Name and Shame Workfare Exploiters!

July 23, 2014 18 comments

Refuted carried this information yesterday,

Court orders DWP to name and shame workfare exploiters

View full decision: “The DECISION of the Upper Tribunal is to dismiss the [DWP] appeals” https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bwd25z9g2tFPNzZfbVdQSFRZM3JwZzVwX1hDS01Kc0R0V05z/edit?pli=1 (download as a PDF) and the full history of one of the FOI request’s of 25 January 2012, concerning the names of Mandatory Work Activity placement hosts. This tribunal decision concerned DWP appeals against three ICO decision notices (FS50438037,FS50438502 and FS50441818) all requiring the DWP to name workfare placement hosts.

Above via https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/successful_bidders

On the 15th of July we carried this on the notorious SEETEC (which ‘delivers’ workfare in the Eastern Region, including Ipswich).

We are interested in approaches from all organisations which feel may be able to offer project or placement opportunities. We have expert supervisors in place to manage and run projects but we are also happy to discuss existing projects which have supervisors already in place.

Of particular interest are opportunities which exist within Local councils and Housing Providers to increase numbers on existing projects or to create new projects of benefit to their residents and the local area they serve.

Examples of such projects include estate maintenance and local renovation, groundswork, horticulture, recycling as well as administration, customer service and sales, warehousing, distribution and cleaning services. The list of potential projects is almost endless.
If you are interested in working with Seetec to develop innovative and engaging ideas for the delivery of CWP please e-mail in the first instance to: bizdev@seeetec.co.uk or call Peter Walkerley, Business Development and Partnership Manager on: 01702 201070 Ext. 8262.

Alternatively, if you would like to offer support in the form of venues, projects or placements please call Seetec on freephone: 0800 65 25 414.

Who are the exploiters SEETEC operates with?

We want to know!

Update.

Meanwhile Boycott Workfare has its own list of workfare exploiters here.

All Jobcentres to be Shut?

July 21, 2014 37 comments

Iain Duncan Smith Urged By Senior Tories To Shut All Jobcentres

No this is not a story from the Daily Mash (‘COFFEE’ served in Scottish cafes is actually high strength lager),

This dream solution for all the problems about Jobpoints comes from the Huffington Post.

It was just signaled on Facebook.

Iain Duncan Smith is reportedly being urged by senior Tories to shut down all Jobcentres and let private companies and charities to step in to help Britain’s unemployed back to work.

The proposal, backed by allies of chancellor George Osborne, is being considered for potential inclusion in the party’s election manifesto for 2015, in what would be a radical step for Britain’s system to help people into work.

One senior Tory told The Sun: “Introducing competition into the job search market is a natural Conservative thing to do. Tailoring help from experts for what people really need will work far better than the clumsy one-size-fits-all state solution.”

However, Duncan Smith is believed to be sceptical about the idea, with a source describing the proposal as “expensive and complicated”.

Comment, yes but if making a pretty penny out of the unemployment is the objective, then there’s plenty from the Welfare-to-Work-Business who’d be interested.

The article continues,

This comes as a report by David Cameron’s favourite think-tank Policy Exchange called for Jobcentres to be split up and forced to compete with charities and the private sector to help people into work.

Just over a third (36%) of Jobcentre users find sustained work because deep-rooted problems fail to be addressed, the report said, adding that they could be replaced with “Citizen Support” centres to better help jobseekers.

“The way public services are currently structured means that often a jobseeker ends up being passed from pillar to post,” said Guy Miscampbell, an economics and social policy research fellow at Policy Exchange.

“This is confusing for the individual, creates barriers to help them into work and is expensive.

“Services have improved enormously, but there is still a lot more to do. What is needed is a radical overhaul of the system which puts the needs of the jobseeker first.”

In response the Policy Exchange report, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Every day up and down the country our Jobcentre advisers are working closely with local authorities and other organisations to help people off benefits and into work. We now have an employment rate which has never been higher and record numbers of people in work.

“The Work Programme – which is run by private providers who are paid by results – is helping more people than any previous employment programme and has already helped 300,000 into lasting work, and through Universal Credit we are redefining the contract between benefit claimants and the welfare state and helping to make work pay.”

The miserable failure of the Work Programme is an indication of what Privately run and ‘charitable’ Jobcentres would be like.

(Thanks to all who’ve flagged this one up)

Jobpoints in Jobcentres Disappearance: Mystery Solved.

July 19, 2014 108 comments

DWP Dumps Jobpoints: Too Tight-Fisted to Upgrade.

Over the last few months people commenting here have kept mentioning how Jobpoints are being removed from Jobcentres.

The mystery is now solved.

Obi  Wan Kenobi (Guest Post) explains.

Jobpoint systems in Jobcentres being removed:

It’s not that they didn’t want to keep the Jobpoints there, it’s because the DWP are too tight to upgrade the Jobpoints system they were running on.

You see most of the Jobpoints were running on Windows 2000 or Windows XP throughout the entire UK, I have witnessed the start-up routines of these machines and it’s confirmed.

As most of us now know, Microsoft are no longer issuing updates for Windows XP – never mind Windows 2000, for a Jobpoint to work correctly it has to be internet enabled, (and for that the Windows Program has to have all the current security updates installed), because the server that displays the jobs from it’s screen isn’t based at any one Jobcentre, it’s probably based at the main server: – DWP at Caxton House in London or (going out on limb – Utah USA).

My Two Cents!

DWP if you’re serious about getting unemployed people into jobs, then restore the Jobpoints with an updated system (at least Windows Vista or better still, the more superior Windows 7) Both have full internet connectivity and the updates are still available for years to come.

I’d be very surprised if IDS or even his entire I.T. Dept. had the know how to do a full clean install of any new Windows Program (Including the full reformat and losing all data on drive C: to install Windows Vista or Windows 7) or even if there current shitty slow system is even capable of running Windows Vista/Windows 7/8/8.1.

There probably still running old outdated systems with a FSB 133Mhz, 1Ghz Memory and 750Mhz to 1Ghz Processor and expect this to do the job in full nowadays! Well if you’re just doing the basic’s like running the computer offline and using it as a word processor linked to a printer, then that’s fine, but as soon as you connect to the Internet then watch the speed of your old and loser system die, the reason being is that Windows XP uses I.E.6 to I.E.8 and that’s at the top end assuming your processor is fast enough and you have enough memory installed.

N.B. Windows 7/8/8.1 uses Internet Explorer 11 – There’s the clue IDS.

And here’s the problem with the DWP old men – they thought once they had Windows XP, that it would run forever and update forever (to be fair if you have spent around £100+on a Windows Program Disk, you would expect a lifetimes service) but Microsoft has different ideas, because they are in competition With the Mac computers (or as we oldies refer to it ‘Apple).

Personally I do believe that Microsoft are now taking the piss. They have marketed Windows 8 then within 1.5 years they announce Windows 8.1?

Quick note for DWP/IDS: please install the open source Ubuntu Linux Based system – Please I dare you!

This will make IDS’s failure complete.

ATOS: DWP to Reward Failure with New Contract, as Sanctions Hit Hard.

July 17, 2014 29 comments

Just when you thought they’d gone away.

The obviously indispensable site Computing revealed this a couple of days ago:

DWP to pay Atos £10m to extend disability reassessments contract

By Sooraj Shah

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to extend French IT services firm Atos’ multi-million pound deal to handle disability reassessments, despite the company wanting to walk away from the contract in February.

The firm, which would have had to pay a fee to the government to end its contract early, has been criticised for its declining standards of service.

tos had said previously that it would continue to take the tests until a new firm takes over, and the government still intends for another assessment services provider to take charge as it has started the procurement process to identify a suitable supplier.

But in an Official Journal of the European Union contract award notice, DWP said that it needed an interim arrangement “to support the authority’s statutory duties to deliver certain health and disability benefits”.

A DWP spokesman said that despite the department looking for a new provider, it would look to replace the current IT separately.

“To make sure claimants get a good service during transformation, we are transferring the IT separately, and at a later date, than the rest of the service (which transfers in 2015),” the spokesperson stated.

“We have therefore asked Atos to continue to provide the current IT services for a further year. In the meantime work has started on planning for how we replace the IT”.

A DWP spokesman said that despite the department looking for a new provider, it would look to replace the current IT separately.

“To make sure claimants get a good service during transformation, we are transferring the IT separately, and at a later date, than the rest of the service (which transfers in 2015),” the spokesperson stated.

“We have therefore asked Atos to continue to provide the current IT services for a further year. In the meantime work has started on planning for how we replace the IT”.

The managed IT services contract is initially for one year of delivery from the end of Atos’ current assessment services contract in 2015. DWP will have an option to extend the contract for up to four further one year extensions “to provide contingency”.

The value of the contract, which is covered by the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) is £10m, plus any additional costs of change. The value of any subsequent years will be based on the overall year one costs, the contract award notice reads.

DWP’s justification for the award of the contract without a call for competition was because the services could only be provided by a particular tenderer.

It said that it wouldn’t be possible for a new provider to build, test and deliver IT services in time for the new contract, and that the existing hardware, software and equipment would not be able to be used by another supplier because it is owned by Atos rather than DWP. Another supplier would also not be able to replicate this because “there is insufficient documentation to build them” and because the age of some of the physical assets means they are no longer available to purchase.

Computing predicted severe problems for Universal Credit in 2013.

In another article it has this interesting analysis of why the DWP is marked by cock-ups, miserable failures, and efforts to cover up its grinding-the-faces-of-the-poor Minister Iain Duncan Smith.

It came from somebody who had worked for this crew of chancers.

In an exclusive interview with Computing, the former employee said that one project he worked on was the refresh of a significant chunk of infrastructure and software, for which the team handling the project did not determine any business requirements before going forward with their plans.

“Over three or four years, identical systems had grown up in parallel and the projects committee which looks after all of this said we don’t want a fifth or sixth one, so let’s consolidates this, which was the right thing to do,” he said. “But the team immediately went out to the field, and said they’ll use the four systems as a reference point to build a new one, with the inevitable result that the supplier is just going to reproduce what’s already there.”

Other issues with projects included not having a central document repository for information. In one such instance, the consultant asked a project manager where he could find all of the relevant information and waited for two weeks before the project manager responded with the relevant answers. In the manager’s response, he said: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it took this long to find the information”, the consultant claimed.

He said that Microsoft SharePoint had been implemented but that it was something the department was not leveraging.

As DWP looked to improve project management within the department, it held a presentation for 100 of its team, which the consultant also attended.

We confidently predict yet more balls-up as Universal Credit comes in.

Meanwhile this has just come out (17th July), Benefits sanctions double against women, disabled and lone parents (BBC).

New figures show the number of women, disabled people and lone parents in Scotland having benefits sanctioned has almost doubled in the past four years.

Lone parents say it means children are punished and that having their benefits suddenly stopped for weeks or months is traumatic.

They say it means not knowing how to buy food or pay the bills.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said sanctions are only used as a last resort and can be challenged.

Under recent changes to the system, claimants can have their benefits taken away for months and jobseeker’s ­allowance removed for up to three years for reasons such as missing, or being late, for job centre appointments or failing to show they are looking for work.

Community Work Placements: the Final Bow of Iain ‘Limpet’ Duncan Smith.

July 15, 2014 41 comments

 

Close Relatives of Iain Duncan Smith in Welfare-to-Work Industry.

Cabinet Reshuffle, “once again welfare reforms minister Iain Duncan Smith has been left in situ, despite widespread claims his controversial universal credit scheme is in crisis. He previously refused a move and it is not known whether Cameron even attempted to shuffle him this time around.” International Business Times.

As Iain ‘Limpet’ Duncan Smith clings to his Cabinet post he will have to look at the unemployment figures.

The Independent today reports the TUC saying that,

The jobless rate stood at 5.2 per cent in the first three months of 2008 and the TUC will point to an analysis it has conducted of official figures showing that half a million fewer people were unemployed then than in January-March 2014.

It is, as Boycott Workfare states, of public notoriety that,

People on workfare placements are counted as “employed” in government statistics.

The Office of National Statistics confirmed this in response to a parliamentary question.

These are the main schemes,

  • Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) – The scheme mandates four weeks’ unpaid work for up to 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes working “for the profit of the host organisation.”. Claimants can face losing benefits for 3 months the first time they do not take part, and this can go up to 3 years for the third time. Claimant’s can, and are, referred to MWA at any point in their claim.
  • The Work Programme – This is essentially a for profit Job Centre you are forced to attend normally after 9-12 months on JSA where you can be forced to carry out workfare at the whim of the private provider. Figures are not available for the number of mandatory work placements under this programme, but Ingeus (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month long workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost  the taxpayer £5 billion pounds.
  • Steps to Work - The equivalent of the Work Programme in Northern Ireland.
  • Community Work Placements (Help to Work).

The last on the list has yet to get really going.

But we note that Iain Duncan Smith’s fellow rock pool life are busy organising it.

The attractions – ‘reducing’ unemployment – are too obvious to underline.

Plus there’s a pretty penny to be made replacing properly paid workers for essential jobs (see below – we are not joking!).

Community Work Placements

Seetec wins Community Work Placements contracts in five areas.

The DWP have recently announced the winners of the Community Work Placement contracts.

Seetec is delighted to have been successful in the following Contract Package Areas:
CPA 1: East of England: Beds & Herts; Cambridge and Suffolk; Essex; Norfolk
CPA 7: North West 2:  Greater Manchester Central, Greater Manchester East and West, Cheshire and Warrington
CPA 10: South East 2: Kent; Surrey and Sussex
CPA 12: South West 2: Gloucester, Wiltshire and Swindon; West of England
CPA 14: West Midlands 1:  Birmingham and Solihull; Black Country

This two year contract part of the government’s Help to Work scheme designed to reach out to the ‘hardest to help’ jobseekers to help them find employment and break the cycle of benefit dependency. Beneficiaries of this programme will undertake work placement opportunities of up to 30 hours a week lasting up to 26 weeks and will be further supported with up to ten hours of job search activity per week.

We are keen to identify opportunities for local projects or work placements which currently exist or could be created in order to improve the local community as well as the confidence and employability prospects of individuals who take part. Placements could be within group projects or in the form of single placements and must all be of community benefit.

We are interested in approaches from all organisations which feel may be able to offer project or placement opportunities. We have expert supervisors in place to manage and run projects but we are also happy to discuss existing projects which have supervisors already in place.

Of particular interest are opportunities which exist within Local councils and Housing Providers to increase numbers on existing projects or to create new projects of benefit to their residents and the local area they serve.

Examples of such projects include estate maintenance and local renovation, groundswork, horticulture, recycling as well as administration, customer service and sales, warehousing, distribution and cleaning services. The list of potential projects is almost endless.
If you are interested in working with Seetec to develop innovative and engaging ideas for the delivery of CWP please e-mail in the first instance to: bizdev@seeetec.co.uk or call Peter Walkerley, Business Development and Partnership Manager on: 01702 201070 Ext. 8262.

Alternatively, if you would like to offer support in the form of venues, projects or placements please call Seetec on freephone: 0800 65 25 414.

Why not contact SEETEC and tell them what you think of their plans to get unpaid workers to do the jobs of

” estate maintenance and local renovation, groundswork, horticulture, recycling as well as administration, customer service and sales, warehousing, distribution and cleaning services.” ?

The Void today publishes a case study in how one money-grubbing workfare scheme operates.

Iain Duncan Smith Goes for the Mentally ill.

July 14, 2014 22 comments

Desperate to save his post in the Cabinet Iain Duncan Smith has now turned on another target: those with psychological problems.

Yesterday the Mirror reported this,

Plans to strip benefits from the mentally ill unless they agree to treatment were savaged as “complete tosh” today – by an influential TORY MP.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Health Select Committee, said the proposal was “unethical,
unworkable nonsense” and “fundamentally flawed”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is looking at forcing claimants with depression or
anxiety to undergo therapy as a condition of getting sickness benefits.

But Dr Wollaston said: “Presumably this complete tosh planted by someone who has no understanding of consent to treatment.

 

But Dr Wollaston said: “Presumably this complete tosh planted by someone who has no understanding of consent to treatment.”

Posting on Twitter, she added: “When I say it’s a ‘no brainer’ I mean this unethical, unworkable kite flying comes from someone with no brain.”

Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb also blasted the plan.

He said: “The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work. You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”

The “someone with no brain” is unmoved by the opinion of health-care professionals, or indeed by common sense.

Iain plans to go ahead with the plan,

trial scheme is expected to begin this year.

Government insiders say 46% of the 260,000 people on Employment and Support Allowance have mental health problems.

A source said: “Loads of people who claim ESA undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “ESA / WCA (Work Capability Assessment) was introduced by previous Government in 2008 and we knew it wasn’t working as well as it should – including for people with mental health conditions.

“That is why we instigated a rolling review of the WCA and have made improvements for people with mental health conditions including introducing mental health champions.

“We are always looking at ways to further improve the system and support more people with mental health conditions at work, including through the use of these pilots.”

Mirror

If these ideas are put in practice we can look forward to more seriously distressed people wandering the streets, penniless, and pushed from pillar to post.

Bravo Iain!

You know how to cling to your job!

Iain Duncan Smith to Lose DWP Job?

July 11, 2014 33 comments

I’ve had Enough! I’m off to Play with My Soldiers.

 

This morning Iain Duncan Smith’s many friends amongst the unemployed and benefit claimants were shocked to hear this rumour,

 

Is IDS about to be given his marching orders?

POSTED ON JULY 11, 2014

There is a rumour going round this morning that David Cameron is planning a reshuffle next week and that Iain Duncan Smith will be removed as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and replaced with Esther McVey. Is it true? Who knows. It seems to have come from an overheard conversation on a train, so could be bollocks, but I guess we’ll find out next week…

ALittleecon.

View image on Twitter

 

Now the BBC reports,

 

David Cameron is preparing to carry out a far wider reshuffle of his government than had previously been thought.

Several sources in Whitehall have told me to expect substantial changes when the prime minister reshapes the team that he will lead in to the election.

…….

There is even some talk of the welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith doing a job swap with the defence secretary Philip Hammond.

They many achievements of the  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions are too numerous to list in full.

But this is amongst the most recent,

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is continuing to block publication of reports set to reveal the failure of the Universal Credit scheme, despite a series of rulings insisting they should be released.

The department submitted a further appeal to the upper tier information tribunal, yesterday afternoon.

The scheme described as the biggest reform to welfare since Beveridge, was meant to begin last autumn, but has been beset by huge problems and delays since it was first conceived by Iain Duncan Smith.

A damning report by the National Audit Office last year found “the programme suffered from weak management, ineffective control and poor governance,” and “has not achieved value for money.”

And only this week (Wednesday 9th of July) this unkind article appeared in a national newspaper,


There is suspicion in parliament about the progress of UC after the National Audit Office claimed, in a damaging report, that ministers had not been sufficiently open about the technology problems that has beset the programme.

Duncan Smith and David Cameron have brushed aside claims that MPs were still being misled about UC’s progress after the head of the civil service on Monday said the business case for universal credit had not been signed off by the Treasury.

……

Duncan Smith told MPs that UC was being expanded in a controlled way starting with the single unemployed, expanded to couples in the summer of 2014 and then expanded to families later this year. He said: “This careful roll-out is allowing us to learn as we go along”.

With this proud legacy we can only looked forward to Iain Duncan Smith running Britain’s military defence.

 

Back the Strikers and Fight for the Rights of the Unemployed!

July 10, 2014 22 comments

This is what we are all up against:

DWP accused of ‘black propaganda’ in universal credit debate

Jon Land from here.

DWP accused of 'black propaganda' in universal credit debate

DWP accused of ‘black propaganda’ in universal credit debate

Glenda Jackson has attacked the Department of Work and Pensions for embarking on a programme of “black propaganda” in a deliberate attempt to undermine the UK’s benefits system.

During a universal credit debate in the House of Commons, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn accused Iain Duncan Smith’s department of a “bunker mentality” adding that “simple humility is not part and parcel of its make-up”.

Jackson was responding to the news that civil service chief Sir Bob Kerslake had informed the Public Accounts Committee that the business case for universal credit had still not been signed off by the Treasury, despite an assurance from DWP minister Esther McVey that it had.

Glenda Jackson said: “I would hope every member of this House, would be shocked to realise that the DWP is still not giving the right answers — it is ludicrous to expect the right answer to come from the Department of Work and Pensions, as simple humility is not part and parcel of its make-up.

“The committees and government departments that scrutinise where public money goes are being pushed to one side. I have already referred to the bunker mentality of the DWP, and the example that my right hon. Friend gives me is just par for the course; it happens constantly.

“Arguments are not even being put up. We are all being told, ‘Oh no, it’s none of your business; it’s our business’. There is a pattern, which I find very disturbing. I have already touched on the issue of disregarding any serious questioning on costs. Ever since this major benefit change came into being, the Department has employed what I would call a programme of black propaganda, and every single one of the red tops has taken it up with glee and run with it.

“That black propaganda told the people of this country — I am paraphrasing; the DWP would never be this cogent — that everyone who was claiming benefits was doing so because they were too lazy to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have already touched on the agonies that are being endured by people with serious mental and physical disabilities, and the pattern is ongoing.

“A report from the Office for National Statistics last week scrutinised the level of complaints made against all the government departments about the misuse of statistics, and guess which one came top of the list! It was the Department for Work and Pensions. Throughout the time I have been a member of the select committee, we have raised again and again the issue of the misuse of stats and the misuse of the English language to proselytise this black propaganda and to confuse and distort what should be central to the committee’s concerns—namely, the well-being of the people who require benefits, not because they are lazy or workshy, or even because there are no jobs, but because they should be supported by the people of this country, as they always have been.

“After the last debate on this issue, I was touched to receive a response from the people of this country. If there is a silver lining to the black cloud that is the DWP, it is that the majority of people in this country still believe that the welfare state should do what it was meant to do, which is to support people who, through no fault of their own, cannot maintain themselves without the support of the rest of us. That support is alive and well out there in the country. The one place where it is certainly dead is within the Department for Work and Pensions.”

IntoWork Convention: Employment Minister McVey to Confront Trussell Trust.

July 7, 2014 18 comments

Our friends at Boycott Workfare and Johnny Void have publicised a protest at the beano, or “convention” (an expression we believe they use in the US for ‘Beanos’), of the Welfare-to-Work Industry  in Liverpool on the 8th & Wednesday 9th July.

Inclusion is re-launching the Welfare to Work Convention.

In 2014 it will be called the IntoWork Convention and will be for everyone involved in helping people find work, keep work and progress in work. The IntoWork Convention will be larger and more interactive showcasing ‘what works’ in employment, skills, health and for disadvantaged people.

The IntoWork Convention is the event of the year, profiling the best creativity and innovation in the field. High-profile challenging speakers and a wealth of break-out sessions, the IntoWork Convention will provide you with the ideas and contacts for the future.

IntoWork 2014 will be the place to network and forge new partnerships across health, skills, and justice. An expanded exhibition will be the centre piece of a more interactive event – dedicated to joining-up services for employability and jobseeking.

IntoWork 2014 is being hosted in the City of Liverpool and is supported by the International Festival of Business running in Liverpool at the same time. A new fringe learning and networking programme will be held in venues across central Liverpool and the main Convention will be in the popular ACC Liverpool. We have reduced delegate prices – more for less and delivering value for money.”

Such value for attendees’ dosh (not their own) comes with this,

Minister Esther McVey MP 
Minister for Employment, Department for Work and Pensions

Chris Mould 
Chairman, The Trussell Trust

McVery is notorious, recently, for saying this,

Charities and politicians have reacted with anger to a claim by the Employment Minister that the dramatic rise in the number of people using food banks has nothing to do with the Government’s welfare reforms.

In a letter to the Scottish government, Esther McVey said “the rise in food banks predates most of the welfare reforms this Government has put in place”, adding that there was “no robust evidence linking food bank usage to welfare reform”.

Figures from the Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank provider, have shown that demand has increased by more than 300 per cent in the past year.

The charity’s Ewan Gurr said: “A recent Scottish Government report states that welfare reforms, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes have been the main factors driving increased demand on food banks. Food banks are responding to a need that has always existed but welfare reform has exacerbated the need.”

Independent. 14th May 2014.

And there’s this:

Employment minister Esther McVey has come under fire for accepting a £10,000 donation from the millionaire boss of a high-cost loan company that gives loans to people with poor credit ratings.

The Tory MP for Wirral West’s constituency party received £10,000 from Henry Angest, head of the Arbuthnot Banking Group, which owns Everyday Loans, a firm that provides unsecured loans at annual interest rates of nearly 80%.

The rates are higher than those available to people in secured loans, but not as high as payday lenders like Wonga, whose APR (annual percentage rate) can be as high as 5853%.

Critics seized on the high-cost lender boss’ donation to McVey due to her ministry, the Department for Work and Pensions, slashing benefits.

Huffington Post 22nd May 2014.

Let us not forget this either

CON-DEM superzero Esther McVey has revealed shocking plans to force unemployed Scots into jobs with no guaranteed hours or wages.

The Tory employment minister says that when the new universal credit is brought in, poor people will have their benefits stopped for three months or more if they refuse to accept zero hours contracts.

Jobcentre staff will decide when to force people into such jobs.

Opposition MPs, union leaders and Citizens Advice were aghast at the draconian new punishment for the poor.

Daily Record. May 7th 2014.

Going back a bit she excelled herself with this as well,

Disabled people must not worry about the new assessment tests that could lead to their benefits being cut, the new Minister for Disabled People has said.

“I am saying, ‘Do not be fearful of this. This could be positive for you’,” said Esther McVey, the former television presenter and businesswoman who was appointed Disability Minister in September, in an interview with The Independent – her first in the job.

“I guess that will happen overtime and we just have to reassure people really.”

Some people would see their benefit cut, she said, arguing that the new payments are “not a static benefit”, adding: “People do come off it, people do get better.”

Ms McVey acknowledged that disabled people would find the introduction of the new assessments “difficult” and “a tough process” but said the Government had a responsibility to reform the current “outdated system”, which was undermined by a “very fixed idea of disability”.

3rd December 2012.

McVey is a proud member of Iain Duncan Smith’s team of superstars.

The Void recommends the following:

The conference is being organised by CESI (Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion) – self appointed ‘thought leaders’ in the welfare to work industry. People who make their money supporting policies that mean forced unpaid labour and poverty for many, but escalating profits for the few.   Tweet them@InclusionCESI

 

High Court Challenges Unpaid Workfare: What now for ‘Community Work Placements’?

July 4, 2014 27 comments

After High Court challenges UK work schemes Everybody is asking: what now for Community Work Placements?

Poundland store
Poundland was one of the employers 

The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government says it should not have to repay claimants docked benefits for not doing all they could to find work.

But a judge said the retrospective application of legislation passed in 2013 “interfered with the right to a fair trial” of those affected.

Ministers said they were “disappointed” and would appeal.

The case originates in a legal challenge brought by Cait Reilly in 2012. She maintained that her participation in an unpaid work placement in a Poundland store in 2011 breached her human rights.

The 24-year-old graduate challenged the legality of the scheme, part of the government’s “mandatory work activity” programme, where claimants risk losing their Jobseeker’s Allowance if they do not take part.

She said she had not been informed prior to the placement that she would, as a result, have to give up her voluntary work in a museum – where she hoped to build a career.

‘Minority of cases’

The government was forced to pass emergency legislation amending the regulations last year after the Court of Appeal ruled that Ms Reilly had not been properly notified about the scheme and its undertakings.

Cait Reilly

The legislation, which came into force in March 2013, strengthened the rules to make it clear that claimants must do all they could to find work in order to claim benefits.

It also sought to ensure the government did not have to repay claimants who had been penalised for not complying with the conditions of their benefit claims by retrospectively “validating” sanctions.

But claimants argued that this was unfair and insisted they were entitled to compensation.

Mrs Justice Lang, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled on Friday that the retrospective nature of the legislation interfered with the “right to a fair trial” under Article Six of the Convention on Human Rights.

She said the claimants could apply for a judicial review of the relevant legislation.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was “disappointed” by the ruling – which it said applied to a minority of claimants – and would appeal.

“We disagree with the judgement on the legislation and are disappointed,” a spokeswoman said.

“It was discussed, voted on and passed by Parliament. While this applies to only a minority of past cases and does not affect the day-to-day business of our Jobcentres, we think this is an important point and will appeal.”

She said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone pending the outcome of its appeal.

Slave labour

But Paul Heron, a solicitor for Public Interest Lawyers, said it was a “massively significant” ruling and the DWP’s decision to appeal against it would be a further blow to the “upwards of 3,000 cases sitting in the tribunal system waiting for this judgement”.

About £130m was owed to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation, he said, ranging from four weeks’ benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds.

He told BBC News it was “about time the DWP just held their hands up, admit they made an error, and pay people the money they were entitled to at the time. That is what a responsible government would do”.

The back-to-work schemes have been condemned by critics as “slave labour” because they involve work without pay. But they are seen by supporters as a good way of getting the unemployed back into the world of work.

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the regulations last year, although the judges also rejected claims that the schemes were “exploitative” and amounted to “forced labour”.

Ministers said that the most recent legal judgement had upheld this view.

“We’re pleased the court recognised that if claimants do not play by the rules and meet their conditions to do all they can to look for work and get a job, we can stop their benefits,” the spokeswoman added.

Poundland, one of several employers which took part in the scheme, withdrew from it in 2012.

Comment:

What will happen with Community Work Placements, such as clearing up litter and graffiti in their local areas, which are to be introduced for the long-term unemployed?

This is the case by the Public Interest Lawyers:

  1. Our clients do not object to work or to work experience.  Cait Reilly was doing voluntary work experience in a museum when she was sent to Poundland.   Our clients, like the vast majority of jobseekers, are desperate to find paid work of any description, including stacking shelves.  The term “job snobs” is therefore a misleading and offensive buzz word being used by the Government to discredit Britain’s 2.6 million unemployed.  What our clients say they need is support from the Government to make the most of their skills and plug their skills gaps, in order to ensure that they not only enter the job market, but stay there.
  2. The Government is not “paying them… through benefits” to work, as the Deputy Prime Minister has claimed today.  Jobseekers allowance ranges from £53.45 to £67.50 per week.  It is paid for one specific (and obvious) purpose – to support people whilst they seek employment.  It is not remuneration for work, and even if it were it would mean that people on Back to Work schemes would be getting paid as little as £1.78 per hour, often whilst working for some of our biggest retailers.  Many of those retailers are now realising that such a scenario is unacceptable and have either pulled out of the schemes or demanded that the Government thinks again.
  3. People are not being given a choice. Ministers claim that work under these schemes is not forced but voluntary.  This is not correct.  The Community Action Programme, Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity Scheme (the clue is in the name) are mandatory, and jobseekers will lose their jobseeker’s allowance if they do not participate.  The Government says the sector-based work academy and work experience schemes are voluntarily, but Cait Reilly was told in no uncertain terms that her participation was “mandatory”.
  4. The schemes do not work. Ministers claim the schemes help people into employment.  Yet, the international research the Government commissioned before introducing them gave it two very clear answers:

There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work.  It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers”; and

Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”

They add:

  • The schemes do not target benefits scroungers or “the something for nothing generation”: the Government’s internal guidance makes clear that such people who are taking advantage of the system are noteligible for the schemes.  They must receive the appropriate sanction of removal of their jobseeker’s allowance as they are not “jobseeking”.
  • These legal challenges are not simply about “human rights”.  What our clients object to is 1) the forced or compulsory nature of the work required, and 2) that Parliament has been by-passed by the Government in creating these schemes.  They argue that this breaches basic democratic and legal requirements.
  • The Government schemes do not amount to slave labour, as some campaigners have suggested.  The ILO’s Forced Labour Convention of 1930 defines slavery as connoting “ownership” over an individual.  What our clients are arguing is that the Government schemes are “forced or compulsory” labour.  This too is prohibited under UK civil and criminal law.
  • These schemes are not all aimed at the long-term unemployed.  For example, the sector-based work academy can apply to any jobseeker, even if he or she has only been unemployed for one day
  • Press attention has focused on the sector-based work academy, but that is only one of a plethora of complex schemes, many of which are much worse.  The sector-based work academy involves 6-8 weeks of unpaid work.  Other schemes involve six months, and there appears to be nothing to stop those six-month periods from being renewed.  One of our clients was told that his Community Action Programme placement would last six months “to begin with”.
  • The Government’s sums do not add up.  The Employment Minister has stated that “half” or “something like half” of those on work experience have received permanent jobs.  He has not advanced any evidence to support this, and Tesco has offered only 300 jobs having taken on 1400 unpaid workers.

We would say that many of these legal, moral and political criticisms apply to Community Work Placements, and the whole ‘Help to Work’ fiasco.

Attacks on Welfare Lead to Poverty. Bring Back Council Tax Rebates Now!

July 3, 2014 13 comments

How the Tories chose to hit the poor

Tom Clark. Guardian 2nd of July.

….frightening signs of hardship emerge, tied closely to the early benefit cuts. In line with the first restrictions on incapacity payments, there’s a sharp rise in poverty for disabled people. As the first housing benefit restrictions bit, on the breadline that adjusts for rising rent, 600,000 people sank into absolute poverty. Among children, so-called material deprivation – that is, families who can’t afford things such as birthday parties and warm winter coats – also edges up, as does the coalition’s new measure of “severe poverty”. And overall, the incomes of the poorest fifth are already faring worst.

But the true statistical picture of foodbank Britain will have to wait. For it was not until April 2013, at the very same time the 50p tax rate was chopped for the richest, that the poor were landed with a new household benefit cap which could leave children in London being raised on 62p a day. Poor families nationwide were then also faced with the reinvention of something very like the poll tax, as the national council tax rebate scheme was axed, and a three-year programme of holding benefits below inflation began. Clegg was just as craven in accepting this as he had been brave over indexing for living costs the year before.

Joyce says: “Just as benefits that outpaced wages led to reduced inequality immediately after the slump, government plans to reduce welfare spending in the next few years – while workers’ pay stabilises – are likely to push inequality back up.” The links between the coalition’s direct decisions and prospects for poverty are clear. There is no rise at all in hardship among pensioners, which fits with a whole series of special exemptions from the cuts. But a separate official survey revealed how overall taxation was rising for the poorest, even as it fell for others.

Council Tax Reduction replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013.

Each council runs its own scheme.

Having to pay a percentage of Council Tax – at rates which vary across the country – means, in reality, a massive cut in benefits.

More exactly, “Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 8.5% of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).”

That cash is not replaced by a rise in JSA and other benefits.

By October  2013 this was the picture,

Low-income families will see their council tax bills rise by up to £600 a year from April.

As a result of council tax benefit reform, No Clear Benefit shows that three-quarters of local authorities are set to demand increased payments from the 3.2 million poorest working-age households who currently pay either no council tax or a reduced charge. Families are facing a hike of more than 330 per cent in the most severe cases.

It comes as the government hands responsibility for council tax support to England’s 326 local authorities, along with a 10 per cent cut in funding for it. The government has insisted that pensioners are fully protected from any rise under the new localised system, known as council tax support, meaning that working-age households will bear the full brunt of the changes.

This was the result by October in the Capital.

Hundreds of London’s poorest and lowest-paid inhabitants attended a mass court hearing in south London on Friday, hoping to challenge non-payment of council tax orders issued by Southwark council, which had summonsed 5,800 people to attend

In  Essex those on benefits ended up having to pay 20% of Council Tax in 2013.

The result?

CHANGES to council tax rules have led to bailiffs being sent to 205 Colchester homes.

New benefits rules in April last year meant the majority of working age claimants now have to pay at least 20 per cent of their council tax.

The changes affected about 8,000 households in the borough which were asked to pay, on average, £169.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed 3,225 people found themselves in arrears at some point.

Of those affected, 40 per cent were receiving disability-related benefits and a further 40 per cent were single parents. Just 495 were employed.

The council subsequently sent out 1,500 summonses, followed by 1,235 liability orders, which it can do if the full amount is not paid within 14 days.

Of these cases, despite offers of help and a series of reminders, bailiffs were passed details of 205 residents who still owed cash.

Essex County Standard January 2014.

Ipswich Unemployed Action reported in April 2014,

Here’s the bad news – if you’re one of the 2.34 million low-income families who used to get council tax benefit, you will be paying on average £149 more in council tax this year than just over a year ago.

In some parts of the country, families once considered too poor to pay council tax face a bill of nearly £300 this year, according to a report by the New Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Last April the government scrapped council tax benefit which helped people on low incomes – either those working for low wages or because they were on benefit.

It was replaced by council tax support and devolved down to local authorities to administer – crucially, though, with a significantly reduced budget.

Initially some councils did try not to impact some of the poorest families. A year on, the figures show more councils than ever have started to insist all working-age adults – pensioners are exempt – must pay something, regardless of their income.

 

Clark comments that “last week Duncan Smith published an anti-poverty “strategy” claiming that his welfare reforms would transform “the lives of the most vulnerable”. “

Indeed it has.

Suffolk DPAC at Westminster Protest. No to ESA sanctions! No to all benefit sanctions!

 

Hi everyone,
You may all be aware that on Saturday 28th June a coalition of Occupy London, Disabled people Against cuts (DPAC) & UK Uncut Occupied the grounds of Westminster Abby to try save the ‘Independent living Fund’.

Suffolk DPAC along with Norfolk DPAC went to London to give our support in this action this is the link to the video of what happened on the day..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nQnjwLQrsc
The Abby security were not prepared for what happened and we managed to get all equipment needed for our occupation camp into the grounds many of us chained ourselves to the gates after we locked the gates with D-locks/chains.
Eventually we were massively outnumbered by police, there were 200+ police there to kettle & intimidate us into giving up but we stood our ground, john McDonnell MP was there throughout giving us his support.

We are holding an Independent Living Fund ‘Tea Party’ this Friday 4th July outside Caxton House (headquarters of the DWP) London from 2pm. If anyone wants to come and join us your more than welcome..

solidarity

Suffolk DPAC.

Who are Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)  and what do they want?

Disabled people and our allies are taking action over the closure of the Independent Living Fund because this Tory government wants to take away our lives – they want us to go back to the days of being hidden away, trapped in our homes or institutionalised. While the politicians fight with UKIP over who can point the finger at migrants most threateningly we know that the Victorian values with which they justify their brutality come not from overseas but from elitist public schools like Eton (attended by Cameron and co.) and Dulwich College (attended by fake ‘man-of-the-people’ Farage).

We refuse to be fooled by their lies. We are here to point the finger firmly back at them, to make sure that everybody knows what this government is doing to us. There can be no more pretence that ‘we are all in it together’ from a government that is trampling on the rights of disabled people to participate in society as equals.

Disabled people are being targeted by the cuts as part of a wider ideological agenda that seeks to dismantle the welfare state and attack workers in the interests of profit for the 1%. Disabled people are taking action with our allies as part of a united resistance that stands up against the scapegoating of benefit claimants and migrants and against attacks on workers, the unemployed, single mothers, students and pensioners.

When we come together we have the power to make change happen. Fight to win!

This is the Friday event,

Tea party against ESA sanctions and all benefit cuts – Friday 4th July, 3pm, Peckham Jobcentre.

LET THEM EAT CAKE? No to ESA sanctions! No to all benefit sanctions!
Friday 4th July, 3-5pm.
You are invited to a tea party outside Peckham job centre to protest at the sharp rise in sanctions against people with disabilities in support of DPAC Party for Independent Living Day of Action. 

Bring balloons, party poppers, cake…

There will be party games, music and an open mic. Let’s celebrate Independent Living Day and the resistance to the savage cuts so far – and build much-needed further resistance together.

Join us in keeping up the pressure on Peckham jobcentre, and demanding an end to their regime of sanctions – double the London average.

No sanctions!
No workfare!
Decent jobs for all!

https://www.facebook.com/events/760986937256005/

Woes Grow at DWP: More Jobpoints Torn out, and Statistics Slated.

July 1, 2014 26 comments

We learn that Jobpoints/Consuls are now starting to be torn out of Suffolk Job Centres – beginning with Diss.

This is part of a country-wide pattern (from comments on this site, and see here).

The disappearing  service is to be replaced with …what?

As Iain Duncan Smith wreaks havoc on the welfare system how is the crucial statistical service of the DWP bearing up?

Not well either.

The BBC reports (yesterday) that since his reign began the DWP has received 16 Official letters from the  UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) about its questionable use of data.

This contrasted with the Department of Health (which sues such statistical information far more extensively, to say the least)

 

In April this year, for example, the UKSA criticised the DWP for saying in a press release that more than 50% of decisions on disability living allowance are made on the basis of the claim form alone without any additional corroborating medical evidence, when the figure should actually have been 10%.

In March it criticised employment minister Esther McVey for telling the House of Commons that unemployment had fallen 400,000 since the general election, when it had actually only fallen by 7,000.

So what’s going on? The UKSA said in a statement: “The proportion of concerns raised with us about the DWP reflects a range of factors, including the salience of the policy initiatives undertaken by the department; the range of interests affected by the delivery of the department’s policies; the complexity of the systems the department implements; and the department’s statistical practices.”

So in other words, people are more likely to complain about DWP errors because they are in controversial areas. But is that really enough to account for the gulf between the DWP and other departments that produce considerably more statistics?

Yes, Welfare statistics are about “controversial” areas.

Like the effects of ATOS, and other instruments for making people’s lives a misery, not to mention the utter failures of the private companies running the Work Programme.

Incidentally, anybody heard anything about Help to Work?

Not a sausage round here.

The minimum income is 2.5 times what people get on benefits – but still they are labelled scroungers

June 30, 2014 4 comments

Andrew Coates:

With the fact that the unemployed have to pay a percentage of Council Tax, we need a pay rise!

Originally posted on Vox Political:

140630minimumincome

The numbers speak for themselves: Under ‘Adequacy of safety-net benefits’, EVERY SINGLE INCOME GROUP has lost out. While others have suffered a great percentage drop, single working-age people remain the least able to make ends meet.

“How much money do you need for an adequate standard of living?”

That is the question posed every year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – and every year the organisation calculates how much people have to earn – taking into account their family circumstances, the changing cost of these essentials and changes to the tax and benefit system – to reach this benchmark.

This year’s research finds:

A lone parent with one child now needs to earn more than £27,100 per year – up from £12,000 in 2008. A couple with two children need to earn more than £20,200 each, compared to £13,900 each in 2008. Single working-age people must now earn more…

View original 459 more words

Nick Cohen lays into “Stubborn” and “Pig-headed” Iain Duncan Smith.

June 29, 2014 9 comments

As the brave protesters of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) get unceremoniously booted out of Westminster Abbey (Shame Of The Church of England: Dean of Westminster Allows Hundreds of Police To Attempt Stamp Out Of Disabled People’s Peaceful Protest ) Nick Cohen’s column in the Observer today provides food for thought.

Why stubborn Iain Duncan Smith is no statesman

The minister’s reluctance to abandon his disastrous Work Programme is further proof of his pig-headedness.
It’s no secret that the second line is dear to our hearts.

At a time of miserable conditions for the poor, sick and disabled people, the administration of the welfare state is a disaster. The grand projects the Department for Work and Pensions has launched since the general election have been bureaucratic fantasies and practical catastrophes. Ministers have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of public money – Tory ministers, mark you, who pose as the defenders of hard-working taxpayers. For all that, Iain Duncan Smith tramps on without a thought of changing his ways: a character study in destructive pig-headedness.

Nick, if we may call him by his first name (and why not? Work Programme ‘Job Coaches’ do it all the time, without asking), continues,

Duncan Smith has targeted the Trussell Trust, an exemplary Anglican charity, which has mobilised the conscience of the nation and fed the hungry. He and his sly ministers suggested that visitors to food banks were freeloaders, rather than victims of poverty and the incompetence of Duncan Smith’s department. As they did it, they were sitting on a government report, which showed the Trussell Trust was right. Low incomes and benefit delays were compelling hundreds of thousands of hungry people to beg for food as a “last resort”, it said.

This is worth recalling,

Earlier this year, with barely concealed incredulity, Nicholas Wikeley, a judge at the Administrative Appeals Chamber, dismissed an attempt by Duncan Smith to keep secret a government report on the risk to public funds and public provision for the needy his vainglorious plans for universal credit could bring. He could see “no support” for Duncan Smith’s argument that the electorate should know nothing about them.

Outsiders could see every reason why Duncan Smith would want to censor, however. Only a few thousand people are on a new credit that is meant to cover millions. Its computer systems have failed. About £140m has been thrown away and Margaret Hodge of the public accounts committee expects that many millions more will vanish. The DWP, she said, embarked on a £2.4bn project “with little idea how it was going to work”.

It is not only the universal credit. If you think I am being too harsh, the Department for Work and Pensions annual report, published last week, said that Duncan Smith’s Work Programme was “only helping one in 20 recipients of disability benefits find a job”. The public accounts committee said Duncan’s Smith personal independence payments scheme had been “rushed” through and the consequences for terminally ill and disabled people had been “shocking”. Too often you see the sick and the ill-educated being told to log on to computers they don’t have, to fill in forms they can’t understand for IT systems that don’t work.

He summarises the problems at the root of the new system,

….you had to merge incompatible IT systems and find a way of updating the information on millions of people so that Whitehall knew almost instantaneously how much they were earning, what taxes they should pay and what benefits they should receive. Reforming a complex system would take years. If Duncan Smith rushed it he would be engaging in the vast and self-defeating social engineering the right accused the utopian left of forcing on the human race.

Nick calls Iain a “neurotic authoritarian who wants to be powerful and expects to be obeyed, while living with the fear that everyone will dismiss him as a clown if he shows the smallest weakness.”

Why does he continue?

 All that was needed was the political will. And he, Iain Duncan Smith, the man of destiny, had the will to make it work. “We looked at him as if he was mad,” one of the participants told me.

Mad, bad and very, very bad.

Claimants – know your rights on sanctions.

June 25, 2014 21 comments

This very useful new leaflet, by UNITE and the Public and Commercial Services Union has been brought to our attention (original here).

Claimants - know your rights on sanctions.

 

KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS

  1. Always read your Jobseekers Agreement/Claimant Commitment – this will specify exactly what steps you need to take each week, what hours you  are available for and how far you are expected to travel.
  2. It essentially acts as a contract; you can disagree with it if you think the steps are unreasonable.
  3. The JSA Regulations do not specify that claimants must keep written records of your job search.
  4. However, encouraging a claimant to keep a written record of the steps they have taken can help you to remember what you have done, and will help to build up a picture of the progress the claimant is making in their efforts to find work. (Labour Market Conditions Guide 2000)

The steps that are reasonable will vary from claimant to claimant and from week to week. In looking at whether the steps taken are reasonable, all the following circumstances should be taken into account:

 

  • Your skills, qualifications and abilities;
  • Your physical or mental limitations, including any time spent training in the use of aids to improve your prospects of obtaining or retaining employment;
  • The time which has passed since you last worked and your experience;
  • The steps you have taken in previous weeks;
  • The effectiveness of those steps in improving your prospects of securing employment;
  • Whether or not the steps taken improve your prospects of obtaining employment;
  • Whether or not the steps taken reduce your prospects of obtaining employment; availability and location of any vacancies; (Labour Market
  • Conditions Guide 203)
  • The type and number of steps a claimant takes to find work may be affected by their ability or a health problem. For example, a disabled person may find it physically impossible to take the same steps as an able  bodied person. However, they must still take whatever steps are reasonable allowing for their circumstances. (Labour Market Conditions Guide 204-205)

 

FIGHT SANCTIONS TOGETHER

The use of sanctions have massively increased in the last few years. The government have pushed more and more sanctioning in their belief that benefit claimants are scroungers that need to be punished into looking for work.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, Unemployed Workers Centres believe that many claimants are unfairly sanctioned. The conditionality regime is designed to trip claimants up with increasingly unrealistic expectations of what counts as actively seeking work.

PCS, the union that represents jobcentre workers, opposes the punitive sanction regime and the Government’s obsession with punishing benefit claimants. PCS directly opposed sanctions in the recent Select Committee
report, which criticised DWP for “hitting the target but missing the point.”

PCS and Unite the union have been at the forefront of fighting changes in welfare attacks.

PCS members are put under extreme pressure to refer claimants for sanctioning; we are working to expose the Government lies on targets and working with other organisations to help claimants fight back.

NEW HARDER RULES FROM APRIL 2014
The DWP says that ‘looking for work should be a full-time job’. The Claimant Commitment involves ‘a strict compliance regime’, under which claimants can be required to undertake up to 35 hours a week of job searching, or any other activity a Jobcentre ‘job coach’ thinks is appropriate.

The Commitment will be even more oppressive than the existing set of sanctions that caused nearly 900,000 unemployed people to lose benefits – and the massive rise in food banks.
Other activities that a claimant may be expected to undertake will include ‘work-focused interviews’ whenever and wherever a jobcentre decides; ‘work preparation’ activities, which are designed to force those with sicknesses or disabilities into a ‘health care’ regime dictated by the jobcentre; and meeting a ‘work availability requirement’, where a claimant has to accept employment immediately, regardless of its suitability, or the level of pay and conditions.

There is no extra provision for the bus fares, internet and phone costs, or other expenses incurred looking for a job 35 hours every week.
Changes from 28th April 2014 include daily or weekly signing and 30 hours a week Workfare placements.

Whilst transport costs can be paid for attendance outside of the usual fortnightly signing, the new measures are clearly designed to catch claimants out and frustrate them off benefit.
If a claimant breaks any part of their Commitment, they will be subject to sanctions, which will mean a deduction, penalty or suspension of all their benefits.

A claimant receiving three sanctions can see their benefit stopped entirely for up to three years.
Sanctions can be medium or high level; medium level can result from things like failing to apply for the agreed number of jobs each week (even if there are no new jobs available), failing to turn up to a job interview, or even just being ‘sulky and uncommunicative’ in an interview .

 

After Fiasco Deepens Labour to Halt Universal Credit?

June 23, 2014 26 comments

 

Are these stories related?

The government’s flagship welfare policy, Universal Credit, is to be introduced in 90 jobcentres in north-west England, Iain Duncan Smith says.

The work and pensions secretary told the BBC the change would apply only to single claimants, with couples and families joining at a later stage.

But ministers have not set a target date for that to happen.

The benefit is currently distributed at just 10 jobcentres, having been delayed a number of times since its creation.

Ministers say the changes will get under way next week.

The Universal Credit system merges six working-age benefits – income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit – into a single payment in a far-reaching change designed to encourage work and reduce fraud.

BBC 20th June 2014.

And now this:

Labour will halt Iain  Duncan Smith’s universal credit programme if it wins the election, Rachel Reeves has said.

The shadow work and pension secretary said the programme would be paused while the National Audit Office (NAO) conducts a “warts and all” review.

“Universal credit is in a bit of a mess, to put it mildly,” the shadow work and pensions secretary told the Sunday Times.

“If it carries on like it is, it’s going to fail. Next year, if I’m secretary of state, we’re going to have a pause and let the NAO do a review.”

Reeves said she was still supportive of the scheme on principle, but that she would take a hard-headed view on the chances of the project being delivered without disproprtionate cost to the taxpayer.

“If we thought this was a totally ridiculous idea we would just say we’re going to scrap it,” she said.

“Given that work has been started and a lot of money has been spent on it, we hope the costs of continuing with it will be smaller than the benefits of not proceeding with it.”

“We’re not going to go in with a preconceived notion that we are going to proceed at any cost, which seems to be Iain Duncan Smith’s approach,” she added.

“This is his baby and he’s not going to abandon it, however bad things get.”

One by one, the £18 billion scheme’s supporters have fallen away as new financial and IT problems have emerged, leaving the work and pensions secretary looking isolated.

The NAO previously warned that there was no “detailed view of how universal credit is meant to work”.

The government’s Major Projects Authority confirmed the programme needs a “reset” while the public accounts committee has criticised almost every aspect of it.

“Its implementation has been extraordinarily poor,” chair Margaret Hodge said.

“The failure to develop a comprehensive plan has led to extensive delay and the waste of a yet to be determined amount of public money.

“£425 million has been spent so far on the programme. It is likely that much of this, including at least £140 million worth of IT assets, will now have to be written off.

“The management of the programme has been alarmingly weak. From the outset, the department has failed to grasp the nature and enormity of the task, failed to monitor and challenge progress regularly and, when problems arose, failed to intervene promptly.”

Duncan Smith has gone out of his way to prevent information about the programme becoming public. The DWP is continuing to block the publication of reports into the failure of the scheme at the  upper tier information tribunal.

The department aims to introduce universal credit to 90 jobcentres in the northwest by the end of the year.

22nd June 2014. Politics UK.

Labour’s Ill-thought out Welfare Plans.

June 19, 2014 34 comments

Jobless young adults would lose their automatic right to some state benefits under a Labour Government to encourage them to find work, Ed Miliband will announce on Thursday.

The 18-21 age group would no longer qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and income support if they had skills below Level 3. If they undertook training to try to reach that level, they would qualify for a £57-a-week allowance, the JSA rate for under-25s. It would be means-tested and paid only if their parents’ joint income were less than £42,000 a year. Unemployed young adults would normally be expected to live with their parents rather than claim housing benefit.

The “tough love” plan is aimed at tackling the problem of almost one million “Neets” – young people not in education, employment or training. It would affect about 100,000 people, seven out of 10 of the 18-21 group claiming JSA. Current benefit rules prevent them training while looking for work.

Labour claims the move would save at least £65m a year in lower benefit payments and much more in the long run, because a “Neet” costs the Government more than £2,000 a year for the rest of their working lives.

Although denying benefits is bound to cause controversy, Mr Miliband will describe the move as “progressive not punitive”. It would not apply to people with young children or disabilities, which prevent them preparing for work. He will say the present system is unjust for young people not at university because they get no state support if they do more than 16 hours a week of training or further education.

The proposal forms part of a blueprint published by the IPPR think tank on how to create a fairer society in an age of austerity. The “Condition of Britain” report will shape the policies on which Labour will fight next year’s general election.

Mr Miliband will also endorse the IPPR’s plan to restore the contributory principle to the heart of the welfare system. Under Labour, the higher rate £71-a-week JSA, currently paid to people who have been in work for two years, would kick in only after five years in work, but the level would be raised by between £20-£30 a week

Independent.

The Guardian notes,

The removal of JSA for those with skills below level 3 would affect seven out of 10 of the 18-to-21-year-olds currently claiming JSA, and initially save £65m.

Comments.

  • Making the benefits of people under 21 dependent on their parents’ income is wrong in principle: it makes them…dependent on their parents and fails to respect them as adults. If they can vote why can’t they have the same rights as everybody else?
  • Why are people NEETS? Is Labour proposing to massively expand real education, or to use the existing system of training ‘providers’, many of whom have contributed to the dire results of the Work Programme as we know it. And what happens to those who do have Level 3 qualifications? We await clarification on this.
  • Unemployed young adults will be “expected” to live with their parents. This is to confine people to their family home. The reasons why this is not suitable for many people are too obvious to need citing – though apparently not something registered by the paternalistic ‘blue Labour’ advisers who have shaped this idea. This does not just apply to those with young children or with disabilities.

One could add that the contributory element seems appealing to those who would qualify, but what about those who do not?

On this point the Guardian says,

Miliband will reveal further plans to make welfare more conditional by linking benefit payments to national insurance contributions.

Under his plans, people would only be able to claim the higher rate JSA of £71 a week after they have paid National Insurance for five years, instead of the current two. The contributory element of the welfare system has been eroded in Britain and is much smaller than in most European economies.

So many people will be further pushed into poverty.

And for those already on benefits.

Are we to see  the real level of our benefits continue to erode well below the poverty line?

Will we still have to pay the ever rising cost of Council Tax?

Will full Housing Benefits be restored?

Miliband is silent.

New Enterprise Allowance Statistics: More Hare-Brained Schemes.

June 17, 2014 26 comments

Great Britain New  Enterprise Allowance  Statistics. 17th June 2014.

“On 6 October 2010, a plan was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to revive the scheme, giving mentoring and funding of up to £2000 to those unemployed for over six months and wishing to start up their own business.[6] The funding would include a weekly payment linked to the value of their benefit, and £1000 for the purchase of equipment.”

1. New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) aims to help unemployed people claiming out of work benefits who wish to start up their own business.
2. Initially, participants in NEA work with a business mentor to develop their business  idea. Once they have started trading and left benefits, they receive a weekly
allowance.
3. This publication records the number of starts where people have started working with  a business mentor and the number of starts where people have started receiving the
allowance as recorded on the Jobcentre Plus’ Labour Market System.

The key findings are:

 Since NEA was rolled out in April 2011, up to March 2014, 93,880 starts have  been made where people have begun working with a business mentor;
 During this period, 46,000 of those mentor starts have progressed to start  receiving the weekly allowance.

But has it worked?

How many enterprises have succeeded?

We know the “take up” but not these figures.

We are reminded of this comment on its launch,

Accountants slam New Enterprise Allowance as ‘hair brained’.

David Ingall, partner at JWPCreers and a member of UK200Group, described the New Enterprise Allowance, which the government says will create up to 40,000 new businesses by providing financial and mentoring support to unemployed people, as a “New Year fantasy”.

It comes, he added, “at the same time that HM Revenue and Customs has announced it is to target 50,000 businesses a year over the next three years to see whether their accounting records are adequate or accurate.”

Ingall continued: “The estimate from HMRC is that they are going to raise millions in penalties from those businesses, so on the one hand the government is offering to help businesses and on the other they are looking to punish them.

“It concerns me that the assistance will be offered to those with a viable business plan. Judged by who?

“I can see the only beneficiaries will be those offering to write business plans for the applicants, who probably will not understand what is being put forward in their name. I am sad that such a hare-brained scheme is being proposed by the government.”

Daniel Shear, another member of UK200Group, was equally scathing saying the NEA was a “headline grabbing proposal that may not actually make an awful lot of difference”.

“The scheme provides allowances of £1,275 over six months and a £1,000 loan to cover start-up costs,” he added. “Whilst welcome, the quantum of the allowance/loan is small compared to the cost of launching most new enterprises, meaning the proposals may make little discernable difference to potential entrepreneurs.”

The NEA will be launched in Merseyside later this month and rolled out nationwide in the Autumn. Around £50m is expected to be available.

Tories to Punish Feckless Parents on Benefits.

June 13, 2014 40 comments

Conservative MP Margot James, pictured has worked on proposals to restrict benefits payments to parents who refuse to participate in training to prepare themselves for the workplace

Conservative MP Margot James, pictured has worked on proposals to restrict benefits payments to parents who refuse to participate in training to prepare themselves for the workplace

 

No you could not make this one up.

It’s far-right political correctness gone mad!

Feckless parents may be stripped of their benefits … unless they take lessons in raising family

  • Plan to slash benefits for parents of unruly children or those with poor diet
  • Senior conservatives developing the proposals in advance of 2015 election
  • Prime Minister David Cameron is currently deciding on election manifesto

 

Benefits will be docked from feckless parents who refuse to take classes on how to improve their children’s discipline, diet and exercise under plans being discussed by senior Tories.

A secret party document photographed in Downing Street reveals MPs preparing the Conservative election manifesto are considering attaching new conditions to welfare.

Carried by MP Margot James, who sits on a policy advisory board which is drawing up proposals for Prime Minister David Cameron, it reads: ‘Apply conditions for parents on benefits (training or parenting classes)’.

Daily Mail.

A thought immediatly occurs: if they are going to do this to parents what are they preparing for everyone else on the Dole?

Hopeless Help to Work.

June 11, 2014 15 comments

Anybody hear anything about this being put into practice?

What the Help to Work scheme will include

Attending the Jobcentre every day

The daily meeting with their adviser would include discussing the progress made in looking for work, such as the number of job searches or applications made, or new activity to improve their skills base. It is designed for claimants who would benefit from regular support with looking for jobs, including those who need to build motivation, momentum and engagement. Currently, a claimant only needs to attend once every 2 weeks.

Community work placements

Claimants who lack work experience – and where this is felt to be holding them back from finding a job – may be asked to undertake a placement, which will also benefit their local community. This would include a range of roles in the voluntary and community sector that will give the claimant skills and experience within the work place. This could include gardening projects, running community cafes or even restoring historical sites and war memorials.

The placements will be for up to 6 months for 30 hours a week and will be backed up by at least 4 hours of supported job searching each week to help turn the experience into full time employment.

Mandatory work placements: a guide for potential host organisations

Intensive Jobcentre support

For jobseekers with multiple or complex barriers to work the Jobcentre Plus advisers will spend more time with the claimant looking at how to tailor back-to-work support, with more flexibility to send people on intensive training schemes, ad hoc funding to overcome issues blocking a return to work such as initial travel costs or suitable clothes for a job interview, and referrals to work experience opportunities with local organisations.

Is the silence related to this? (Boycott workfare)

Tomorrow, 12 June, the Information Commissioner will challenge the DWP to reveal a list of organisations which have used Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placements for jobseekers at an Upper Tribunal hearing [1]. The DWP will argue that due to widespread public opposition, the controversial workfare scheme could collapse if the names are revealed [2]. If it loses the appeal, the decision could become a landmark ruling on the obligation of the DWP to reveal details of the private companies delivering government contracts [3].

 

That is if people knew who the exploiters of forced labour were….

35 Hour a Week Jobsearch: Prison for Jobseekers.

June 8, 2014 23 comments

Model Jobsearch Facility: One ‘Job Coach’ can supervise 200 Cells.

The Supervised Jobsearch Pilot Scheme

(From Refuted Thanks J J Joop)

3.  (1)  The Supervised Jobsearch Pilot Scheme is prescribed for the purposes of section 17A(1) (schemes for assisting persons to obtain employment: “work for your benefit” schemes etc) of the Jobseekers Act 1995.

(2) The Supervised Jobsearch Pilot Scheme (“the Scheme”) is a scheme—

(a) that is designed to provide support and assistance to a claimant in their search to find employment, in a supervised environment, for up to 35 hours per week over a period of up to 13 weeks; and

(b) which involves an initial interview with the Scheme provider to discuss what the claimant is required to do by way of participation in the Scheme and may also involve training or other activity to help improve a claimant’s job search skills, help preparing for job interviews and assistance with job applications and preparing a curriculum vitae.http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2014/9780111115367

Pilot to operate until 30th April 2015 within:

a) East Anglia; – (b) Black Country; – (c) Mercia;- (d) Surrey & Sussex; – (e) West Yorkshire.

New 35 hour per week Job Search commitments confirmed – Universal Credit http://consentarchive.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/thirtyfive/

JSA Claimant Commitment: DWP internal guidance disclosed, 45+ documentshttp://refuted.org.uk/2013/11/13/jsacommitment/

Workfare Backer John Bird and the Big Issue.

June 6, 2014 23 comments

Workfare Backing Bird at the launch of a Big Society initiative 

The Big Issue claims that its mission is this,

The Big Issue offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money; a livelihood.

Now its founder, John Bird (MBE) faces a challenge.

Iain Duncan Smith has said the magazine sold by the homeless, the Big Issue, is being used by immigrants to claim benefits.”

Following a speech on welfare policy in Berlin, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Times newspaper as having referred to the Big Issue magazine while discussing the issue of benefit tourism.

Mr Duncan Smith praised the magazine, saying it was “a brilliant idea by a brilliant individual, who himself was homeless.”

However he added: “But actually what is happening progressively, more and more, is people mostly from southern and eastern Europe have actually ended up being Big Issue sellers and they claim, as self-employed, immediately, tax credits.”

The government also said the new earnings threshold would “help ensure that benefits only go to those who are genuinely working”, and that it was being introduced “as part of the government’s long-term plan to cap welfare and reduce immigration.”

Of the 3,500 vendors currently registered by the Big Issue, 25 per cent are Romanian or Roma, 66 per cent British and the remainder other nationalities.

But the Big Issue says that the average weekly earnings of its vendors are currently £47.10 – well below the minimum earnings threshold to qualify for in-work benefits.

Defending himself founder of the Big Issue said,

The Big Issue was set up to lift people into work and reduce the chance of people in need ever to resort to wrong doing. By giving people a hand-up rather than a hand-out it is providing a real and ongoing cost saving for the taxpayer.”  Channel Four.

Before anybody starts defending the Big Issue remember this.

Here is the reason unemployed activists loath it from the bottom of their hearts,

The best way to defend the benefit system is to remove the rotten part of it. The part that takes able-bodied people and turns them into kids waiting around for the arrival of their pocket money.

And with 85% of our prison system full of people from a workless background, you can see that these kids can get into trouble.

Since 1991 when I set up The Big Issue I have tried to get people back working rather than begging or wrongdoing.

I believe that work, any kind of work, is better than hanging around waiting for something to drop into your lap. As an ex-offender, beggar, rough sleeper and heavy drinker, I can say that it isn’t much of a life.

Yet many well-intentioned liberally minded people defend the right of people to live an often defeated life. A life where their health and mental wellbeing is destroyed. Simply because we give people a handout rather than a hand up.

I have stood against the growing use of benefits that stop people building a life for themselves. Why is it that the amount of people who are on benefit who get to our top colleges is less than 1%? How is it that many of the children whose families are trapped on benefit do poorly at school?

Why? Because benefit does not help them. It is dressed up to look like a social support system but is in fact like a big brick wall built around people who desperately need support to get out of poverty.

The benefit system needs to change. It cannot be an endless alternative to work. It has to come with strings attached. People on benefit must help people in the community who need our help – the old, the disabled and the needy.

So Bird is in favour of Workfare.

He is also in favour of his own nice littler earner.

On television  Bird went so far as to suggest that he was helping stop criminality (that is, amongst Roma migrants) by giving them work.

One might ask what that has to do with homelessness.

Some people think that the main objective of the Big Issue is to sustain its own business.

This is this individual’s political background,

A member of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s,  in March 2007 he announced his intention to stand for election to the post of Mayor of London as an independent candidate.  In May 2007 he unveiled his election manifesto for the 2008 poll.

In October 2007 he announced that he had decided not to stand for election, and was instead going to launch a movement that was “going to try and do what the CND did over the bomb, but over social injustice.”

In December 2007 he agreed with Westminster Council who declared that they were opposed to the presence of soup kitchens on the streets of London. He said:

We have to stop supplying people with the means of being emergency refugees on the streets… no one has ever got off the streets simply because they’ve been fed a good bowl of soup.[9]

In 2010 he helped to launch the writers website abctales.com

In the early 21st century, Bird became a Social Enterprise Ambassador. Social enterprises use a business to address a social or environmental need. The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme is led by the Social Enterprise Coalition and is supported by the Office of the Third Sector, part of the UK government’s Cabinet Office.

Bird revealed in 2010 “My guilty secret is that I’m really a working class Tory. There, I’ve said it. I’d love to be a liberal because they’re the nice people but it’s really hard work – I can’t swallow their gullibility and I think their ideas are stupid. I’d love to be someone who wanders around in a kind of Utopian paradise seeing only the good in everybody but I just can’t. I support capital punishment for a start. I know this will destroy my reputation among middle-class liberals but I’m 64 now and I should be able to breathe a bit. Wearing the corsetry of liberalism means that every now and then you have to take it off. Wikipedia.

 

 Nobody should defend this self-promoting charlatan. 

Iain Duncan Smith stays as welfare chief.

June 4, 2014 15 comments
Rewarded for Failure.

New Cabinet: Iain Duncan Smith stays as welfare chief after rejecting move to justice job.

The BBC reports,

“..he has successfully  reinvented himself as a social reform champion who, with his centre-right think tank Centre for Social Justice, has played an influential role in developing Conservative policy on welfare and the “broken society”.

David Cameron reportedly tried to persuade Mr Duncan Smith to move to become Justice Secretary in his September 2012 reshuffle, but Mr Duncan Smith opted to stay with the welfare brief.”

We cannot but admire the BBC’s irony.

Nothing succeeds like failure for the Liberal-Conservative Coalition.

Think:  ATOS,  Universal Credit, Sanctions, Universal Jobmatch, ‘Help to Work’, Workfare, crooked companies running the worse than useless Work Programme……(there’s plenty more).

UKIP Hate the Unemployed.

May 29, 2014 70 comments

Hates  the Out-of-work. 

 

For a party so concerned about jobs and unemployment in the UK this is the attitude of their party towards  the out-of-work ( April  2014 )is worth a look. (link).

After Scrapbook exposed sick comments from a UKIP councillor on banning unemployed people from voting, the party’s most high-profile new recruit has rushed to his defence, claiming Cllr Tom Bursnall “has a point”, going on to say it is “dangerous” to let unemployed people vote.

Having defected from the Tories, 23 year-old Alexandra Swann was the star turn at UKIP’s recent conference in Skegness — with party leader Nigel Farage proudly declaring that “the Swann has migrated”.

But appearing to agree with Cllr Bursnall, who as the former chair of Conservative Future is also a defector from the Tories to UKIP, she continued:

“allowing people to vote on how other people’s money is spent — if they dont contribute — is dangerous”

With these views we are unnsurprised to learn that Swann idolises anarcho-Libertarian philosophers and is completing a PhD in social Darwinism.

And this Guardian (March 2013)

Some long-term benefit claimants would be banned from using their benefit cash to buy cigarettes, alcohol or satellite TV subscriptions under proposals due to be presented at the UK Independence party’s spring conference on Saturday.

In the same year UKIP described the unemployed as a ” “a parasitic underclass of scroungers”.

UKIP’s welfare policies include forced unpaid work for all Housing and Council Tax Benefit claimants, Incapacity Benefit (now ESA) slashed to Job Seeker’s Allowance rates and childcare support for working parents demolished.

To add to this UKIP Welfare Policy is also 

• Non means-tested “basic cash benefit” for low earners and unemployed. Jobseekers allowance andincapacity benefit is scrapped.

• Child benefit for the first three children only.

• No benefits for anyone who has not lived in the UK for five years.

For the  2014 elections (UKIP site) these policies stand unchanged :

• Enrol unemployed welfare claimants onto community schemes or retraining workfare programmes.

That is, unpaid workfare.

• Make welfare a safety net for the needy, not a bed for the lazy. Benefits only available to those who have lived here for over 5 years.

That is, yet more scapegoating of the out-of-work – and ‘foreigners’.

To phrase a coin UKIP are bleeding  filth.

 

JSA Sanctions: A Guide.

This has been signaled to us (hat-Tip: NB)

It is an extreemly clear and well-written guide from Benefits and Work.

JSA sanctions

Sanctions against claimants have reached record levels and it is very clear that they are being imposed for the tiniest deviation from agreements or even for no good reason whatsoever. They are now affecting not just JSA claimants but also ESA claimants – particularly those forced onto the work programme.

Below we’ve given our top tips for avoiding sanctions and some of the most outrageous examples of unfair sanctions that we have come across.

We also explain how to sue the DWP or work programme provider if they make an activity mandatory and it is unreasonable because of your health condition or disability

But we’d very much like to hear from you about your experience of sanctions, or threats of sanctions, and also any advice you can give fellow claimants on how to avoid or challenge unfair sanctions.

Top tips for avoiding sanctions

Don’t assume that your personal adviser has any knowledge at all about your health conditions or disabilities, if you have any. Instead, give full details in writing of the effect your health has on your everyday activities and your ability to move towards employment.

Ensure that your jobseeker’s agreement or claimant commitment is as realistic as possible and takes into account any specific health or disability-related limitations you have. Be as confident as you can be in negotiating the agreement – take a friend or relative for support if possible. Make an official complaint if your adviser won’t reach an agreement with you.

Try to get to every appointment early. People are unfairly sanctioned just for being a few minutes late.

Always ask for everything in writing, where possible. It’s much harder for the DWP or private sector provider to blame you for their mistakes if you have evidence that, for example, an appointment time was changed.

If something is agreed over the telephone, write or email confirming it. When you write confirming what has been agreed ask for an immediate response if your understanding is not correct.

Keep every bit of paper, text and email you receive. You might need them as evidence.

Record every telephone call if you can. It’s not illegal and you don’t have to inform the DWP or private sector provider that you are doing it.

If you’re given an unreasonable instruction, use the jobcentre plus complaints procedure immediately. Most people don’t complain, possibly because they think it will make things worse. But all the evidence is that Jobcentre Plus staff have targets to meet and they are looking for easy victims, not people who will cause them problems.

If you’re unfairly threatened with a sanction, or actually sanctioned, immediately complain in writing to your MP’s office. Send a copy to jobcentre plus and the private sector provider so that they know that your MP’s office is now involved. Complaints where an MP is known to be involved are taken much more seriously.

If you are unfairly sanctioned then challenge the decision via the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process. There is a very high success rate for appeals against sanctions, around 50% are successful and it’s likely that many more are resolved in the claimant’s favour before they ever get to a tribunal hearing.

If you don’t do something in your agreement which was mandatory, always explain in writing if you had good cause for not doing it. The decision maker has to take your explanation into account when deciding whether to impose a sanction. However, personal advisers are instructed that they should never ask if you have good cause, but only take details if you volunteer the information without being prompted. Good cause for not carrying out a mandatory activity could include, for example: a medical appointment; caring responsibilities; transport problems; unreasonably high travelling or childcare costs if you did as required.

Read more here.

Ipswich Labour Party (and Borough Council) Against Workfare.

May 13, 2014 84 comments

fwd from
John Cook
Secretary/Agent
Ipswich Labour Party
www.ipswich-labour.org.uk

Ipswich Borough Council will not take part in Government unpaid work schemes

Ipswich Borough Council has confirmed that it will not offer unpaid work under the Government’s ‘Help to Work’ schemes, ramped up versions of which came into force at the end of April.

Under the schemes, known as ‘workfare’, there are mandatory work activity and community work programmes in which benefit claimants are placed on 30-hour a week jobs without pay and with the threat of their benefits being removed. The mandatory work activity programme is for 4 weeks and community work placements for 6 months.

It has also emerged recently that there could be sanctions for those who refuse to take a job on a zero-hours contract.

Campaigners have been calling for the government to remove the schemes, which they say are not working and which lock people deeper into poverty.

Today Ipswich Council has stated it will not be participating.

Council Leader David Ellesmere said:

“As a council we aim to be a good employer. That’s why we pay our staff the Living Wage and why we don’t employ staff on zero hours contracts.

It’s right that if someone can work, then they should. But they should also be paid a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

The effect of the Government’s unpaid work schemes will just be to undercut the wages of people already in work, adding to the cost of living crisis already affecting families in Ipswich.”

end—

Comment: This is a good reason why we like Ipswich Labour Party.

Liverpool, Ipswich, follow the lead!

Security Checks for Jobs: a Nifty Guide.

It has come to Ipswich Unemployed Action’s attention (see comments) that some people have been sent for jobs that require various types of checks that we had never heard of before.
In the interests of increasing people’s employability we offer a short guide to these,

CRB Checks

Depending on the position or work placement of an individual will depend on the level of criminal check available. Currently the CRB produce two levels of checks; a Standard Disclosure and an Enhanced Disclosure. 

Only the Enhanced level disclosure will check an individual’s suitability to work with vulnerable groups such as children. 

A Standard level CRB check will detail every conviction (including spent convictions), caution, warning and reprimand which is recorded in central records, or it will state that there is no such information held. 

An Enhanced level CRB check will detail all criminal information (as above) as well – any information which, in the opinion of a Chief Police Officer, might be relevant for the purpose and ought to be included in the certificate. Additionally this level of disclosure will provide clarification as to whether the applicant is banned from working with children or vulnerable adults. 

CRB checks cannot be requested by individuals. However, it was the intention of the previous government to introduce a scheme called the ISA Vetting & Barring Scheme which would have enable individuals to register, therefore providing them with documentation confirming their suitability to work with vulnerable groups. However, this scheme is currently on hold as the Home Office wish to consider a more common sense approach to its implementation. All clients will be provided with updates of the scheme and changes in legislation through our usual methods of communication and newsletters. 

Individuals requiring a criminal check on themselves, may wish to consider undertaking a basic criminal disclosure, which is often used for public licences and security positions abroad. 

A Basic level disclosure will detail all criminal information considered non-spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 or state that there are no such convictions. To order this level of check please click on the following link:www.cbscreening.com/basic-disclosure

 

There are four main types of Security Clearance – Baseline, Counter Terrorist, Security Check and Developed Vetting. Below is an outline of each type of Security Clearance, along with information on the process, how long it takes, and the types of IT jobs it applies to.

The important thing to remember is that Security Clearance checks are conducted in line with a specific IT job role, and need to be requested by a company not an individual. So while Security Clearance may require some time and paperwork, if successful it will lead to a new IT job – as well as career rewards such as a good salary, role security and plenty of opportunity.

Baseline Security Clearance

There are two types of check in this category: Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) (Formally Basic Check) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS) (formerly Enhanced Basic Check or Basic Check +). A BPSS or EBS aims to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of prospective employees.

What is BPSS?
BPSS is an entry level security check, and will take one or two days to complete. Not technically a security clearance, it uses the Police National Computer (PNC) to make sure a candidate has no convictions. The check returns evidence of any current criminal record and un-spent convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

A BPSS acts as a pre-employment check, signalling good recruitment and employment practice in general. The check is carried out by screening identity documents and references.

What is EBS?
An EBS is not a formal security clearance check; however it is a prerequisite for the other types of security clearances outlined next.

This type of check allows supervised access to top secret material. To attain this, the same checks as above apply, as well as a mandatory interview and references from people who are familiar with the person’s character in both home and work environment.

What IT jobs do they apply to?
Typically BPSS and EBS checks apply to jobs in the public sector and Armed Forces (both permanent and temporary) as well as private sector employees working on government contracts (e.g. contractors and consultants), who require access to, or knowledge of, confidential government assets.

BPSS and EBS Security Clearance checks are normally conducted by recruitment authorities or companies to the agreed standard. Because they underpin the national security vetting process it is vital that they are carried out properly and thoroughly and before any further vetting is completed.

Counter Terrorist Check (CTC) or (CTC Cleared)
The Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC) is most commonly required by police, legal agencies and government agencies hiring contractors. A CTC will normally take up to six months to complete and is usually valid for 3 years.

What is a CTC?
The purpose of the CTC is to prevent persons who may have connections with terrorist organisations, or who may be vulnerable to pressure from them, from undertaking certain security duties where sensitive information may be compromised.

A CTC does not allow access, knowledge or custody of protectively marked assets and information, but the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (outlined above, and normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process) does unlock some restrictions. It is carried out as part of the CTC as part of the vetting process, along with:

  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Service Check

What IT jobs does it apply to?
CTC Security Clearance is needed by IT professionals whose work involves:

• close proximity to public figures

• giving access to information or material vulnerable to terrorist attack

• unrestricted access to certain government or commercial establishments assessed to be at risk from terrorist attack

To gain CTC clearance you’ll normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 3 years. Occasionally it may also be necessary to attend an interview with a DfT security officer. At the end of the vetting process, the information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve a CTC clearance.

Security Check (SC) or (SC Cleared)

Security Clearance (SC) is the most common type of vetting process. Transferable between government departments, it covers a wide range of jobs from IT and health to government, MoD, defence and private sector.

What is SC?
Valid for five years for contractors, and ten years for permanent employees, SC is for IT professionals who need substantial access to secret, occasionally top secret, assets and information.

To gain (SC) clearance you will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years, and will need to successfully complete all stages of the vetting process which includes:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Departmental/Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Check

On completion, information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve the clearance application. It will usually take a minimum of six weeks to complete, and is generally reviewed every ten years.

Developed Vetting (DV)
Developed Vetting DV is the most comprehensive and expensive form of UK security vetting; and therefore only required for the most sensitive appointments and tasks.

This level of Security Clearance provides substantial unsupervised access to top secret assets, or for people working in the intelligence or security agencies. A small number of clearances are granted, and renewed annually depending on the employer, and circumstances of the employment.

What IT jobs does it apply to?
Typical DV security cleared IT jobs include positions within the MoD, government, defence and aerospace.

The stringent security check is much more specialised and job related: “A contractor would go to a specific contract role within a specific organisation and the developed vetting would be tailored specifically for that contract.”

What’s involved?
To gain (DV) clearance you will normally have been a UK resident for a minimum of 10 years. You’ll also need to go through several stages of the vetting process to become approved:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Departmental/Company Records Check
  • Completion of a (DV) questionnaire
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • Subject Interview and further enquiries, which will include interviews with character referees and current and previous supervisors (checking of references (social, employment, education etc) in writing, by telephone or by interview from personal friends, tutors and employers as appropriate)

On completion of the vetting process, information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve a DV clearance. For risk management purposes, follow-up work and monitoring is sometimes needed. This activity is known as ‘aftercare’, and may be required in connection with any of the above clearances.

How long will DV clearance take?
A DV will normally take a minimum of six months to complete. The officer assigned to the case will keep in touch during their enquiries and do their best to let you know how things are progressing. Because of the time the process takes, you shouldn’t hand in your notice to your present employer until DV clearance is granted.

Once a clearance is granted, it is only valid for a pre-determined period after which a review must be conducted. The time interval before a review is required is specified in guidance issued by the Cabinet Office but DVs are usually re-investigated after 5 years and every 7 years.

Happy Job-Seeking!

 

And don’t forget to tell your ‘Coach’ where you saw this nifty guide.

Zero-Hour Contracts: Job Centre “Coaches” to Mandate them.

Yet more pressure on the unemployed.

The BBC reports,

Jobbseekers risk losing their benefits if they turn down certain zero-hours contracts without good reason, the government has said.

Until now, people on Jobseeker’s Allowance could refuse to accept such jobs without facing penalties.

But the new universal credit system demands that people take up the casual contracts – even though they do not always guarantee work.

The government insisted such contracts offer an average 25 hours work a week.

Department for Work and Pensions

A spokesman also explained that when workers did not get the hours they needed, their universal credit payments would adjust automatically to ensure they were financially supported.

Labour said the government should focus on stopping abuse of workers through zero-hours contracts rather than on forcing claimants to accept such working arrangements.

Under the new scheme, claimants who turn down a zero-hours contract when it is thought to be suitable could lose payments for more than three months.

Employment Minister Esther McVey outlined the change in a letter to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore about benefits sanctions, the Guardian has reported.

The newspaper said Jobcentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate” zero-hours contracts if they thought the role was suitable for the claimant.

‘Reasonable’ contracts

A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said claimants needed to do everything they could to get work.

He said jobseekers would be expected to take “reasonable” zero-hours contracts and carry on looking for permanent full-time work in the meantime.

They would not be required to sign up to “exclusive” contracts, which tie a worker to a single employer with no guarantee of work.

He said: “As now, if there’s a good reason someone can’t just take a particular job they won’t be sanctioned.

People face losing their benefits for more than three months if they refuse zero-hours contracts

“But it is right that people do everything they can to find work and that we support them to build up their working hours and earnings.”

He said the average zero-hours contract provided workers with 25 hours of work a week and could “lead to long-term opportunities”.

“Universal credit payments will adjust automatically depending on the hours a person works to ensure that people whose hours may change are financially supported and do not face the hassle and bureaucracy of switching their benefit claims,” the spokesman added.

Ms Gilmore said while she did not object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, she was “concerned” by the policy change.

“I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term,” she told the Guardian.

Unions last week called for action against zero-hours working.

This followed a study that showed around 1.4 million jobs involved contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours.

The Office for National Statistics said most of the contracts were zero hours.

Under these contracts, people are not guaranteed work from one week to the next. But officials have pointed out that some workers could have more than one contract at a time.

People we know on Zero-Hour contracts are often faced with real problems about their wages.

It is hard to believe, given the chaos the system  is in, that things will go so smoothly that, “Universal credit payments will adjust automatically. “

Very hard to believe.

And as for the “coaches” – who thought up that stupid name?

 

Full List of Touts Running ‘Community Work Programme’.

The List of Shame is out (Hat tips to Another Fine Mess and Watching A4E),

We publish this in full – from TWPSolutions.

Following on from our article yesterday on lack of information re who won where on Community Work Placment tender round – we now have the full list from DWP so here it is:-

Community Work Placement Suppliers

 

Contract Package Area  Coverage Supplier
1 East of England: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; Cambridge and Suffolk; Essex; Norfolk Seetec
2 East Midlands:  Nottinghamshire; Derbyshire; Lincolnshire and Rutland; Leicestershire and Northamptonshire G4S
3 London West:  Ealing; Hammersmith & Fulham; Brent; Harrow; Hillingdon; Hounslow; Richmond Upon Thames; Kingston Upon Thames; Wandsworth; Enfield; Kensington & Chelsea; Barnet; Camden; Westminster; Islington; Haringey G4S
4 London East:  Hackney; Newham; Tower Hamlets; Barking & Dagenham; Redbridge; Havering; Waltham Forest; City of London; Croydon; Bexley; Lambeth; Bromley; Greenwich; Lewisham; Southwark; Merton and Sutton G4S
5 North East:  Northumbria; South Tyne and Wear Valley; Tees Valley Pertemps
6 North West 1:  Cumbria and Lancashire; Merseyside; Halton G4S
7 North West 2:  Greater Manchester Central, Greater Manchester East and West, Cheshire and Warrington Seetec
8 Scotland :  Ayrshire, Dumfries, Galloway and Inverclyde; Edinburgh; Lothian and Borders; Forth Valley, Fife and Tayside; Glasgow; Highlands, Islands, Clyde Coast and Grampian Learndirect
9 South East 1: Hampshire and Isle of Wight; Thames valley (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire) G4S
10 South East 2: Kent; Surrey and Sussex Seetec
11 South West 1:  Devon and Cornwall; Dorset and Somerset Rehab
12 South West 2: Gloucester, Wiltshire and Swindon; West of England Seetec
13 Wales: North and Mid Wales, South West Wales; South Wales Valleys; South East Wales Working Links
14 West Midlands 1:  Birmingham and Solihull; Black Country Seetec
15 West Midlands 2:  Coventry and Warwickshire; Staffordshire; The Marches Pertemps
16 West Yorkshire  Interserve
17 South Yorkshire  Interserve
18 North East Yorkshire and The Humber G4S

Comments.

Well,  SEETEC has a very bad reputation to start with …..and it goes downhill after that…..

We are waiting for the list of the ‘voluntary” sector and Charity scabs who will work with this merry crew.

 

Biting Back Against ‘Help to Work’ Unpaid Labour.

April 29, 2014 33 comments

http://www.njhm.com/images/burnscrew.jpg

Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘chain-gang scheme’ says Daily Record.

We now know 4 of the 6 companies who will be profiting from unpaid labour under the Help to Work scheme: G4S, Seetec, Interserve and Pertemps. 

The Void observes,

G4s will operate the flagship contract to provide Community Work Placements in six regions.  This is despite the fact that up until recently they were  banned from carrying out new public sector contracts due to concerns about fraud.  The company are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office after over-charging huge sums on their electronic tagging contract.  Other companies with their snouts in the workfare trough include Pertemps, Seetec and Interserve.

We await news of the other 2 companies and a list of the scabs in the ‘voluntary’ sector hoping to make money out of forcing people to work for nothing.

How should we react?

First of all by making our opinions known, above all to the touts running the Community Work Programme.

Next, by making it as difficult as possible for them to run their little money-earner.

Finally, by getting as many bodies, charities, local government, companies, as possible to boycott the scheme.

How are the media reacting?

We can expect little from the mainstream television: the BBC is frightened of the Cabinet, and anxious to present ‘balance’.

The far-right press loves the idea of us cleaning the streets with our toothbrushes.

But not everybody is the same.

The Scottish Daily Record says this,

THERE is nothing wrong in principle with expecting people who have been out of work for long periods to undertake work experience or a more intensive search for a job.

But two things have to be in place for such a scheme to succeed – real work experience placements which are more than just slave labour and real jobs at the end of the process.

The Help to Work scheme, which came into place yesterday, offers neither.

Instead of offering real opportunities to people worn down by no work, it will belittle and stigmatise people by forcing them to carry out menial tasks.

This is a case of punishment for being on the dole – meted out by trust-fund Tories who have no idea what it is like to actually have to look for work.

Participation in these “chain-gang” schemes does nothing to improve people’s chance of getting work after six months – as the Government’s own studies have shown.

In fact, there’s every possibility that being sent on one of these schemes could make it harder to find real work at the end if employers end up discriminating against the people who have been sent on them.

Real work placements, paying real money at the minimum wage level, and guaranteed work for the long-term unemployed along with training … now that does produce results. How do we know? Because it was called the Future Jobs Fund under Labour.

Then the Coalition Government scrapped it for this punitive, menial, work-for-dole scheme that denigrates benefit claimants.

It ignores entirely the fact that many of those currently on the dole have paid decades of National Insurance contributions and are therefore perfectly entitled to the state’s help when they need it.

Attacking the jobless for the “crime” of being unemployed is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Tories.

But the question, as ever, is: “Why are the Lib Dems – the party of David Lloyd George, who helped pave the way for the Welfare State – helping them do it?”

Help to Work Begins? Fight Back Against Workfare!

April 28, 2014 36 comments

 

Last week The Void posted this,

With less than one week to go until the launch date of the DWP’s woefully misnamed ‘Help To Work’ and details of the programme are still shrouded in secrecy.

‘Help To Work’ is the mass workfare scheme announced by George Osborne at last year’s Tory Party conference.  Those leaving the Work Programme without a job – which is almost everyone – will either have to sign on every day or be forced to work for no pay for a ‘community’ organisation for six months.  The whole package is expected to cost almost a third of a billion, with most of that money lining the pockets of private sector profiteers running the scheme.

Not a dicky bird has come out about this scheme – even on the prestigious DWP Facebook Page.

Well, today’s the day.

So, while we wait, why not try this?

Today’s new workfare scheme will fall apart if voluntary sector organisations refuse to take part. Help make it happen my contacting charities and groups you support to ask them to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary!

Osborne’s headline policy of “Community Work Placements” is already in jeopardy as it is launched today, having failed to generate enough voluntary sector participation. Instead, organisations such as Oxfam and the umbrella body National Association for Voluntary and Community Action are marking the date by launching the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” campaign.

The admirable Boycott Workfare notes,

  • Three of the largest supporters of other workfare schemes have said they will not accept placements: the Conservation Volunteers, Salvation Army and YMCA.
  • A response to a Freedom of Information request dated 10 April said the tender for ‘Help To Work’ was still ongoing, suggesting that the government was struggling to recruit the private providers to run the scheme.
  • The DWP has also said that the guidance for companies running the scheme will not be published until the launch date, 28 April, suggesting its production was running late.
  • The government is refusing to reveal details of where placements will take place to journalists.
  • Job Centre sources report that, at least in some areas, the framework for rolling it out is not yet in place.
  • The Community Action Programme pilot – a workfare scheme similar to Community Work Placements – could only find placements for 63% of participants.

They add,

If voluntary sector groups don’t take part, the scheme falls apart – let’s make it happen!

Organisations can affirm their commitment to genuine volunteering by signing the pledge circulated by the campaign. Over 25 groups have already signed, including Adur Voluntary Action, Anti-Slavery International, Asylum Education and Legal Fund, Boycott Workfare, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Children England, Christianity Uncut, Communities Inc, Derman, Disabled People Against Cuts, Ekklesia, Faith 4 Change, Hackney CVS, Hackney Refugee Forum, Hull Children’s Adventure Society, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project, National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA), National Community Activists’ Network (NatCAN), Neighbourhood Networks, Oxfam, Salford Star, Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, Student Christian Movement, Unite the Union, Voices of Youth, Voluntary Action Harrow (VAH), 42nd Street.

This is an impressive list, but let’s make it much longer. Please ask any voluntary sector organisations you know (however small) to sign up. The disarray of the Community Work Placements shows that opposition and non-participation by voluntary organisations is already proving effective in derailing this punitive scheme.

Follow the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign on Twitter and Like it on Facebookto help spread the word!

DWP’s Facebook Page: Top Tips !

April 24, 2014 37 comments

FACEBOOK PAGE.

(No: This is Not Made Up).

Department for Work and Pensions – DWP

6,795 likes · 426 talking about this
Government Organisation.
This is the official Facebook page for the DWP – giving news, updates and information. We’re unable to respond to individual benefit enquiries via Facebook.
Need help improving your cv? Here’s some tips:
Leigh had been unemployed for over six months. She finally got the break she was looking for with Meg’s Sweets, an ‘old fashioned’ sweet shop in Hull. “The Youth Contract has been a great help,” says co-owner Dean Mortimer. “It’s meant we can take on the extra staff we need and keep the business going.” Find out more http://ow.ly/vnE2Y
Photo: Leigh had been unemployed for over six months. She finally got the break she was looking for with Meg’s Sweets, an 'old fashioned' sweet shop in Hull. "The Youth Contract has been a great help,” says co-owner Dean Mortimer. “It’s meant we can take on the extra staff we need and keep the business going." Find out more http://ow.ly/vnE2Y
Love skateboarding? Dean set up his own business with help from New Enterprise Allowance. “The help and assistance I’ve had from my advisers has been invaluable,” says Dean. “I intend for R3v3r3nt Skateboards to be a global skate brand that stands for quality, value and expression.” Read more http://ow.ly/vq5al
Photo: Love skateboarding? Dean set up his own business with help from New Enterprise Allowance. “The help and assistance I’ve had from my advisers has been invaluable,” says Dean. “I intend for R3v3r3nt Skateboards to be a global skate brand that stands for quality, value and expression.” Read more http://ow.ly/vq5al
Some top tips to succeed in the job market from the Daily Express#job2014 http://ow.ly/uHsUM
Almost a million workers were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013. The New Health and Work Service is to be launched to combat the problem – it’s expected to save employers £70 million a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%:http://ow.ly/tsxBY
Photo: Almost a million workers were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013. The New Health and Work Service is to be launched to combat the problem - it’s expected to save employers £70 million a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%: http://ow.ly/tsxBY
So, how are you finding the information we are posting? Is it useful? Is there anything else you’d like to see? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo: So, how are you finding the information we are posting? Is it useful? Is there anything else you'd like to see? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Nothing yet about Help to Work or Community Work Placements.

Tackling Long-Term Unemployment: Workfare Touts Surface.

April 22, 2014 33 comments

 

Timed to coincide with the launch of the ‘Help to Work’ programme in April 14, this seminar will explore what we know about those who become very long term unemployed (three years or more), what works in supporting them into employment, and why it works.

The event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand from the Department for Work and Pensions about the government’s support for jobseekers who have completed the Work Programme; and from Ingeus and Natcen about the delivery and evaluation of the government’s trailblazers for this group. The seminar will be supported by local case studies from Solent and Greater Manchester, and expert analysis  from a range of speakers.

Attendees will leave with a greater understanding of the long-term unemployed, alongside practical ideas and recommendations for “what works” in getting this group back into the labour market. There will also be an opportunity to network with policymakers and practitioners working in this field.

Date: Thursday 1 May 2014

Location: DTG Venues, Vauxhall, London

Click here for the draft programme

And what do we find?

 

Who will you hear from?


Department for Work and Pension representative, Chris Guest, will outline the government’s approach to supporting jobseekers who have completed the Work Programme without finding work. The seminar will also explore lessons from the ‘support for the very long-term unemployed trailblazers’ with Dr Vincent Pattison of Ingeus, delivery partners for the Community Action Project in the East Midlands; and Nilufer Rahim of Natcen, official evaluators of the trailblazers. Presentation from Andrew Dean of Exeter University will examine international approaches to what works in tackling long term unemployment. The day will end with a look at case studies of individual approaches and area-based approaches in Solent and Greater Manchester.

Confirmed Speakers

Mat Ainsworth
Head of Learning, Skills and Work, Salford City Council
Andrew Dean
Marchmont Observatory, Exeter University
  • Denise Edghill, Head of Skills and Regeneration, Southampton City Council, Solent Jobs Fund
  • James Foss, Head of Employment Services, St Loye’s Foundation
  • Chris Guest, Labour Marker Strategy, Department for Work and Pensions
  • Dr Vincent Pattison, Head of Policy and Research, Ingeus
  • Nilufer Rahim, Senior Researcher, Natcen

 

Event Price:

 Non-supporter (Private sector) – Entire event, +£210.00

 

Food Banks: Ipswich.

April 19, 2014 30 comments

A food bank charity says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before.

The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a “shocking” 51% rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause.

In a letter to ministers, more than 500 clergy say the increase is “terrible”.

The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

However, the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago.

Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions – when payments are temporarily stopped – had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

“In the last year, we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes,” said Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust.

This is the Ipswich Foodbank.

Families in need

FIND is a Christian-based registered charity that was founded in 1990 to provide emergency assistance to families or individuals affected by poverty or dispossession. FIND befriends without judging and gives support to those in need. The charity started over 20 years ago by Maureen Reynel MBE has grown to be an essential support mechanism in the local community.

Food Bank

Our food bank fund targets work to establish and distribute food to people in need. This is a key part of the work of FI…

Readers of Ipswich Unemployed Action may be interested to know what this group’s approach is to fighting the cuts which lie behind the rise in Food bank users.

Here it is:

 

FIND Quiz 2014 Flyerda

 

Bless!

 

 

Help to Work (Workfare): A Failure Before it’s Begun.

April 15, 2014 59 comments

Coming in a couple of weeks,

Community Work Placements

The Work Programme is supporting claimants to move off benefit and into work – increasing numbers are finding a job – but it was recognised that there would be claimants returning.

Claimants who do not find sustained employment during their time on the Work Programme will be among the hardest to help, and many will face significant and multiple barriers to work.

Community Work Placements will be one of the three intensive options available through Help to Work support for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants returning from the Work Programme. This will be available alongside the Mandatory Intervention Regime which is currently operating in Jobcentre Plus, and daily signing. In England, Community Work Placements will be part-funded by the European Social Fund, under the Department for Work and Pensions’ co-financing agreements.

Community Work Placements is a mandatory scheme designed for those JSA claimants returning from the Work Programme whose key barrier to work is a lack of work experience, motivation or both, and offers them a significant period of full-time activity.

The scheme involves claimants undertaking a full-time work placement for 30 hours a week for up to 26 weeks alongside provider-led supported jobsearch.

This a failure before it’s even started:

Help to Work is a costly way of punishing the jobless

Guardian Tuesday 15th April.

Those out of work for a year go through the Work Programme for two years, but now if they emerge with no job – as many do – Help to Work awaits them. Will workfare work? “The DWP’s own analysis of existing evidence, both internationally and in the UK, suggests such schemes are generally ineffective”, finds Portes. For once, instead of rushing in, the DWP has done a good control trial on this with 15,000 unemployed. The pilot’s results, however, were sneaked out just before Christmas with no press release. That’s no surprise when you uncover the findings.

First the unemployed were given a 13-week warning period to act as a deterrent, and then 26 weeks of either “intensive Jobcentre Plus support”, or the workfare “community action programme”. Or they went into the control group with nothing special. Here’s what happened: exactly the same number in the control group – 18% – found themselves jobs as those doing the forced community work. Just 1% more found jobs from the group with jobcentre support. In other words, workfare didn’t work. Although 68% of the control group were still on unemployment benefits at the end, so were 66% of those who did the community work and 64% of those given jobcentre support.

Good for the DWP for doing a proper pilot study – but why is it plunging ahead with Osborne’s scheme at a cost of £300m a year when it knows it doesn’t work? The DWP has failed to provide a cost-benefit analysis. As with the mandatory work activity scheme, the main effect of forcing this group to pick up litter is to prompt more to claim employment and support allowance for disability: many are sick in one way or another, but haven’t admitted it until pushed. No savings are made from that benefit switch.

……………..

I  asked the DWP for more information on Help to Work, now only two weeks from its launch. How many people will go on it? What kind of community work is being found? Which brave charities or local authorities are risking their reputation by taking on free forced labourers for six months, without displacing genuine jobs? As yet, there is no answer: the names of suppliers of Community Work haven’t been announced, not even the private firms paid to find the community work.

I asked for the pilot’s results but the DWP always obfuscates with irrelevant information: “The vast majority of people move off jobseeker’s allowance quickly – over 75% of people end their JSA claim within six months.” Well, yes, it’s always been the case that most people are only out of work briefly. But what about the pilot results with these long-term unemployed? No figures for the success rate were forthcoming – only these, about attitudes: a majority of those on workfare and at jobcentres “reported an increased motivation to find work”. Some 84% of both groups reported “a positive shift in their attitude to work”. Of those on workfare 76% reported “a sense of satisfaction from being in a work routine”. Fair enough, though the surprise is they didn’t give the full North Korean 100% reply.

It’s just as well I already had the actual outcome figures. But why is the DWP rolling out a programme it knows is a near worthless expense? One advantage is that those on Help to Work will be counted off official unemployment figures for six months. Incidentally, these sad long-term cases will do more than twice the maximum any court can sentence a thief to on Community Payback. To be out of work is now officially morally worse than committing a crime.

Job Centre Plus Staff and Bullying Claimants.

April 12, 2014 89 comments

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Jobcentres up and down the country.

The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity. The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks.

This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately”. Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied. The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions.”

John Wight Huffington Post. Feburary 2014.

Wight repeated this allegation yesterday on the site Socialist Unity.

The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents thousands of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers. The PCS has been a strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies, making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to spending cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonisation of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness. This only makes the role some of its members are playing in intensifying the hardship faced by the unemployed and people on out of work benefits even more deplorable.

He claims that the PCS is strong in the DWP – but in fact in Job Centres it is extremely weak.

As could be seen in Ipswich where tiny numbers, if any,  have participated in PCS strikes.

More worrying still is this, from the actual government report,

Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied. A limited independent review of sanctioning has been established by DWP. The Committee recommends that there should be a separate, broader independent review of the operation of benefit conditionality and sanctioning to ensure that the rules are being applied fairly and appropriately. This review should also investigate whether, and to what extent, sanctioning is having the desired effect of encouraging claimants to engage more actively in job-seeking.

This is the union’s reaction to the sanction regime (BBC January),

People looking for work have had their benefits stopped to meet government targets, the PCS union claims.

The union, which represents many job centre staff, said they had been under “enormous pressure” to stop claimants’ Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Some claimants said they had benefits withdrawn for “genuine mistakes” such as missing appointments.

The government says sanctions are a “last resort”, and strongly denies the union’s claim.

“Job centre staff are under enormous pressure to implement sanctions on unemployed people,” PCS union north-east regional secretary Simon Elliot said.

“Staff are faced with the threat of sanctions themselves in the form of what they call performance improvement plans if they don’t impose sanctions.

“If you look at the guidance for implementing the performance improvement plans it clearly states that it’s a measure against targets.

However ConDem Nation notes (a more serious source than the Russia Today contributor Wight),

Many rank and file members of the union have been all too aware of the suffering which is being inflicted on the poorest and often most marginalised people in the UK.  PCS workers have  marched, fought and taken direct action alongside claimants to fight the shambolic and callous welfare reforms.  Two motions on how the PCS as a whole could now solidify that support had been proposed at the union’s annual conference in Brighton on 20 May this year.

The motions have been excluded from the conference by the PCS leadership on the grounds that if successfully implemented they could leave the union liable to legal action.  One of these motions calls for complete non-co-operation with the sanctions, which could be interpreted as a call for industrial action beyond the specifics of the law.  The other motion however only calls to include the tactic of non-cooperation in “any industrial action campaign”.  Not even this can be up for debate according to the leadership of the PCS.

Youth Unemployment at “Crisis” Levels.

April 9, 2014 39 comments

Youth jobless now at ‘crisis’ levels

Britain is undergoing a youth unemployment “crisis”, leaving a generation of young people facing a bleak future, a new study warns. Even cities with low numbers of jobless youths have an unemployment rate that is a third higher than Germany’s national average.

Reports the Independent today.

So much for British economic ‘success’.

The Government’s attempts to tackle the UK’s youth unemployment “crisis” has failed, leaving a generation of young people facing a bleak future, a new report has warned.

A study by the Work Foundation found that despite the economic recovery, unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds was over 25% in many cities.

The average is almost one in five across the country, but the problem is so “endemic” that even those cities with the lowest rates of around 13% are still a third higher than the national average in Germany (8.6%) and well above cities such as Hamburg (5%), said the research group.

A number of youth unemployment “blackspots” were identified with jobless rates above 25%, including Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Grimsby, Coventry, Bradford and Hull.

In other cities, the youth unemployment rate was 13% or lower, including Aberdeen, Southampton, York, Reading and Cambridge.

The Work Foundation said youngsters leaving school with only GCSEs were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those with better qualifications.

The report called for action to improve apprenticeships, more work experience placements and batter careers advice.

Lizzie Crowley of the Work Foundation said: “The UK’s youth unemployment crisis continues to affect almost a million young people, even in the recovery.

“It is shocking that in some cities almost a third of young people are looking for work but are unable to find it.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure young people get the right support to either continue in school, further training or with getting a job.

“Central government’s top-down attempts to tackle the crisis have failed. Local government must now be tasked with setting up youth transition partnerships to bring together schools, colleges, third sector organisations and local businesses to develop tailored policy responses suitable for each city.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Supporting young people to get their foot in the door and have the skills they need for the future as the economy grows is a key part of our long-term economic plan.

“Already, the number of young people in jobs is going up, youth unemployment is dropping and the number of young jobseekers on benefits has been falling for the last 21 months. Our schemes have already offered around 200,000 opportunities to young people to try their hand in different industries, but there is always more to do. That’s why we’ve offered a further 100,000 placements to any young person who wants one.

SV News.

Now I imagine that many people reading this Blog are, how can I put it, a bit older than this.

But try to put yourself in the position of somebody just entering the world of work.

What do they get?

Some cack from the DWP and the “schemes” we all know all too well.

Some will no look forward to a life on the Community Work Programme. 

Seeing the large numbers of young people around the Job Centre and elsewhere you can’t help thinking that this must account for a lot.

Iain Duncan Smith to Make Benefit Fraudsters Homeless and Penniless.

April 6, 2014 71 comments

The Telegraph reports today,

Welfare cheats will be forced to sell their homes and pay higher fines to reimburse taxpayers for the money they have wrongly claimed, under plans to tackle benefit fraud.

The reforms include:

:: A drive to recover debts owed by fraudsters. Ministers will work with private debt collection firms “to make greater use of bailiffs to seize assets” and “force house sales where appropriate”, officials said. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) expects to recover at least £414  million as a result of the initiative.

:: Higher fines for cheats caught committing benefits fraud. Officials can already impose a £50 spot fine on individuals who mistakenly and carelessly provide inaccurate information in their claims, and fraudsters face a minimum fine of £350 as an alternative to prosecution. Plans this week are expected to set out new financial penalties.

:: A publicity campaign, including posters urging claimants to report those whom they suspect to be cheating the system, and letters warning individuals to check they are not receiving too much.

:: Existing claimants will be cross-checked against HMRC records to catch pensioners who are receiving extra income than they have declared from private schemes, while also claiming pension credit, a means-tested benefit.

:: A benefit fraud division will be set up within the DWP. The service will pursue people who make false claims, including housing welfare from councils, tax credits from the HMRC, and other DWP payouts.

 

 

Maria Miller.

The Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, found that Maria Miller claimed more than £40,000 in mortgage payments to which she was not entitled. This was watered down to just £5,800 by the Commons Standards Committee.

If you want to be even more nauseated the pathetic figure of Iain Duncan Smith says in the Telegraph the following,

 year ago we embarked on some of the biggest reforms to the benefits system since the war. Reforms that will transform lives for the better, strike a fair deal between claimants and the taxpayer, help more people into work and help us build a strong society.

If you’d listened to the scaremongers, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were ripping up the welfare state and telling people to fend for themselves. In fact what we are doing is returning the welfare state to what it was meant to be – a safety net, not a way of life.

Today we can see the real progress we have made: a record number of people in work; the number of people in workless households down more than half a million; and the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits down by more than 630,000. What’s more, our changes should save £50 billion by the end of the parliament.

No longer do households receive more in benefits than the average earnings of a family in work. Those who claim that limiting benefits to £26,000 a year is Dickensian should ask hard-working families who put in long hours for that pay what they think. It’s fair – and one of our most popular policies.

Maria Miller, (was Minister for DWP, then Culture), Call for New Fraud Investigation.

April 4, 2014 14 comments

People may have noticed Culture Minister Maria Miller and her 31 second ‘apology’ for snaffling oddles of dosh for herself.

This is the case (BBC),

The commissioner had found that she over-claimed by £45,000 for expenses towards mortgage interest payments and council tax.

But the committee, which comprises five Conservative MPs, four Labour MPs, one Lib Dem MP and three members of the public, decided that she needed to pay back just £5,800.

She had inadvertently allowed her claims to remain the same when her tracker mortgage fell with interest rates in 2008, Mrs Miller said.

Both the explanation and the figure were accepted by the committee.

This was the result,

Miller’s apology to Parliament.

She was ordered to apologise after a committee found her “attitude” to an inquiry into her expenses had breached the parliamentary code of conduct.

Labour said her 32-second statement, in which she accepted the committee’s findings and apologised unreservedly, was “contemptuous” in its brevity.

But Mr Cameron said she had been cleared of the main charge against her.

“I think we should leave it there,” he said.

What is not often mentioned (except in the Morning Star) is that this free-loader was Minister for making life hell for disabled people at the DWP, and grinding the faces of the poor, from 2010 – 2012.

Following the 2010 general election she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Now we learn,

A Labour MP has written to Scotland Yard asking that they investigate Maria Miller over her parliamentary expenses.

Thomas Docherty, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, wrote to the Met’s Assistant Commissioner, Mark Rowley, after the Culture Secretary escaped serious censure when a committee of MPs overruled an official inquiry into her expenses.

The letter comes as David Cameron told critics of Maria Miller should “leave it” after the Culture Secretary was forced to apologise to the House of Commons over her expenses.

Mr Docherty has now asked that Scotland Yard investiagate the “serious allegations” made against Mrs Miller and also claims that she did not cooperate fully with the inquiry into her conduct.

In his letter Mr Docherty wrote: “Given the widely differing conclusions of the Commission and the Committee regarding the serious allegations made about Mrs Miller and the fact that both the Commission and Committee feel that Mrs Miller did not cooperate with the inquiry, I believe this matter warrants further investigation and I believe the Metropolitan Police are the appropriate body to carry out such an investigation.”

The Metropolitan Police are yet to confirm receipt of the letter.

The inquiry into Mrs Miller’s expenses began in December 2012 following disclosures in The Telegraph that she had claimed more than £90,000 in mortgage interest and other housing costs over four years for her “second” home.

The house, in Wimbledon, was also home to her parents, in apparent contravention of expenses rules which stated that second homes must be “exclusively” for the use of MPs and that housing parents was “specifically prohibited”. Telegraph.

Council Tax Benefit Going as New Poll Tax Comes in.

April 2, 2014 26 comments

Last night on Channel Four news,

Here’s the good news: local authorities up and down the country are falling over themselves not to put up council tax this year.

Here’s the bad news – if you’re one of the 2.34 million low-income families who used to get council tax benefit, you will be paying on average £149 more in council tax this year than just over a year ago.

In some parts of the country, families once considered too poor to pay council tax face a bill of nearly £300 this year, according to a report by the New Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Last April the government scrapped council tax benefit which helped people on low incomes – either those working for low wages or because they were on benefit.

It was replaced by council tax support and devolved down to local authorities to administer – crucially, though, with a significantly reduced budget.

Initially some councils did try not to impact some of the poorest families. A year on, the figures show more councils than ever have started to insist all working-age adults – pensioners are exempt – must pay something, regardless of their income.

Channel Four illustrate what is fast becoming a new Poll Tax for the poor and unemployed.

No rise in benefits, big rise in council tax,  if not for all parts of the country, at least for scores of councils.

As we have posted before, this means lots of people hauled up before the courts for not paying, more misery and humiliation.

Apparently this is to make us more “responsible” and to end the ‘ something for nothing’ culture.

So we get a big nothing to help.

5 Times more Sanctions than Jobs on Work Programme.

March 29, 2014 52 comments

From the PCS.

The government’s flagship scheme for the long-term unemployed is delivering five times more benefit sanctions than jobs, PCS says as the latest figures are published.

Data published today shows the wholly privatised work programme is still performing worse than if the government had done nothing, and it appears to be getting worse.

Only 3% (48,000) of the 1.5 million people who have been through the scheme since it began in June 2011 have been found a lasting job.

Comparing the data with the latest figures for work programme participants who have had their benefits stopped temporarily after being sanctioned, the union has made a startling discovery:

Five times more sanctions were applied to people on the work programme last year alone than the number of sustained jobs found for participants since June 2011.

Other findings include:

  • Only 18% of those who have completed the full two years on the programme have been helped into work (lasting a minimum of either three or six months). The Department for Work and Pensions estimated one third of participants would find sustained work without any help from the scheme
  • Of the 458,000 people who have completed the full two years only 1.7% have been found a longer term job
  • Only 5% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the work programme are finding work. The target is 15%
  • Almost one quarter of those who were referred to the work programme returned to the jobcentre two years later
  • Since April 2012, the proportion of scheme participants finding a job has been falling. This could be because providers have cherrypicked easier to help cases first

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The privatised work programme has been an unmitigated failure and has actually hampered the chances of people finding work, not helped.

“Ministers have very serious questions to answer about this scheme, not least why there have been five times more sanctions applied than jobs found for people.”

Our experience in Ipswich is that you hear staff about people sanctioned, people complaining about being sanctioned, and rows, all the time.

It is a disgraceful situation.

 

Welfare Cap will “increase accountability” Iain Duncan Smith.

March 27, 2014 21 comments

The BBC reports,

MPs have overwhelmingly backed plans to introduce an overall cap on the amount the UK spends on welfare each year.

Welfare spending, excluding the state pension and some unemployment benefits, will be capped next year at £119.5bn.

The idea, put forward by Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s Budget, would in future see limits set at the beginning of each Parliament.

With Labour supporting the idea, the measure was approved in the House of Commons by 520 to 22 votes.

However, eleven Labour backbenchers defied their leadership by voting against the plan.

The rebels included former shadow ministers Diane Abbott and Tom Watson.

The cap will include spending on the vast majority of benefits, including pension credits, severe disablement allowance, incapacity benefits, child benefit, both maternity and paternity pay, universal credit and housing benefit.

It is not necessary to listen to the gibberish on the television by government supporters, saying basically, if I tell you three times it’s true.

Here is why Labour should have opposed the ‘cap’.

Guardian.

As announced in last week’s budget, the government’s cap on welfare spending is set to be £119.5bn in 2015/16, increasing to £126.7bn by 2018/19.

Most of the spending that falls under the welfare cap is made up of the state pensions (£80bn), tax credits (£25bn) and housing benefit (£23bn). Significantly, jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and the housing benefit that gets paid automatically to JSA claimants are not part of the cap.

The coalition has introduced the cap and Labour is expected to support the measure in the House of Commons today, with only a handful of Labour MPs expected to rebel.

However the problem is that, according to credible analysis, governments will struggle to keep to the cap due to the nature of the benefits that fall within it. This will mean, therefore, that those who receive benefits that fall under the cap will likely see cuts to their benefits at some point in the future.

The big question, then, is whether the potential cuts will hit those who can most afford to take them rather than those who are struggling. The evidence suggests that this won’t happen under the welfare cap. In fact, as the excellent Chris Goulden of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has pointed out, there is more spending on the richest households that is not in the welfare cap than is within the cap, and vice versa with the poorest households.

In other words, if you are poor the benefits you receive are more likely to be encompassed by the cap than if you are well off, as the graph shows.

Welfare cap graphic

How the welfare cap will affect household incomes.

The graph demonstrates, in Goulden’s words, that for the richest households:

“there is more spending that is not in the welfare cap (albeit virtually all state pension) than is within the cap. Overall, 30% of spending from within the welfare cap is on the richest half of society but 40% of the protected spend”.

On the other hand, for the poorest tenth the average annual incomes from benefits are £1,081 from tax credits, £874 from housing benefit and £509 from pension credit.

This means that, in using the welfare cap to protect things like the state pension for the rich but not the pension credit (which predominantly helps the poor), the chancellor is once again doing “more for those who already have, and not those on low incomes and most in need of help”, as Goulden puts it.

The welfare cap may be politically difficult for Labour to oppose, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a regressive measure that hits the poor hardest.

bour sh0uld have opposed the cap,

 

This is the List of  Honour  of those Labour MPs who voted against the cap.

Diane Abbott

Ronnie Campbell

Katy Clark

Michael Connarty

Jeremy Corbyn

Kelvin Hopkins

Glenda Jackson

John McDonnell

George Mudie

Linda Riordan

Dennis Skinner

Tom Watson

Mike Wood

Workfare Approaches.

March 24, 2014 60 comments

The excellent Boycott Workfare posts.

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

Despite being one of workfare’s most ardent supporters, even Salvation Army aren’t prepared to touch the government’s latest mass workfare scheme [Photo: Sinister Pics]

In an important success even before the workfare week of action starts on 29th March, the Salvation Army have said they will play no part in the upcoming Community Work Placement scheme. Last year the charity was praised by the DWP for ‘holding the line’ on workfare. This recent loss of nerve can only be a direct result of repeated action taken to challenge the Salvation Army’s support for forced work.  The inspiring recent direct action from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, widespread public criticism and constantpressure online has shown what the public think of charities that claim to help unemployed people and then force them to work for free.

The decision is a major blow for the DWP’s latest plans for mass workfare. Community Work Placements are soon to be inflicted on ten of thousands of people leaving the Work Programme and involve six months’ unpaid full-time work for charities and community organisations.  Those who refuse to carry out forced labour will be punished with poverty, hunger and destitution as benefits are sanctioned. But major charities, such as Oxfam, Shelter and Marie Curie, have very publicly distanced themselves from forced work. A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the provider guidance for the scheme is not yet ready, suggesting its April start date is somewhat optimistic.

The Salvation Army have long been one of the most vocal supporters of forced work and one of the few organisations that had no scruples about even forcing claimants on sickness and disability benefits to work for free. In a victory for anti-workfare campaigners, it seems that The Salvation Army have decided that a workfare scheme equivalent to twice the maximum community service sentence is too much even for them to stomach. In a statement on their website the organisation says

“We feel that a 26-week work experience placement is too long and would not be beneficial.  If someone has not found employment within two years, the lack of work experience is clearly not their only barrier to employment.  Our concern is that the underlying issues need to be dealt with holistically and work experience is a part of the support needed. As such, we will not be taking part in the Community Work Placement programme.”

More on site (Hat-tip Obi)

We just note that the Workfare Programme is due to be up and running in April.

People’s Assembly Against Workfare.

March 16, 2014 104 comments

Photo: Andrew Coates (aka @Pabloite) from Suffolk People's Assembly speaking against #workfare at The People's Assembly national conference. #PAAAconf14

Andrew Coates  from Suffolk People’s Assembly speaking against #workfare at The People’s Assembly national conference. #PAAAconf14 — with Clare Solomon and Andrew Coates at People’s Assembly

Conference notes the continuing use of compulsory unpaid work (“Workfare”) and the plans to extend them by use of Community Work Placements from April 2014.Conference believes that Workfare:- Does not address the underlying causes of unemployment. It does not reduce unemployment. Enables employers to take advantage of unpaid labour while cutting pay and employment opportunities for others. Penalises and stigmatises unemployed people and Should not exist. All workers be paid the going rate and on the same terms and conditions as other workers.

Conference resolves that:All public bodies, contractors to public bodies, voluntary organisations and charities, as well as all private employers should refuse to accept Workfare placements arranged by Jobcentre Plus or the Work Programme providers.

All supporters of the People’s Assembly should take steps to establish whether or not Workfare placements are being used by organisations they are involved in and take steps to end such placements.
There should be an independent investigation into the Welfare-to-Work industry.Benefit claimants should receive a decent level of benefits, proper training and the best opportunities, without compulsion, to look for paid employment.
The People’s Assembly should campaign against Workfare.”

Passed unanimously.

 

Food Banks Now Officially Part of Welfare System.

March 13, 2014 20 comments

Jobcentres have been advised to send people to food banks, raising fears of the creeping use of the emergency food as a integral part of the welfare state, it has been reported.

The Department for Work and Pensions is advising jobcentres using a six-step flowchart on how to send people to food banks, according to guidances obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and reported by the Guardian.

Ministers have previously insisted that food banks are not part of a formal system used by Jobcentres. Lord Freud insisted in July last year that “food banks are absolutely not part of our welfare system”.

“Jobcentre Plus offices do not issue food vouchers,” he said. “Some Jobcentre Plus offices have an agreement with their local food bank for referrals, but some simply signpost claimants to a variety of available local provision, including by local authorities, depending on their immediate needs. We gave Jobcentre Plus district managers the freedom to make local links with food banks.”

Huffington Post.

This is a complete disgrace, to say the least!

Iain Duncan Smith ‘Takes Questions.”

March 10, 2014 58 comments

Iain Duncan Smith takes viewers’ questions on welfare

Universal Credit and welfare reforms meant “millions will be better off”, promised the work and pensions secretary.

Iain Duncan Smith was defending changes, where critics have claimed the Universal Credit introduction was being pushed back, but he said he wanted to “roll it out carefully” so it worked properly, and it would be implemented in 2018.

The Conservative minister said it was “not a nasty vicious system”, as he was questioned about the critical reaction to welfare changes, including from the Roman Catholic church.

He spoke to Andrew Neil, who posed viewers’ questions, after they watched a Sunday Politics film about his changes

The Void comments,

“Bare-faced Lies, Bluff and Bullshit Are All Iain Duncan Smith Has Left As Millions Suffer.”

The list goes on and on.  The Public Accounts Committee, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Office for National Statistics, the National Audit Office, the Archbishop of Westminster, even the Tory dominated Policy Exchange and coalition partners the Lib Dems, all of these people are wrong or lying said the increasingly bewildered Iain Duncan Smith in a rare appearance on the Sunday Politics this morning (starts at 13.20).

More here.

Watching A4E says,

There was a stand-out moment for me, and it wasn’t one of his factual inaccuracies.  It was when he was asked about the criticisms of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of his own church.  With the same supercilious expression that he’d worn throughout, IDS simply said, “He’s wrong.”

It’s important to remember what the Archbishop actually said.  He didn’t criticise the “reforms” in principle.  He deplored the fact that people were being left in destitution, left for weeks on end without any support, which he called a “disgrace”.  His information, he said, came from the network of priests and charities in the poorest areas of the country.  “There must be something wrong with the administration of a system which has that effect on so many people’s lives.”  But IDS said, “He’s wrong.”  And he added that he wished the Archbishop had called him before saying all this.

The arrogance is breath-taking.  No doubt he would have told the man who is supposed to be in spiritual authority over him that all the reports from his priests and charities were ill-informed, that food banks were scaremongering, that the evidence of his own eyes and ears was an illusion.  There is no way through to this man.

I’ve been around a long time, and involved in politics for much of that time.  I lived through the Thatcher years, and loathed her as much as anyone.  I got disillusioned with Blair.  But this is something different.  This is a government which has entrusted its dirty work to a man who has neither the intelligence nor the insight to understand the consequences of his actions, and who has surrounded himself with people similarly bereft of humanity.  We have media which are either complicit or supine.  And I have no idea what we can do about it.

Vox Political says,

Most of the information provided by the Work and Pensions Secretary wasn’t factually accurate, but at least Andrew Neil had the guts to ask some of the questions this blog did not expect from him.

Let’s be honest, though – he bottled the Big One. The Elephant in the Studio was the number of people who have died due to the Incapacity Benefit/ESA sanctions regime imposed by Iain Duncan Smith (never mind Labour’s early involvement; it’s a Tory baby now) and policed by Atos (although the firm has realised this is commercial suicide and is trying to get out of the contract).

………………

One aspect of what he said that disturbed this writer was when the Secretary of State claimed Universal Credit would make it easier for people to take short-term work while they look for long-term jobs. He said the current system penalises people for doing this, and we can see from people’s recent experiences http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/sanctioned-for-working-and-being-honest-about-it/ that there is truth in it. But the nature of Universal Credit means that benefits are adjusted according to the amount people have earned; if someone does a day’s work and is paid even minimum wage for it, then the UC computers (if they ever work) will dock that amount from that person’s benefit – they will be no better-off. In fact, they may be worse-off, as there may be knock-on effects on other aspects of that person’s income. How is this making work pay?

Even the Tories on the Spectator say,

Iain Duncan Smith ties himself into universal knots over welfare reform

Will Universal Credit ever become universal and will the lowest paid still face an effective tax rate of a sometimes outrageous 76 per cent? Iain Duncan Smith took a grilling over his plans for welfare reform on the Sunday Politicstoday, but didn’t give a clear answer to either of these questions regarding his reforms.

Universal Job Match Ratchets up 60% Fakes.

March 6, 2014 69 comments

Hundreds of thousands of people hunting for work on a ­government jobs website may have been chasing posts that never existed, ministers admit.

Nearly 60% of employment advertised on the Universal Jobmatch scheme could have been placed by bogus firms – some of which have been demanding upfront fees from applicants for fake background checks.

A third of a million job vacancies advertised on the government’s official website for jobseekers are suspected of being bogus, falsely promoted or against the rules, documents seen by the Guardian show.Frank Field, a Labour MP and former minister, has established that officials are concerned about more than 350,000 vacancies promoted on the Universal Jobmatch site, which must be used by unemployed people to apply for jobs in order to claim benefits. This amounts to around half of the jobs currently being advertised on the flagship website that Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said would “revolutionise” the process of looking for work.

Reports the Guardian.

Field started asking questions about the website after discovering that some of his constituents had been scammed out of money by false employers, who asked for bank details upfront and cash for criminal record checks before disappearing.

He believes the whole website is “bedevilled with fraud” and “out of control”, and is calling on Duncan Smith to “get a grip” on the contract, which is managed independently by a private recruiter called Monster.

In a letter to Field, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that more than 352,659 job adverts might be in breach of the Universal Jobmatch website’s terms and conditions. These rules specify that employers must advertise the position fairly and comply with the law, including advertising an “actual job or work opportunity”, not using premium rate phone numbers, paying at least the minimum wage and not costing the applicant any money to start.

In a letter dated 27 February, DWP officials are contacting the employers promoting these opportunities to “seek evidence of compliance” within the next five days or face the termination of their accounts. The DWP said this “exercise” would take around three weeks.

It comes after an investigation by Channel 4 News estimated last month that more than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website may not actually exist, ranging from vacancies for sous chefs to dry-cleaners. In its early days, the website was ridiculed for advertising joke jobs for MI5 hitmen, mafia couriers and even prostitutes.

Field claims that many jobseekers have been robbed of large sums of money by a sham company that advertised fake jobs and actually conducted bogus interviews inside a jobcentre. He said the victims were informed that their new employer was a nonentity and that they had been ripped off on arrival at what they expected to be their first day of work.

“The heart of the government’s welfare reform programme is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control,” he said. “Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes. Ministers need to get a grip before more people fall victim to fraudsters preying on them with the helping hand of a major government department.”

Field has now asked the National Audit Office to investigate the scale of job fraud as a “matter of urgency”.

The Mirror today.

Employment Minister Esther McVey revealed 179 businesses advertising 350,000 of the 600,000 places on offer through the website are being investigated.

Labour MP Frank Field, who unearthed the figures, said some jobseekers were being asked to pay £65 for criminal checks.

They later found out the firm did not exist.

Mr Field said: “Something rotten appears to be taking hold of Jobcentre Plus where the Government is allowing ­fraudsters into the heart of its welfare operations.

“Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes.

“Ministers need to get a grip before more people fall victim to fraudsters preying on them.”

Daily Mirror.

BBC (an Hour ago).

The government’s Universal Jobmatch website “is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control”, a senior Labour MP has said.

Frank Field said some jobseekers had been tricked into paying £65 each for bogus criminal background checks while applying for jobs that did not exist.

More than 350,000 job adverts on the website might breach the website’s rules in some way, he added.

But the government said the “vast majority” of vacancies were genuine.

Mr Field said the Department for Work and Pensions had written to him admitting that 179 employer accounts advertising 352,569 jobs might potentially be in breach of the website’s terms and conditions, which dictate that adverts must describe an “actual job or work opportunity” in an accurate way.

The advertisements must be for jobs paying at least the minimum wage, must not be duplicates and must not include premium-rate phone numbers, the website continues.

‘Revolutionary’ But Mr Field said: “Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes.

“Start Quote

We crack down on those who don’t play by the rules”

Department for Work and Pensions spokesman

“Ministers need to get a grip before more people fall victim to fraudsters preying on them with the helping hand of a major government department.”

In a press release, he said he had received evidence from constituents “suggesting jobseekers have been robbed of large sums of money by a sham company that was able to advertise fake jobs on Universal Jobmatch and stage what turned out to be bogus job interviews under a false identity, actually in Jobcentre Plus itself.

“Jobseekers who applied for jobs with the sham company were required, as part of the application process, to provide bank details and an upfront payment of £65 for criminal background checks.

“However, upon arrival at what they expected to be their first day of work, the victims were informed that their new employer was a non-entity and that they had been ripped off.”

Mr Field said the Department for Work and Pensions had told him that the 179 accounts were being “contacted to seek evidence of compliance”.

But he demanded an urgent investigation from the National Audit Office of the scale of fraud on the website.

A spokesman for the department said: “Universal Jobmatch revolutionises the way jobseekers look for work and it has already helped many jobseekers find the jobs they want through the millions of vacancies posted since 2012.

“The truth is that the vast majority of employers post genuine jobs, and we crack down on those who don’t play by the rules.

“We also regularly monitor the site and remove jobs that don’t meet our rules, such as duplicate advertisements.”

What a bloody shambles!

Food Banks, Panorama and Currie.

March 5, 2014 14 comments

The BBC programme on Food Banks did not exactly break new ground except in this respect.

“Almost £3m of public money is being used to help tackle food poverty, BBC Panorama has discovered.

A third of all councils in England and Wales said they had subsidised food banks.”

This us lot already knew,

Policy Exchange reported that a high number of people who break their job search conditions for the first time get their benefits mistakenly taken away from them, and face undue financial hardship as a result.

Jobseekers can lose up to four weeks’ worth of money if they do not adhere to certain regular benefit requirements, such as attending interviews.

The author of the think tank’s report, Guy Miscampbell, said: “It is clear there are a significant number of people who have their benefit taken away from them unfairly. Four weeks without any money is driving people to desperate measures including a reliance on food banks.”

“Issuing first time offenders, who may or may not have been fairly sanctioned, with a ‘yellow card’ in the form of a benefits card would be a more compassionate way of trying to help people back into work.”

I was struck  by an Evangelical Christian busy opening up food banks to further his religious agenda.

He was interested in changing people’s “lives”. He was prepared to be a Nosey Parker and begin by looking at their bank accounts.

No doubt you have to say a polite thank you to those bestowing such charity.

This commentary is worth looking at (Hat-tip: Obi).

Words you thought you’d never write: I am in agreement with Edwina Currie. Ok, I exaggerate. But she did say the following words on Monday night’s Panorama documentary, Hungry Britain:

[Foodbanks are] a bit of a trap. For me this is not a solution

We disagree on what the trap is, or who is being trapped and why. But she is right about food banks not being a solution for hunger, except in the most short-term of emergency situations. Look! I just agreed with Edwina Currie (sort of). More of that later.

Me and Edwina are definitely poles apart on the matter of food poverty, however. With the ennui of someone for whom factual evidence is clearly a troublesome irritant, she declared that food poverty simply did not exist. “It’s about choices”, she said.

What she meant was that she believed poor people had enough money, they just spent it on fags and booze and getting into debt with loan sharks. There’d be no problem if only the poor pulled their socks up and prioritised food instead, she said, just as we all did in the Old Days (When were these Old Days exactly? Has she read Road to Wigan Pier?). It was perhaps just as well she didn’t meet Steve from Bristol, who hadn’t eaten properly for five days and finally went to the food bank when he realised he had £2.75 to live on for a fortnight.

Edwina visited a food bank – though she did look very uncomfortable, as if a piece of hard evidence might leap at out at her at any moment. She disdainfully picked up a bag of crisps from the food bank larder, appalled that poor people would be given something as scrummy and calorific as potato chips. Luxury! she seemed to be saying: how will they ever learn to take responsibility if we give them free crisps!

Poor old Edwina.

Perhaps she could meet up with Evangelicals and make sure only the deserving poor get help.

Welfare Reforms Make People Feel “More Secure” as Man Starves.

March 1, 2014 64 comments

Are these stories related ? (Part 2)

Thursday 23rd January,

“The cuts and sweeping reforms to the welfare system have made people feel “more secure”, according to a senior Government minister.”

Iain Duncan Smith , “the  money saved by reforming benefits has also made people “feel more hopeful about their children’s lives”.

David Cameron, 20th Feburary.

“But our welfare reforms ……..are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.

“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart too of our social and moral mission in politics today.”

Today, Guardian.

“Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut

44-year-old died months after sickness and housing benefits were stopped following Atos fitness-for-work assessment.”

Dr Ward told the inquest the Atos decision was an “accelerating factor” in Wood’s decline and eventual death, according to his family. Wood told housing association staff he was very distressed housing benefit had been cut off, and by letters about rising rent arrears and warnings from the electricity company his supply would be cut off. Many letters were unopened, so he was unaware he needed to visit the jobcentre to reapply for support, his sister, Cathie Wood, said.

He was a “sweet and gentle” person, she said. “He didn’t deserve to die. He wasn’t harming anyone.”

Her brother had struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues all his life, which made it impossible for him to work. He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder in his late 20s, and had an eating disorder and cognitive behavioural problems when he died. He was sacked from his first job because his employer said he was “unable to follow instructions”.

“We worked for years to create a place for him to live safely. But that stopped when his benefits were stopped. He tried so hard to survive,” Ms Wood said.

She is to write to David Cameron, who was her brother’s MP, and to the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to ask them to acknowledge that the system is not working for vulnerable people with mental health issues.

I would like Iain Duncan Smith to stop talking about this as a moral crusade, and admit that this whole process of reassessing people for their benefits is a cost-cutting measure. I want and Cameron to acknowledge the personal costs of this flawed system. This is not just someone being inconvenienced – this is a death,” Cathie Wood said.

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