Tag Archives: Work Placement

Apprentice death could have been prevented – but government couldn’t be bothered

The late Cameron Minshull: This 16-year-old was killed when he was dragged into a lathe due to poor health and safety measures.

The late Cameron Minshull: This 16-year-old was killed when he was dragged into a lathe due to poor health and safety measures [Image: Daily Mirror].

Work placement providers’ duty of care for people on apprenticeships and other government-sponsored work placements is being questioned after a factory boss was jailed over the death of a 16-year-old youngster.

Cameron Minshull was dragged into a lathe because he was wearing ‘unsuitable’ ill-fitting overalls which hung from his wrists and had not been trained to use the machine, Manchester Crown Court was told.

At the time, he was being paid just £3 an hour, after being rushed into a placement by recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions – which puts people into apprenticeships in order to get public money from the Conservative Government’s Skills Funding Agency, according to the Daily Mirror.

The factory owner was jailed for eight months and his son received a suspended four-month prison sentence after admitting health and safety offences.

But Lime People Training Solutions was let off with a £75,000 fine – equivalent to its for putting around 17 youngsters in work placements – after denying any such breaches.

This happened because the government isn’t interested in health and safety. It considers calls for proper monitoring to be over-bureaucratic and burdensome.

On the Health and Safety Executive’s website, in the page dealing with work experience, HSE chair Judith Hackett states: “Work placement arrangements are too often seen as over-bureaucratic and burdensome, putting off potential employers.”

She continues: “Employers should already be managing the risks in their workplaces and are best placed to assess whether or not they need to do anything additional for a new young person joining them.”

And she states: “Schools and colleges… should not be second-guessing employers’ risk assessments or requiring additional paperwork.”

This next part is absolutely appalling: “An appreciation of risk and how to deal with it can be one of the biggest benefits offered by a placement.”

Is this appreciation to be gained through the death of an apprentice?

Work placement organiser companies are told: “If you are advised that a particular placement is not possible due to health and safety, the person giving you that advice may well be wrong – there are very few work activities a student cannot do due to health and safety law.

“Remember that the placement provider (employer) has primary responsibility for the health and safety of the student and should be managing any significant risks.” The only step the organiser is advised to take is to talk through the work required of the apprentice/person on the work placement, and discuss relevant precautions. There is no requirement to ensure those precautions are in place.

So that’s all right then. There’s no need to worry about health and safety concerns; they are somebody else’s problem.

Employers are told: “Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees. You treat them no differently to other young people you employ.

“Simply use your existing arrangements for assessments and management of risks to young people.”

There you have it.

There is no legal requirement for extra measures to ensure the health and safety of young people placed with employers – and nobody checks an employer’s practices to ensure they conform with legal requirements.

The death of Cameron Minshull could have been prevented – but the government couldn’t be bothered.

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IDS – the most vile product of ‘welfare UK’

The parallel here should be obvious to anyone who's seen the newspapers today.

The parallel here should be obvious to anyone who’s seen the newspapers today.

Dept. of ‘Giving Them A Taste Of Their Own Medicine’: The Daily Mail’s front page today is itself, of course, entirely vile.

It is an attempt to make us believe that every single benefit claimant in the UK is as evil as Mick or Mairead Philpott, who were convicted yesterday of killing six of their own children.

The claim is the kind of utter nonsense we have come to expect from the paper commonly dubbed the ‘Daily Heil’ or (as in the image above) the ‘Daily Fail’ – and it has sparked widespread fury.

We all know that it is ridiculous to claim that everybody on social security benefits is evil.

And we all know that you don’t have to be an evil person to receive social security benefits – look at the current government!

In fact, let’s look at the Secretary of State responsible for social security benefits – he likes to call them “welfare”, possibly because it gives him a feeling of superiority over their recipients. This is interesting in itself, because he used to be one of them.

Iain Duncan Smith was on the dole for several months during 1981, after leaving the Scots Guards, where he famously enjoyed a career as a bag-carrier for a higher-ranking officer. Did he get out by finding a job? Hard to tell. What we do know is that he married the very wealthy Betsy, daughter of a very wealthy man, the following year. In other words, he got off benefits by marrying into money. That’s not evil in itself, but how many of us have that option?

I don’t propose to rehash the hypocrisies of Iain Duncan Smith in full here, but I will quote three relevant paragraphs from the Edinburgh Eye piece I reblogged earlier today, as follows:

“He has four children, yet argues that families with more than two children ought to be sanctioned: in 2009 he took six months paid leave without notice to care for his wife when she was desperately ill, yet has instigated changes in benefit to ensure that neither sick people nor their carers will be supported. In 1981, jobless and unqualified, he took full advantage of the welfare safety net to claim benefits for months while looking for suitable work, yet in a recession as bad as that of thirty years ago he claims graduates are “snooty” if they don’t agree to work for Poundland for free. While attending further education for two short periods, IDS gained no qualifications, and asserts that shelf-stackers are more valuable than scientists. While benefiting hugely from MP expenses, Iain Duncan Smith tells many untruths about the cost of people claiming disability and welfare benefits.

“Iain Duncan Smith has made many speeches in favour of law and order. Yet when IDS’s workfare sanctions were ruled unlawful by the courts, instead of accepting that millions taken unlawfully would have to be repaid and that people unlawfully made to work for commercial organisations for free had a claim to minimum wage for their hours (or, if determined to fight lawfully for welfare, proceding to the Supreme Court for a further appeal) IDS decided to have emergency legislation passed making his unlawful sanctions retroactively lawful.

“Iain Duncan Smith lives in a large and comfortable home which he does not own and which it’s doubtful he pays market rent for, yet has instigated the bedroom tax. The idea behind the “bedroom tax” is that the housing shortage can be remedied not by building more social housing or by preventing bankers from gambling on house price rises, but by forcing people who live in social housing and have a “spare room”, to move out into private rented accommodation of a more suitable size. This won’t save money at any level (Iain Duncan Smith calls this the ending the spare-room subsidy).”

And there remains the matter of the 73 people per week, on average (and that average was reported nearly a year ago, so it may well have risen massively since then), who are dying as a result of the pressures put on them by the merciless Employment and Support Allowance assessment regime for people who have long-term sicknesses or are disabled.

If the Philpotts are a “vile product of welfare UK”, then is Iain Duncan Smith – who admits he has been on the welfare system, equally vile?

This week, he was in the news because he claimed on the BBC’s Today programme that he could survive on £53 per week if he had to, after market trader David Bennett said the bedroom tax meant he must now live on that amount.

Almost immediately, a petition by Dom Aversano appeared on the change.org website, calling for him to put his money where his mouth is.

His reaction? “This is a complete stunt which distracts attention from the welfare reforms which are much more important and which I have been working hard to get done. I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done this. I know what it is like to live on the breadline.” (Quoted from the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian).

In other words, this slimeball is trying to slither out of it! Could this possibly be because he knows the benefit regime he has instigated is much harsher than the system he enjoyed in 1981 (and again in 1989) and he knows he would not fare well as a part of it?

The report of this story in The Guardian seems intentionally hilarious. It states: “The Daily Mail [that rag again] reported Duncan Smith as saying: ‘It was a shock – absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: “God, what are we going to do for money?”‘”

The report continues, straight-faced: “Duncan Smith’s wife, Betsy, is the daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe who served as lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in the 1980s and 1990s. Duncan Smith and his wife, who sent their children to Eton, moved into Lord Cottesloe’s 17th-century Old House in the village of Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire in 2002.”

What were they going to do for money, indeed!

He is a man who has played the system for all he could take and then changed it to make sure nobody else could enjoy the benefits he received. He is a man who talks a good fight but runs away from supporting his words with real action.

If ‘welfare UK’ has any ‘vile product’ at all, then it must be Iain Duncan Smith.

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Benefits: how much information are the authorities holding back?

It might look like another boring benefit claim form to you, but to some people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, the sight of an ESA50 is enough to trigger anxiety, panic, or even heart attacks.

The British economy might be out of recession but the Coalition cuts regime marches ever onward – especially if you are claiming – or lucky enough to be receiving – the much-maligned Employment and Support Allowance.

(It was never about dealing with our economic difficulties, you see. It was always about shrinking the state and cutting the number of people dependent on it for their living – by one method or another).

The latest wheeze among Job Centre Plus staff appears to be the practice of missing out important information about your benefit such as, for example, the fact that being put in the work-related activity group of ESA claimants means you only receive the benefit for 365 days and during that period you should try to make yourself ready for work. After then, you will be put on Jobseekers’ Allowance and subjected to all the sanctions and requirements that entails – including, presumably, Workfare.

Can you imagine what would happen to someone with agoraphobia, who suffers from panic attacks, if they were put on a work placement scheme?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the authorities wouldn’t be ignorant enough to put anyone in a work placement that might be harmful to their health or to their attempts to recover from their condition. Well, if you’re on ESA, all I can say is good luck with that. I’ll be back in a year or so to ask how it worked out for you.

We all know of many cases in which people with disabilities or health problems have been put into situations that have worsened their conditions. The most famous examples were terminal – the people involved are now dead. I understand the average number of deaths per week is now 78. Iain Duncan Smith must be beside himself with joy.

But there are many others who, although they are being pushed to the limit by a system that has been twisted to make it as unhelpful as possible, are still persevering. I know of people who have been put on the work-related activity group of ESA, but weren’t told about the time limit and were left high and dry when the money ran out.

Are you on ESA? Are you in the work-related activity group? Do you know when your benefit will end?

At least that person was lucky enough to receive notification of what was happening to them. Another person, on heavy medication for painful conditions, did not realise they had been moved from Incapacity Benefit to ESA and was astonished to find they had taken and work capability assessment and failed it. The result? They were kicked off the benefit. Fortunately, they appealed and won. But the experience was extremely traumatic.

Make no mistake – this is a system that is designed to intimidate you; to weaken you; to push you into the sidelines in the hope that you’ll go away and be no more bother to those who run it.

“The Work Capability Assessment is being continually reviewed and refined, through a series of annual independent reviews, with improvements resulting in a fairer and more accurate system,” according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

That’s excluding where you live, apparently.

Grayling’s work placement gravy train rolls on – YOU get nothing

What do you do with a policy that has caused misery for thousands, has harmed the job market, removed jobseekers from work experience that would have led to a decent job and forced them to stack supermarket shelves instead, and actually had a judicial review held against it?

If you’re Chris Grayling, you roll it out in 16 London boroughs – all notable for being sites of the summer riots in 2011.

According to the Evening Standard, Mr Grayling plans to force young unemployed Londoners aged 18-24 to work in charities or care homes for 30 hours a week, while spending another 10 hours a week searching for a proper job, for a 13-week period. The policy will be applied to everybody who has spent less than six months in employment since leaving education; if they don’t agree to it, they’ll lose their £56-per-week Jobseekers’ Allowance.

He denied it was “slave labour” – the common nickname for the Work Placement scheme – instead claiming it would help young Londoners improve their career prospects.

I wonder what it will do for the prospects of people living in care homes who’ll have these inexperienced youngsters put in charge of them. It’ll probably make Winterbourne View care home look civilised – and through no fault of the youngsters being forced to do the work.

Mr Grayling also said it was reasonable for youngsters to be asked to give something to the community before the community gives anything back.

This might be a valid argument, but let’s ask one vital question: Who really gains from these work placement schemes?

The youngsters don’t – all they get is £56 per week and the loss of time that could be spent in voluntary work that will lead to a proper job.

The economy won’t – the jobs these young people will be doing should have proper wages, contracts and conditions of employment attached. This would pump money into the national economy and might actually help get Britain working properly again, but instead we’re seeing a silly publicity stunt from the government.

And the taxpayer won’t benefit either – because the government is using our tax money to fund the scheme. We’re paying for these youngsters to work for organisations that should be offering proper employment to people instead. And if you think all we’re paying is £56 per week, per jobseeker, think again!

If this system is anything like Welfare to Work (and I think it is), then each jobseeker will be sent to a placement by a provider – a private company employed by the government to shoehorn them into a placement. These are the people who will benefit from this scheme. It’s another backhander for Grayling’s fat-cat business buddies.

According to a commenter on my Facebook page (the ‘like’ button is at the top left of this page) “The WTW provider gets a £600 attachment fee. They also get paid fees for “providing support” i.e. bulllying her into doing what THEY want. Later they get an “outcome fee” for making her stay in the minimum wage job of their choice. If she finds something with no help from them, they still pocket the dosh. If she finds training other than their useless ‘courses’ she gets rewarded with a sanction (benefits withheld indefinitely) to ensure compliance.”

Is the reasoning behind this starting to make sense now?

The comment continues: “The job centre sent me to work (unpaid, natch) as a learning support asst with pre-ESOL classes. Six months later the college offered to fund my teacher training. Jobcentre promptly ordered me onto Work Programme. I now belong to Maximus [this will be the WTW provider] for two years. They told me to dump teaching plans and do contract cleaning. I dumped Maximus instead. Now I’ve been sanctioned. The Prime Minister goes on about literacy (which I also intend to teach) but is willing to keep throwing money into the WP to use the unemployed as a commodity. Maximus get to keep the attachment fee, by the way.

“The reason given [for the sanction] was ‘you had opportunities’ meaning the useless, unaccredited courses at À4E. I found a part-time job to help while training and the college want to pay my fares. The jobcentre seems to be under pressure to send people on WP. The Govt line is that the WP is for the ‘feckless workshy’ and the press seems to be colluding in this.”

That last comment is particularly telling, as there’s no mention of any of this in the Standard’s article.