousands of people demonstrating against the new Bedroom Tax, in towns and cities across the UK. Nor would we have seen the huge amount of campaigning against the benefit changes online and via petitions. And there will be motions against implementing the tax in local authorities up and down the country. The people responsible for them don’t think these changes are acceptable; nor should you.

“6. No more than average.” It could be suggested that Grant Shapps has been saying the more stringent application of the Work Capability Assessment to applicants for Employment and Support Allowance has created a more representative average number of claims by ensuring 878,000 people dropped their claims when faced by those changes – but, wait a moment, this has been exposed as a lie, hasn’t it? In fact, the number of people dropping their claims has been revealed – by official DWP figures – to be the natural wastage you get from people getting better or finding work they can do while ill, and the number of people receiving the benefit has, in fact, risen.

“7. Not stormy or cloudy.” Clearly the storm of protest around these changes renders this definition irrelevant.

Osborne, who not only advocates tax avoidance but allegedly participates in it himself – he was the target of a campaign by 38 Degrees, early in the life of this Parliament – also seems a strange choice to talk about fairness and making work pay, because of his involvement in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme which was extremely unfair and had nothing to do with work.

Readers of this blog may remember that Osborne used taxpayers’ money to pay mortgage interest on a farmhouse and associated land that he claimed to use for Parliamentary purposes in his Tatton constituency (this has not been proved), and then sold the properties for around £1 million, pocketing the lot. He didn’t work for the money, and this exploitation of the taxpayer can hardly be considered fair – but he got away with it because his privileged position as an MP, apparently, allows it.

Fair? No.


This seems more likely.

Back to the Dark Ages as the Tories plan to scrap your Human Rights

A face of evil: Theresa May wants to take away your human rights and leave you at the mercy of government repression.

A face of evil: Theresa May wants to take away your human rights and leave you at the mercy of government repression.

Tory plans to take away your human rights are moving ahead with Theresa May announcing that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election, “in the national interest”.

In whose interest? Not yours. Certainly not mine. She’s quite clearly confusing minority Tory interests with those of this country. They do that a lot.

If you want to get humour from the situation, Mrs May made her announcement at a conference organised to find ways of winning broader support in 2015. How badly off-track can you go?

There may, in fact, be a reasonable argument for modifying human rights legislation; we have all been appalled when judges have made decisions in favour of defendants because the alternative would “infringe their human rights” – but this is not a good reason to scrap the lot. It’s a reason to give out guidance on how it should be properly interpreted.

But getting rid of these rights altogether shows that the Conservative Party wants to turn government into an instrument of suppression, grinding the workers and the poor underfoot. Better people have already raised concerns that the Coalition is becoming an Orwellian “boot stamping on a human face – forever”; this would make that future a certainty.

It is likely that Conservative members of the Coalition government – most notably Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Maria Miller and Mark Hoban – will fall foul of human rights laws, either in this country or in Europe, if the UK continues to abide by them, and this in itself provides enough grounds for us to speculate about why Mrs May wants to get rid.

As everyone in the UK should know by now, the draconian rules of the sickness and disablement benefits system overseen by Smith and his cronies has led to the deaths of thousands of people who had a right to expect a reasonable level of care from their government. If efforts to seek justice through the UK’s legal system fail, then there is likely to be an attempt at international level. The Tories could fend this off by removing the UK from the convention, although it seems likely that the International Criminal Court might then take a position on the matter.

Scrapping your human rights provides the Tories with many more opportunities for evil, though. Let’s look at what we could lose.

The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

As you can tell from the behaviour of the Department for Work and Pensions, the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power.

Is killing disabled people – or rather, allowing their deaths when this outcome can be clearly foreseen – in the national interest? Do you have any family members or friends who are disabled? Do you know any who have died as a result of this government’s barbaric policies? What do you think of that, and of the fact that withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would get away with it?

Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government could try to weasel its way out of accusations relating to this, by saying these schemes are labour “considered to be a part of a person’s normal ‘civic obligations'” but the argument against this – that they have not served the interests of the person but of the companies to which they were attached – is strong. These schemes have been worse than useless at getting people into employment but an excellent money-making scam for the businesses concerned, including the ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies that receive government money for very little.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, including the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within reasonable time, the presumption of innocence, and other minimum rights for those charged with a criminal offence. The government’s current attempt to push through laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which they defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present – is a clear violation of this.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course Mrs May would be in violation with her “Snooper’s Charter” that would allow the government to look at your emails.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, which means that, if Mrs May has her way, anti-Conservative websites like this blog would be swept away and its author could be imprisoned (for an indefinite period of time, as the protections under Article 6 would no longer apply).

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. The Tories have always hated the unions, even in their current, very nearly toothless, form. They would relish the opportunity to make unions illegal and remove the rights of all employees.

There are more, but you get the gist. The Human Rights Act of 1998 is the British legislation that makes the European Convention effective in the UK, as far as is possible, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

So that’s what Mrs May means, when she says she wants to scrap these laws. If you have been paying attention, you should be terrified.

You may also be questioning her definition of “the national interest”!

It is clearly a controversial move, and this is why the Tories are taking a “softly, softly” approach to it. They’re putting it out now, two years before the general election, to test the waters, and they know they’ll probably get a reaction against it.

Suppose something happens over the next two years that gives them an opportunity to say – and they will – that “restrictive European laws on Human Rights have prevented us from acting in the public interest”? Won’t that sway the opinion of the Daily Mail-reading public against the very rights that protect them?

It’s a strategy that has worked in the past. By the time the election arrives, you can expect the Tories to have worked the nation up to fever pitch about it – to the best of their ability.

It’s a trick.

They think you’re turkeys and they want you to vote for Christmas.

Do not let them make a fool of you.

Enemy of the State: Chris Grayling


What do you call a Justice Secretary who wants to ensure that access to the justice system is restricted to the fewest people possible – only, in fact, those who can afford it?

What do you call a Justice Secretary who is overseeing plans to ensure that legal aid in civil cases is cut by £350 billion, meaning people who need qualified advice on social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems will not get it? Those people may have to pursue the cases on their own behalf, clogging up the civil justice system, perhaps for years to come.

What do you call a man who, as Employment Minister, presided over a scheme of ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ for the unemployed that was worse than useless at getting them into employment but made a great deal of money for the useless ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies to whom he funnelled government money like there was no tomorrow?

You call him Chris Grayling, that’s what.

This walking, talking blight on common sense is now talking about cutting legal aid in criminal cases, eyeing up £1 billion that is currently spent on it.

He wants to sell off guilty defendants’ cars to pay their legal costs. What does he think that’s going to do? Well, let’s put it in his own language. If cutting people’s benefits is likely to “encourage” them into work, taking away a thief’s car is likely to “encourage” him to steal another. His policies will increase crime.

And he wants to introduce price competition into criminal legal aid, ensuring that the cheapest lawyers – not the best – get the work.

He calls it “working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts”.

But Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger has said the cuts already going ahead are likely to restrict access to justice. That’s not efficiency.

And Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has spoken of similar fears that cutting legal aid might undermine the rule of law, with people resorting to violence.

The bar council has warned that the introduction of price competition is “a blunt instrument” assuring “none of the safeguards and qualities which we must expect from our justice system”.

And, as Lord Bach has pointed out, there will be no savings in the end, as the state “will eventually have to pick up the pieces when things get much worse than they need to”.

Sadly, Mr Grayling – who has no legal grounding whatsoever – will ignore this sensible advice. One can only conclude that he wants to increase criminality.

This blog has already discussed the possibility that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond wants to use the armed forces to quell any civil disturbances in the UK. Is Grayling trying to engineer such disturbances deliberately?

You read it here first.

Confusion reigns over work programme for the disabled

I took Mrs Mike up to the Job Centre on Friday, for an interview with her advisor on the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

Linda (Mrs Mike) has been in the WRAG since her work capability assessment in August. I won’t go into the details of that particular interview because those of you who have experienced it will know that, even in the best of circumstances, it can be harrowing for a disabled person.

This interview was a far cry from that; it helped a lot that Linda knew her advisor – they worked together on a previous job.

We went through Linda’s circumstances and the list of her disabilities, and it was explained that, at the end of her year on the WRA group, she will be assessed again (we’re not looking forward to that!) to decide whether she may be found fit for work or has to go back for another year in the WRAG. This was news to me; my impression was always that you had the year, then you got booted out onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.

It was explained that she could choose to work with her advisor or with work placement provider companies, to find employment for her that is suitable with regard to her disabilities; work placements will not be valid if they do not accommodate an individual’s sickness or disability (this is a fact – I looked it up on the government’s own documentation and they do have a duty to ensure the activity is “appropriate to the participants health condition or disability”).

Mandating – forcing a disabled person to participate in the work programme by making it a condition under which they continue to receive benefit – would only happen if a claimant failed to participate in the work-related activity scheme on any level. It’s what happens when people refuse to have anything to do with it, Linda was told.

I noted that this still means Linda has to take part in some form of activity, but here’s the thing: Mrs Mike does actually want a job. She wants to be a contributing member of society and she wants to be able to pay her way. She is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a scrounger.

what she does not want is to be forced into an exploitative situation where she is made to do work that is unsuitable for her, with no concern about whether it will worsen her condition. She spent months, after her illness began, trying to soldier on at her former job and getting worse every day. She won’t go through that again.

Imagine, then, my surprise on getting home to read an article in The Guardian, stating that, from tomorrow (Monday), the government will “allow private back-to-work companies and jobcentre case managers to force [Linda] and more than 300,000 sick and disabled welfare claimants into unpaid work experience for an unspecified length of time.

“Also from that day – the UN’s international day of persons with disabilities – if those in WRAG who have illnesses ranging from cancer to paralysis to mental health issues do not comply with such instructions, they can be stripped of up to 70 per cent of their benefits and forced to live on £28.15 a week.”

The paper showed that the scheme was already in disrepute. According to the rules (and, again, I’ve read them) providers must ensure that a work placement is of “community benefit”, but the article stated “since February the DWP has stopped answering freedom of information requests about where people are being sent to work – even when instructed to do so by the information commissioner – because it fears the [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme will collapse under the weight of public protest if details are released.

“The DWP has admitted that … private, profit-seeking companies can participate in the scheme.”

the paper added that, according to the latest figures, between 1 June 2011 and 31 May 2012 there were 11,130 conditionality sanctions applied to ESA WRAG claimants. The average length of such sanction is seven weeks.

Linda and I already know that neither the work programme nor the mandatory work activity scheme (Workfare) have any effect on increasing people’s chances of getting into a job. They are ways of funnelling taxpayers’ money to the bosses of the ‘work programme provider’ companies. “Why take part, then?” you might ask. The answer is threefold: Firstly, to show willing; second, to avoid sanctions; third, to get direct experience of how it works in practice.

All this, of course, takes place in an environment where organisations like the British Heart Foundation are pulling out of the programme. According to the newspaper, “the charity said it was offered cash incentives by private companies running the programme if it took on jobseekers. The BHF refused such payments, as it would have meant the charity being paid while its volunteers – in desperate need of a job – worked for no pay in return.

“The DWP said it was not troubled by this practice: ‘We pay providers to find us placements; it’s up to them what arrangement they make with organisations who will take someone on.'”

This is interesting, considering Iain Duncan Smith is adamant that no payment is made other than by results.

On the BBC he said: “Unlike previous work programmes that the last government did where they paid up to half the money just for taking the person on, we don’t do any of that. what we say is, the company concerned has to get them into work but just not into work; also into a job that is eventually, say, six months – that’s when we pay them.”

He also said that the six-month period of work that participants need to build up (presumably before these companies get paid) can be split between placements. We’ve never heard that before, and it seems a rough-and-ready reinterpretation of the rules, as most employment currently lasts no more than four months before people end up back on Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Employment minister Mark Hoban told the Guardian: ‘”People on sickness benefits who do all they can to improve their chances of moving back into a job have nothing to worry about.

‘”They will get their benefits and we will do all we can to help. But in the small number of cases where people refuse to stick to their part of the bargain, it’s only right there are consequences.”‘

What bargain? He seems to misunderstand the meaning of the word. A bargain is an agreement in which each party has obligations to the other.

What sanctions are imposed on the DWP if it fails to provide the service – as stated – to claimants? None, that I can see.

Be assured I will keep you posted on future developments.

PS For everyone about to embark on this new adventure in disability benefits, I think it is important that you read this website – Securing your rights on Welfare to Work(fare). It provides important information on protecting your rights, which may be eroded if you sign certain documents presented to you as part of this programme.