Tackling Long-Term Unemployment: Workfare Touts Surface.

April 22, 2014 12 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 25 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 82 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.

Cash Charges for Appeals Against Sanctions.

February 26, 2014 27 comments

The Huffington Post reports,

A secret internal document from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that the coalition is planning to charge claimants for appealing against benefit sanctions.

The document, leaked to The Guardian, shows the extent of the government’s assault on civil liberties.

It proposes the “introduction of a charge for people making appeals against [DWP] decisions to social security tribunals” to raise money for the justice department.

What is not said is that this is likely to save a huge amount of money for the DWP through allowing more unjust sanction decisions.

Currently 58% of all appeals to tribunals are successful, a shockingly large figure and evidence again of the fact that targets are driving the huge increase in sanctions rather than any rise in offences by unemployed people.

The existence of targets was confirmed last month by the work and pensions committee of MPs.

Ipswich based Neil Bateman was cited in the Guardian,

Neil Bateman, a long-serving welfare rights lawyer, also described the policy idea as a disgrace. He said: “Stopping people from challenging bad decisions actually strikes at the heart of our democratic arrangement.” He said many of the people he had successfully represented over the years at tribunals would not have got justice if they had been made to pay a fee and that even £5 would be too high a charge for them.

Bateman said that from his experience, a very high proportion of appeals were caused by mistakes and poor-quality decision-making by the DWP. He said this had risen in recent years because the department had got rid of experienced DWP decision-makers, social security law had become more complex and attitudes had changed.

“Under this government there is an attitudinal issue in terms of evidence of increased DWP staff antipathy towards clients and that all results in decisions which are wrong which eventually get turned over at appeal,” Bateman said.

Will this also affect those appealing against ATOS decisions?

The Independent comments,

Figures from the DWP show that one in five recommendations by the Atos firm that suggest benefit recipients are fit for work are overturned at appeal. DWP say the ‘one in five’ figure comes with a caveat: that often more information is being presented at appeal than they were originally party to.

Disability minister Mike Penning last week told MPs the scale of appeals – around 600,000 since its introduction – meant there was “real concern” about the work being carried out. The new proposals are particularly worrying given that anyone wanting to appeal a decision that they are fit to work first has to have all their paperwork looked at again, while receiving no sickness benefits. The Citizens Advice Bureau believes this will result in thousands of people being wrongly forced to survive on no income at all.

Crisis as Atos withdraws following death threats

February 22, 2014 44 comments

Its not looking too good for the Government as Atos has called an early end to their assessment contracts

The conscience of Atos Doctors have finally caught up with them following threats of violence and intimidation in their work along with death threats made to staff face-2-face and online. Atos has had to withdraw from its Government contract for the Work Capability Assessments as its staff are deserting a sinking ship - protesters have done extremely well to put pressure on Atos and expose their actions, and of course get some form of justice for the thousands of victims. But justice is still to come.

Investigation

The tables have turned. The Government is angry at Atos’ for abandoning the bullying and killing of thousands of disabled and sick people. Atos wanted to walk away from the contract for months with great resistance from the Government but decided to break confidentiality by publishing a statement online about withdrawing from the contract. They have broken proper protocol by doing this under desperation…

The issue for the Conservatives (officially, the coalition) is how do you replace Atos with other companies? On paper its relatively simple to do. Atos are kind enough to keep doing the contract until replacements were found. You might be interested in knowing how they want a couple of providers to eventually replace Atos, and not just replacing them with one big company hungry for public cash. The answer is simple, they need parallel action to continue Atos’ work, after all staff are leaving left, right and centre… it makes sense to quickly get an alternative replacement rather than requiring 6-12 months or so to replace the entire Atos offering.

Its true that you are only as strong as your weakest link. This scandal is going to rage now, as the vicious untouchable circle has been broken. Enough medical professionals soon out of Atos employment are likely to be willing to disclose the insider trade secrets and practices via anonymous whistle-blowing – especially if unable to get another similar job.

There will also be greater scrutiny to review the WCA, Atos’ conduct and the contract in general. This is what the Government is angry at. You cannot make a fair assessment on an ongoing contract but once this has been assigned to other providers, both Atos and the Government have a lot of questions to answer to.

Abuse and Violence

Atos claims just under 2000 assaults or severe abuse on staff last year. These so-called medical professionals didn’t mind getting paid for falsifying assessments fully in the knowledge that by doing so could result in death; but as soon as they started to get mildy abused – probably sworn at, they threatened to jump ship, leaving Atos behind.

The Government knows (as Atos does too well) that threats and fear of violence, intimidation and death (allegedly) is only going to increase.

Next Steps

Keep up the pressure on Atos. And the Government!

We need to:-

  1. Pressure the Government into withdrawing the WCA
  2. Pressure any bidders not to want to bid for the replacement contracts
  3. Persuade people via awareness to discourage individuals wanting to apply for the assessment jobs
  4. Keep pressure on Atos. They are still running the contract for now
  5. Get justice for the victims including a full in depth inquiry, including where possible criminal charges

Thanks to everyone protesting against Atos and the poor treatment of the disabled and sick. The media is still paying lip service to this whole scandal. There is a General Election next year, the media are looking for scandals to embarrass the Conservatives and welfare/unemployment/immigration is an increasingly hot topic… keep the pressure on.

JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments

February 20, 2014 23 comments
We have been discussing the need for some reliable information on making appeals against sanctions.

The below is recommended by welfare advisers (thanks, NB).

Link: Here.

Extensive Tips on JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments

53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful

Content

1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?
2) Mandatory reconsideration (Appeal first stage)
2.1) Reconsideration time frame
3) Written statement of reasons
3.1) Be wary of the telephone
4) Second opinion
5) Complain to your MP
6) Hardship payments
7) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction/Benefit
8) Keep claiming
9) Jobcentre adviser is abusive?
Some other points

1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?

Are you a JSA/ESA claimant and have you been sanctioned? If so, it’s important to take effective action promptly. You have a right to appeal. Currently only one claimant in four appeals a sanction. This is far too few, because the statistics show that the success rate of appeals is currently over 50 per cent. In other words your chance of success is better than evens. In fact, everyone should appeal, because even where sanctions are legally justified, the penalties have become unreasonably harsh. Read more…

Welfare “Culture of Fear” Brings “New Hope” Says David Cameron.

February 19, 2014 30 comments

Are these statements related?

 

David Cameron says he is giving unemployed Britons “new hope and responsibility” by cutting their benefit payments and claims his welfare reforms are part of a “moral mission” for the country.

In an article for the Telegraph, the Prime Minister issues a sharp rebuke to Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who said recent changes had left many in “hunger and destitution”.

Daily Telegraph.

 

The Guardian,

Iain Duncan Smith‘s Department for Work and Pensions is presiding over “a culture of fear” in which jobseekers are set unrealistic targets to find work – or risk their benefits being taken away, leading charities have told an official inquiry.

Hostel residents with limited IT facilities are being directed to apply for 50 jobs per week, while single parents are being told they must apply for full-time jobs to continue receiving jobseeker’s allowance, the charities say in evidence to an official inquiry. On Wednesday, new figures are expected to show a record number of claimants have had cash withheld.

The weight of evidence also supports controversial claims by Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, in the week he is due to be made a cardinal by the pope. “Something is going seriously wrong when, in a country as affluent as ours, people are left in that destitute situation and depend solely on the handouts of the charity of food banks,” Nichols said on Tuesday.

The Guardian, unlike Cameron, looks at the evidence,

The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers says “claimants are being sent on schemes with no discussion about whether they are appropriate to their needs and no opportunity for them to make representations about it”. Adequate notification is also not routinely being given”. It says some claimants have been told: “You need to spend 35 hours per week doing job searches and show evidence of 50 to 100 job searches or job applications per week.”

The evidence acts as a counterpoint to those who suggest welfare claimants are seeking a life on benefits. The government has been sufficiently embarrassed by the allegations that it has conceded it will look at a further inquiry into sanctions once the Oakley review has completed.

The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was 860,000, the highest for any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form. The figures due to be published on Wednesday cover the year to September 2013, and are likely to show a further increase in the number of claimants debarred from receiving benefits for as long as three years.

Disabled people are losing access to jobseeker’s allowance at the rate of 14,000 a month, the charities say. In total, the number of them having their benefits sanctioned each month has doubled since the regime was toughened in October 2012.

Just wait till Workfare is introduced – this April.

 

ATOS: National Day of Demonstrations, Ipswich Wednesday 19th February.

February 15, 2014 54 comments

ATOS FEB 19

Ipswich Demo.  19.2.14.

As part of the National protests in Ipswich there will be a demonstration:

A PEACEFUL DEMO WHERE ALL ARE INVITED TO TAKE PART AND SHOW ATOS THAT NO MORE DEATHS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

ATOS Assessment Centre, St Felix House. Silent Street, Ipswich IP1 1TF.

19th February 2014.

10am till 5.30 pm.

Information on ATOS National Demo Page Facebook.

Ipswich Facebook site: here.

IDS Coffin

From Ipswich Demo Tuesday 19.2.14.

Universal Credit – Benefits to Loans

February 14, 2014 19 comments

Word has reached Ipswich Unemployed Action from The Void that Iain Duncan Smith plans to convert 40% of benefit claims into loans as a result from increasing draconian benefit sanctions. Benefit Claimants will be divided into The Deserving Poor and The Undeserving Poor – most of this will be delegated to the private sector to decide within their remit who should be able to claim benefits and who should be forced into a hardship payment loan of up to £6000 or more.

The Deserving Poor

If you are deemed worthy of benefits – perhaps newly unemployed from redundancy or never had a benefit claim before; you will still have to meet an almost endless (and continuously growing) list of conditions, but you will be able to claim benefits.

The Undeserving Poor

If you are deemed to be, lets say “undeserving” of benefits at the DWP or private providers’ (such as on the Work Programme) discretion, by not meeting the list of conditions, then you will be sanctioned up to 3 years. Hardship payments will be replaced with loans – we assume they will be interest free, but we await details – thus converting welfare into loans.

The likelihood of rolling sanctions is rife – 3 year sanctions (paid as a loan) and  recouped in the following 3 years from benefits to pay the outstanding debt.

Some readers might be thinking “6 years?! Who is going to be unemployed that long?” – financial hardship wont force someone into securing work, it alienates people from society, and if it doesn’t kill someone through suicide, its certainly not going to get someone a job.

Welfare to Loans

Ipswich Unemployed Action believes up to 40% of claimants might be subject to these (repayable, obviously) loans at some stage. These will be targeted on long-term (6 months+) unemployed persons especially, but new claimants wont be immune.

We feel that any higher percentage couldn’t be sustained as this is unlawful.

Its probable that longer term the loans could be delegated to Tory banking chums in the latter years of the next parliamentary term if the Tories win the next General Election.

Hardship Payments Welfare Reform

This news reached us from The Void, originally by refuted. Both are heavyweights in championing welfare rights.

Universal Jobmatch – CV Library

February 13, 2014 25 comments

Universal Jobmatch has come under fire for the number of fake employers posting adverts on websites that redirect (or encourage people to click through) to CV Library affiliate links, and claims that they are making £1 per CV uploaded. Is this true? Who is CV Library? We will tell you more.

Who is CV Library?

CV-Library Ltd (trading as CV library on cv-library.co.uk) is a legit job board company.

The company turnover was almost 8.8m last year with a gross profit of £5.9m making just under £3m in profit. The company paid just over £888,000 in Corporation Tax and paid the directors (shareholders) £2,610,178 in dividends – the majority of the profit. The company had £3,192,014 in the bank at the end of the year.

They boast 7.1 million CVs (an increase of 30% on the previous year) and 2.3 million users. Job postings have increased 33% on last year.

Can scammers make £1 per CV?

CV Library has an affiliate scheme where registered affiliates can earn £1 per uploaded CV. Most affiliates are genuine job boards wanting to make additional income. The scammers on Universal Jobmatch are using this affiliate scheme.

CV Library also gives access to a job feed, where affiliates can download their live jobs, as content to encourage their web users to click through to CV Library and upload a CV. Some job websites (genuine or scam) use these jobs for their database.

How does CV Library make its money? Is it from the Government?

No. CV Library gains income by selling opportunities to list a job or by giving unlimited CV access. CV Library charges £99 + VAT to list a job vacancy. They also offer job vacancy posting with unlimited CV database access for £299 + VAT.

The reason why CV Library makes so much money is when you upload your CV through them directly for FREE or through an affiliate for FREE, it costs them no more than £1.50 (taking in account of hosting). They will then sell database access for almost £300 per time where anyone can view or download your CV.

Is it safe to upload your CV?

Not really, none of the websites including Monster are safe to upload your CV. You need your personal information so you can be contacted; but they (potentially a scammer) need not be an employer to access your CV, only willing to spend a few hundred pounds for unlimited access. Who pays, wins.

Is CV Library part of the scam?

There is no evidence to suggest CV library (or its directors and shareholders Brian James Wakem and Lee Richard Biggins – the former no longer either) have anything to do with the scams.

It is no secret or conspiracy that based on its business model, CV Library doesn’t really care where the CVs come from… (this is apparent that it hasn’t started terminating affiliates that tarnish its reputation posting fake job adverts to make money) the more it has in its database the better; furthermore, one of its main competitors Monster Worldwide (which also charges access to CVs) has the contract for the Universal Jobmatch board, so it’s a priority for CV Library to attempt to dominate the mandatory system not to lose out.

Does CV Library have any relationship with the Government?

This is not known but they have granted a multi-job upload facility (i.e. job warehouse) to CV Library.

Can the scammers getting paid £1 per CV view my CV?

No, they can view a list of names, and a very basic version of your CV minus contact details and place names. They simply refer you in return for a cookie, if you upload a CV… CV Library will check for an affiliate cookie, if one exists assign your CV as one they referred. They cannot intercept your CV and do not receive a copy of it

Yes, Of course, for £299 + VAT, they can gain unlimited access to the database; with your name (that shows in the control panel) they can easily obtain your full CV.

Universal Jobmatch – Tender Scam

February 12, 2014 26 comments

So whilst just as much of the public is up-in-arms about the Fake Jobs Scam as there are fake jobs (around 95%) its is nothing compared to the financial scandal surrounding the tendering process. The value far exceeds £1m so its classified as serious fraud. Hat tip to refuted for pointing out about the £950,000 Universal Jobmatch payoff.

A tweet by Simon Jones provides a link to a Freedom of Information request detailing about two tenders for the Universal Jobmatch system – we reveal below further details including how Monster appeared to be third in the initial results of the first tender but managed to win the second tender – you can view the full FOI here (pdf).

Full Credit to Andy Hyams on WhatDoTheyKnow for making the FoI request!

First Tender

Evaluation Scores

Methods Consulting Limited
 (Joint bid with Jobsite UK (Worldwide) Limited)
83 / 100
Steria Limited 81 / 100
Monster Worldwide Limited 66 / 100
Hewlett Packard 61 / 100

Contract Amount

Steria Limited £14,998,351.64
Methods Consulting Limited
(Joint bid with Jobsite UK(Worldwide) Limited)
£19,952,786.13
Hewlett Packard £20,785,556.41
Monster Worldwide Limited £30,692,936.09

Methods Consulting Ltd’s joint bid with Jobsite UK clearly scored the best and provides the second best value (assuming Steria Limited’s costing were too cheap and unrealistic…) so they surely are the winners?

HP did really badly at the scores and were relatively expensive.

Monster Worldwide thought they could stick in a HUGE bid and milk the Government. Pre-recession they all would have  likely bid so high but emphasis is now on value for money more than ever.

Note: colour system is my addition.

Second Tender

So when it came back up for tender a few months later guess who managed to not only improve their score but to meet the score with a big margin of excellent?  94 is pretty much perfect as far as tendering goes. HP appears not to have got involved in the second tender.

Monster Worldwide Limited 94 / 100
Methods Consulting Limited
(Joint bid with Jobsite UK
(Worldwide) Limited)
88 / 100
Steria Limited 78 / 100

How for the contractual amount…  

Steria Limited £14.45m
Monster Worldwide Limited £15.11m
Methods Consulting Limited
(Joint bid with Jobsite UK
(Worldwide) Limited)
£20.44m

So Steria Limited made some cost savings to make them more competitive, they were the cheapest (again!) and this time their score was worse… perhaps the cost cutting damaged their point scoring ability or perhaps the scoring was fixed to prevent the DWP choosing  Steria Limited instead of Monster Worldwide, who had little higher price? We will let you make your own minds up.

Methods Consulting Limited (along with Jobsite – joint bid) raised their price slightly… this seems spot on with the increase in costings due to the delay from the former tender being voided.

Monster Worldwide Limited managed to jump from a poor score of 66 to an exceptional 94… and their price more than halved!!!

Guess who won? Well you know… Monster Worldwide.

Tender Fraud

This is serious multi-million fraud of the taxpayer, not limited to the winning company but from insiders at the Government who clearly made sure Monster Worldwide won the tender process the second time around. Furthermore, the company that should have won fair and square had the previous awarding stripped from them and paid £950,000 in compensation.  The DWP will not reveal why they put the contract back out to tender. We know its not fraud as 1) they wouldn’t be allowed to enter the second tender and 2) they wouldn’t be paid any compensation.

Insider fraud? We at Ipswich Unemployed Action thinks so. We can argue that from previous experience or luck, that they managed to improve their scores… they (Monster) were clearly not sure what range the bids came in for… £30.6m was far out of the running (so was their score too) so someone must have (whether actively helped to defraud the taxpayer or careless unprofessionally disclosed the values of the other bidders…) helped Monster secure the contract when in reality they had no chance in hell of doing so.

What we would like to know whether anyone connected with Monster Worldwide sent a bribe to the Government or the political party in charge (any bribes to Government employees or ministers, or political donations) or whether anyone connected to Monster Worldwide is part of any Tory (but not limited to) gentlemen’ s club, being a friend of a minister or the Prime Minister.

Universal Jobmatch – the Fightback!

February 11, 2014 24 comments

Whilst Part 2 of Universal Jobmatch fake job scams (in response to Channel 4’s fake jobs investigation) is being careful researched, Ipswich Unemployed Action shall reveal how to take action against the scammers!

In this article we will show you how to kick the scammers where it hurts! Remember, DWP would want to sweep this under the carpet… it’s not in their best interest to lose up to 95% of the jobs. If you want to safeguard your benefits and your personal information the best way is to get the fraudsters to retreat as Jobcentre Plus won’t do anything about it.

You can pick and choose how you fight back – but most importantly don’t fight back alone. Spread the word.

Kill their income

The primary reason why most of these scams operate is to receive income directly from jobseekers like you (rather than indirectly by selling your details on – although it’s still a worry). Most income methods are by account paid monthly in arrears – that is they need to display the adverts, gain traffic, wait until the end of the month for it to total up, and sometimes even a month further before they receive the payment – most premature termination clauses wipe the balance and close their account.

5.    Payments

Subject to this Section 5 and Section 10 of these AdSense Terms, you will receive a payment related to the number of valid clicks on Ads displayed on your Properties, the number of valid impressions of Ads displayed on your Properties, or other valid events performed in connection with the display of Ads on your Properties, in each case as determined by Google.

Except in the event of termination, we will pay you by the end of the calendar month following any calendar month in which the earned balance in your Account equals or exceeds the applicable payment threshold.

Google Adsense Terms

If they are unable to set up another account to get the income there is nothing in it for them by posting fake job adverts.

Not only does this prevent them making a tidy sum in the future it removes their past unpaid ill-gotten gains. Don’t do this to all job websites or all websites using these income methods, save it only when you have a genuine non-vexatious complaint. These scammers are ripe for losing out.

First step is to realise what revenue streams they are using.

What does a Google Adsense advert look like?

Some examples…


Google Adsense may be in many different sizes – both text based (such as the big example with the titles) and image based (such as the other two). When you see the blue “play” logo at the top right hand corner, hover over it, it should expand to say “AdChoices”, if its mentions Google in the web address (yes you guessed it) it’s a Google Adsense advertisement!

If you see neither the advertisements, the blue triangular play icon or AdChoices… you sir, have an advert blocker!

What can I report the website user for?

Brief highlights of the Google rules are as follows… the rollover image above is naughty as the advertisements are not allowed on popups or pop unders. ( Only a little snip from a larger popunder )

No more than 3 adverts per page…

Not allowed to encourage or trick users into clicking on adverts …

Not allowed on websites that include or links to illegal content or activities…

Adverts are not allowed to be posted on popups and popunders and pages without much content.

Not allowed to spam you with unwanted emails… (at a push you could claim the job adverts linking direct from Universal Jobmatch to the job description on their website could be an ad network directing traffic to the pages with Adsense adverts on)

How to report the publisher to Google?

Hover over the blue “play” image on the top right hand corner of the advert until it displays up as “AdChoices”. Click on “AdChoices”. A new window/tab should display. Scroll to the bottom… click “the website” radio button (“the ads” is about bad adverts shown rather than ad placement etc.)

Then fill in the form…

We recommend you spend a few minutes detailing the issues with the website. Some American firms like Facebook don’t seem to care but Google are quite good. There isn’t much point reporting a website that doesn’t actually violate their rules. No point writing a template as Google will see it as suspicious – if anyone is to work out copy-and-paste messages, its Google.  Avoid linking to this website or channel 4 etc.

This is probably the most important method to fightback – its money they want – take it away from them and hopefully they will die off somewhere.

CV Library

Those with CV Library or Indeed affiliates, you could try contacting the respective company… but I sense with CV library who appears not to have any terms for their affiliate scheme; couldn’t really care how they get the CV’s; and sound just as guilty as the individuals behind the scams themselves. This said, I don’t believe for a second that CV Library knows the people behind the scams, they just aren’t interested in questioning where they get their CV’s from.

Report to the Advertising Standards Authority

You can complain to the ASA by using their online “make a complaint” tool.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is responsible for regulating online advertising.

Do not make reference to this website, if you do you will waste your time. It’s not a numbers game! Government departments like grouping individual complaints and dismissing them as a conspiracy.

Do not complain about Jobcentre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions or Universal Jobmatch.

It’s the “employer” you need to complain about.

Report to Trading Standards / OFT

Wish I could help, the website is down…

ERROR

The requested URL could not be retrieved

 While trying to retrieve the URL: http://live-new-oft:8080/

 The following error was encountered:

 Read Error

 The system returned:

    (10054) WSAECONNRESET, Connection reset by peer.

 An error condition occurred while reading data from the network. Please retry your request.

Your cache administrator is webmaster.

 Generated Mon, 10 Feb 2014 23:47:49 GMT by 10.10.10.30 (squid/2.5.STABLE7-NT)

Report to the Information Commissioner

For guidance view here… http://ico.org.uk/complaints/handling

Do remember however that the ICO is probably the biggest joke when it comes to regulators (and yes there is enough competition for that title). So it might be a complete waste of your time.

To recap, thank you for reading this article, the scammers are laughing as they receive a fairly decent annual salary from sitting on their backsides all day, as the income is all automated – or the majority of it is. They wont be laughing so much if YOU pull the rug from underneath them!

Universal Jobmatch – List of fake ‘employers’ (Part 1)

February 10, 2014 154 comments

Ipswich Unemployed Action begins with Part 1 of ‘Fake Employers’ on Universal Jobmatch.

What is a “fake employer”? This is any vacancy that will never result in getting a job; the company might exist but may live off revenue from CV Library or Indeed affiliate schemes – or Google Adsense advertisements. In more cases than not, it doesn’t exist, and is to steal personal information or profit from selling your information.

Fake employers types include:-

  1.  Relay Ads – Just posting other job vacancies (whether the original advert job exists or not) usually to promote their own job website, with intention of jobseekers clicking on a Google Adsense advert along side or uploading a CV through CV Library.
  2. Fake Job Adverts – Creating fake adverts to entice people on to their website to get revenue through Google Adsense, CV library or Indeed affiliate scheme. This is identical to the above type except they invent job vacancies rather than copy and paste existing jobs.
  3. Personal Data harvesting – When clicking through you get a holding page with a web form for you to type your details in and upload your CV or alternatively harvest through you directly emailing a CV. No job exists, they just want your personal information.
  4. Fantasy Spare Time game – Some individuals create make-shift agencies advertising fake jobs because they want to run a recruitment agency (primarily they want to set up a business and see money in recruitment due to the large numbers of unemployed people) and are just testing the water. They don’t want to make money out of you or abuse your information, but they have no right in requesting information, pretending to be an agency, when one doesn’t really exist.

We also see adverse options where these so-called employers fail to leave their whois address visible (instead opting out as a non-trading individual for uk domains) or for non-uk domains pay for a service to hide/mask their real address. No genuine employer or agency would do either.

Fake Employers

Just part 1… there are so many its a lot of work going through them all. These were all caught in a 2 week time period (i.e. from 2 weeks ago until today) in Ipswich.

Business Name Contact Methods Owner/Names
Thomas Reilly Associates
MF Training and Recruitment Solutions
Que Consultants
Jobs Junction
Career Nationwide
Recruitment 4 Office
Retail Jobs 4U
Career In Caring
Find My New Job
thomas-reilly.co.uk
mf-solutions.co.uk
que-consultants.co.uk
apply.que-consultants.co.uk
cvapply.career-nationwide.co.uk
retail-jobs4u.com
cv.findmynewjob.co.uk (?)
Mark David Coward
Search Job Vacancies searchjobvacancies.co.uk
UK Recruitment Service UK-LOCALRECRUITMENT.COM
Anvia Management http://www.anvia.co.uk
Jobs Ball Jobsball.com
jobsball.co.uk
Mohamed Amin Karolia
Job Ahoy! Job-ahoy.co.uk Mr Robert Belkin
JKB Group jkbrecruitment.com John Beesley
SP Recruitment sp-recruitment.co.uk Paul Kearey
GCS Gcservice.co.uk Mr Edmond Dutton
R & L Home Enterprises rl-home-enterprises.co.uk
Agents4Jobs Ltd (doesn’t exist) and also Company Confidential agents4jobs.com
*CV Library affiliate*
MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Shine Distribution
Shine Distribution Group
shinedistributiongroup.co.uk Jacqui Reis
Improving Your Future
Bye Distribution
improvingyourfuture.co.uk
C P N Distribution earnbig.co.uk Christopher Nichols
AJM Group ajmgroup.org.uk Ann Mayren
SKR Group skrgroup.co.uk Shirleyann Martin-Roxburgh
KRK Marketing krkmarketing.co.uk Karen Boardman
EG Marketing
PK Prospekts
networkmarketing4u.co.uk
pkprospekts.co.uk
Karen Hall
CIT
(UK Staff Search Ltd)
ukstaffsearch.com
Strike Jobs Strike-jobs.co.uk Tobias Recruitment
Hunkin Distribution hunkindistribution.co.uk
Infocus Group incomeuwant.com Gordon Whittington
Salian Group my-new-life.co.uk Arthur Williams
EPCRS epcrs.co.uk Julian Richens
Vision Focus Group visionfocusgroup.co.uk Stuart Heard
Askew Distribution need-a-change.co.uk Claire Askew
Tjgrecruitment
TJG recruitment
tjgrecruitment.co.uk Jeremy Simmonds
Endeavour Group Distribution endeavourgroupdistribution.co.uk Eileen French

Not complete!

Future Scam Addresses to look out for

Potential Future Scam Domains

2nd-income.co.uk

2ndincomefromhome.co.uk

4earnings.co.uk

4majorincome.co.uk

4realincome.co.uk

a-1.co.uk

a2ndincome.co.uk

betterincomes.co.uk

betterincomes.eu

betterlifestyle.co.uk

betterwealth.co.uk

biggermoney.co.uk

bighitters.co.uk

bigpaycheques.co.uk

changeurlifestyle.co.uk

cheques4life.com

crazymoney.co.uk

designermoney.co.uk

dream-incomes.co.uk

easyearn.co.uk

escape825.com

escaperatrace.co.uk

ezelife.co.uk

fabearner.co.uk

fabincomes.eu

fabulouslifestyle.co.uk

flpbusiness.co.uk

gold-mine.co.uk

good-income.co.uk

goodincomes.co.uk

great-incomes.co.uk

homeincomeopportunity.co.uk

hotmoney.co.uk

income-extra.co.uk

independentdistributor.co.uk

lovebusiness.co.uk

majorincomes.co.uk

makeincome.co.uk

megacash.co.uk

money-earner.co.uk

more-income.co.uk

mypayday.co.uk

networkmarketing.ie

newopportunity4u.co.uk

no1businessopportunity.co.uk

parttimeincome.co.uk

rapidincome.co.uk

readyincomes.co.uk

residualincomes.co.uk

richquick.co.uk

sparetimeincome.co.uk

superincome.co.uk

superlifestyle.co.uk

thelifestyle.co.uk

vast-incomes.co.uk

want-incomes.co.uk

you-earn.co.uk

yourincome.co.uk

How to spot a scam

  • Highly replicated job adverts – so many of them repetitive of the same content over and over again, likely a scam
  • Self-employed jobs in the millions – a self-employed position isn’t a job
  • A website address (domain name) shouldn’t be tempting – if its about getting rich or easy money its a scam
  • The words “Group” and “Distribution” are hot words used in the employer name of scams
  • When you are clicking through a link to apply for a job – a real employer or agency wont be covered in adverts, wont ask you to upload a CV to third party websites (i.e. CV Library) and wont simply be a web form to input information and upload a CV.
  • Temptations of income are never freely stated in real job adverts – they will tell you the salary but not remind you before applying
  • “Big Advertising” and “Big Hosting” are phrases if you see, should carry the action of running away
  • “No Boss – No Employees – No Stock  No Selling – No Debts – No Problems.” is a sign
  • If you do a whois most scams are hosted on 1&1 (1and1) or Big Advertising

How you can help

You can help us by investigating Universal Jobmatch jobs that look dodgy too…

  • Google the employer name
  • Do a whois lookup on the domain name
  • Do a reverse whois lookup on the registrants name, IP address or nameserver
  • Do a company search for the company (if ends in Ltd, Limited, Plc, LLP) to see if it exists
  • Report back here in the comments!

Universal Jobmatch and Fake Jobs on Channel Four News.

February 8, 2014 72 comments

Channel Four News yesterday carried this report,

Why is government website carrying fake jobs?

The government’s Jobmatch website is carrying bogus vacancies from nine online recruitment agencies run by a Baptist deacon in Coventry, who makes money by encouraging visitors to post their CVs.

More than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website may be bogus, an investigation by Channel 4 News has found.

The jobs, which range from sous chefs to dry cleaners, account for almost one in 50 of all those posted in Britain on the site and, in some areas, a third of all the jobs available on Jobmatch, may be fake.

Since March 2013 it has been mandatory for all jobseeker’s allowance claimants to register and use the Jobmatch website.

Those who fail to do so can have their benefits cut entirely. But if some of the jobs on the site are not genuine, the claimants who have applied for them may have been wasting their time.

The Channel 4 News investigation found that nine apparently unconnected recruitment websites, advertising thousands of positions across the UK, are all controlled by one man in Coventry – Mark Coward, a businessman and Baptist deacon who has posted thousands of jobs.

Coward’s company

In recent months, Coward has received thousands of pounds for marketing job products at applicants. Jobseekers who answered any one of thousands of ads posted by Coward were encouraged to visit a legitimate recruitment business, CV-Library, using links that showed Coward had recommended them.

He then received £1 for every CV successfully submitted to CV library. Coward later told Channel 4 News that most of the original applications submitted to him for the jobs he posted were then simply deleted.

Last year Channel 4 News was contacted by Richard Evens, an out-of-work librarian who had concerns.

At first, Mr Evens was delighted when a raft of library jobs suddenly appeared on the Universal Jobmatch website. Each position was offered in a different area of the country but the job descriptions were identical.

Three companies posted the ads: Thomas Reilly Associates, MF Training and Recruitment Solutions and Que Consultants.

All are controlled by Coward, and his business network has many other identities. Jobs Junction, Career Nationwide, Recruitment 4 Office, Retail Jobs 4U, Career In Caring, and Find My New Job are all controlled by him.

Some of the websites associated with these businesses were registered anonymously but linked back to rental properties owned by Coward in Coventry.

It was under the names of Thomas Reilly Associates Ltd, a dormant recruitment company based at a PO box in London, and Que Consultants, a dissolved recruiter which employed Coward’s wife Dionne, that most ads were posted however.

‘Offshore outsource company’

Channel 4 News sought to establish the credibility of some of the adverts listed on the Universal Jobmatch by these firms. It was unable to find a dry cleaning job posted in Greenhithe, Kent, or sous chef position posted in Lairg in the Scottish Highlands.

One in three jobs located in Lairg and available on the Jobmatch website had been posted by Coward.

The search continued but, having failed to find any employers matching the job descriptions posted by the Cowards, we contacted them.

They said that they were unable to verify if the jobs were genuine because all the adverts they uploaded on the Universal Jobmatch website had been harvested by an “offshore outsource company”, run by a man called Vikram Mishra in New Delhi.

Channel 4 News was unable to contact Mr Mishra at the address they gave in Delhi, and no trace of the company they claim to work with has been found. The Cowards “categorically reject any accusation that they willingly posted adverts for jobs that weren’t authentic”.

This afternoon, CV Library, the firm that paid the Cowards, told us that they have terminated the relationship.

Concerns about the quality of employer vetting on the Universal Jobmatch first emerged in 2012 when hackers posted a job advert for a “Target Elimination Specialist working for the British government” – “particularly suitable”, so the ad said, “for those who like their martinis shaken and not stirred”.

In response, the Department for Work and Pensions said they would vet employers to ensure that the jobs posted on the site are genuine.

Our investigation places question marks on thousands of them. Tonight the DWP told us: “The vast majority of those employers offer genuine roles for jobseekers to apply for – however we won’t hesitate to ban the small minority who try to break the rules and post fraudulent jobs. When possible, it can – and has – led to criminal prosecutions.

“This individual has been suspended from the site and the vacancies removed. We take any allegations of this nature very seriously and will investigate any further evidence Channel 4 provides.”

Ipswich Unemployed Action carried a report Universal Jobmatch for Jobseekers Part 2 which outlined  concerns about Universal Jobmatch in December 2012.

Universal Jobmatch is full of “Test Data”, agency mass-postings (the rest of the world calls it spam) and old job data being reposted as new vacancies under “Company Confidential”.

The scandal of the Government getting people to apply for fake positions which may result to identity theft is shockingClearly nothing has been done about them.

 

Sanction Changes under Universal Credit.

February 6, 2014 66 comments

Coming our way, this year….

Will conditionality and sanctions change when Universal Credit is introduced? 

Yes.

There will be more conditionality and much tougher sanctions under UC.

In order to receive UC, claimants must sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’. This will set out what the claimant will be expected to do as a condition for receiving UC.

This will include work-focused requirements where appropriate. Failure to comply with a ‘Claimant Commitment’ could result in a reduction in the amount of UC the claimant receives.

The sanction amount will be up to 100 per cent of the ‘standard allowance’.

Claimants will not be able to receive more than one sanction within a two week period. For example, UC claimants on the equivalent of JSA, will face the following sanctions:

Offence Sanction Refusing a job offer 100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for three months

Refusing second job offer within a year of the first offence 100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for six months.

You won’t escape  the clutches of dim but nasty Iain Duncan Smith even if you get a (low paid) job.

Will claimants who are in work still be subject to conditionality and sanctions?

Yes.

UC claimants earning under the ‘conditionality earnings threshold’ (usually the equivalent of 35 hours at National Minimum Wage – currently £210 per week for a single person or £420 per week for a couple) will continue to be subject to conditionality requirements and any resulting sanctions once they enter work.
Sanctions received before moving into work will continue whilst the claimant is working. However, sanctions will be cancelled if the claimant works for six consecutive months or more above the conditionality earnings threshold.

Refusing third job offer within a year of the second offence 100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for three years.

Unlike at present, sanctions will not run concurrently. This means that if a claimant receives the first two sanctions in the table above within say three weeks, they will effectively be sanctioned for nine months.

From Crisis.

More Advice Guide CAB

Hat-Tip on sanctions changes to Annos - Refuted.

4 A4E Fraudsters Plead Guilty.

February 5, 2014 16 comments

Four former employees of scandal-hit welfare-to-work firm A4E admitted swindling taxpayers yesterday.

The guilty pleas follow a police investigation into the troubled company which is paid more than £200m by the Government each year.

Julie Grimes, 50, Aditi Singh, 30, Bindiya Dholiwar, 27, and Dean Lloyd, 36, admitted dozens of offences of fraud and forgery.

From the friend of the Dole Queue, The Daily Mail. 

Watching A4E comments,

The Daily Mail reports that the first four ex-A4e staff in the long drawn out fraud case pleaded guilty at court in Reading yesterday.  They admitted a total of 32 offences of fraud and forgery while working on a scheme called Inspire to Aspire, which ended in 2011.  (There’s a fifth person who couldn’t get to the court and will plead guilty later.)  The Mail claims credit for this case, but it was a whistle-blower who brought it all to light, and A4e has always claimed that it was their own audit processes which revealed the fraud, and they notified the police.  However it was revealed, it is embarrassing, to say the least.  Money was claimed for job outcomes which were fictitious.  The fact that this first batch has pleaded guilty means we won’t get to hear the details, but it appears to have involved forging outcome forms or signatures.
Sentencing hasn’t happened yet.  Eight more people are due for trial in October (!) so this drags on.

This is worth a chuckle,

A4e STATEMENT ON THAMES VALLEY POLICE INVESTIGATION – 3 FEBRUARY 2014

Four former A4e employees today (3 February 2014) admitted fraudulent activity at A4e while employed to deliver the European Social Fund (ESF) ‘Aspire to Inspire’ Lone Parent mentoring programme in the Thames Valley region.

Following the guilty pleas at Reading Crown Court today, A4e Chief Executive Andrew Dutton said:

“I am deeply disappointed that a small number of people who formerly worked for A4e on the  ‘Aspire to Inspire’ contract in the Thames Valley up to 2011 clearly let down the people they were supposed to help, and in turn the taxpayer, DWP and A4e.

A4e co-operated fully with the police enquiry, after our own internal investigation first brought these incidents to light.

Since these events took place, we have augmented our controls and processes to seek to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again. This includes implementing all of the recommendations for improvement made to us by White & Case LLP following their independent review of our core processes.

Furthermore, rigorous audits undertaken by the DWP and the Skills Funding Agency have concluded that there is no evidence of fraud on any of the contracts that we currently hold with them.  A4e has, of course, committed to paying back in full the total value of unsubstantiated claims that were made to the Department for Work and Pensions as a result of the activities of these former employees.

I would also like to say thank you to our 3,000 loyal, hard-working and principled staff who each day deliver public services to the highest standards that help to improve the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society.  I am intensely proud of what they do and deeply sorry that the allegations have for so long cast a shadow over their good work.”

We expect there to be massive increase in fraud when this happens  in April 2014.

Almost one million people will be forced to work unpaid for six months if a new government work scheme is extended across the country, a thinktank has said.

Under the Department for Work and Pensions community action programme (Cap), which has completed a pilot stage and whose rollout is expected to be announced this autumn, people on jobseeker’s allowance for longer than three years must work for six months unpaid or have their benefits stripped from them.

As indicated above, this is not “if” the scheme is introduced but when it is - in a couple of months!

Council Tax: Claimants End up in Court.

February 2, 2014 59 comments

A few weeks ago the Guardian reported,

Thousands in court for council tax arrears as benefit cuts hit home

Many people who were formerly exempt from paying now face court, as the bedroom tax adds to spiralling debt burden.
With government cuts to means-tested council tax benefit, many people are now facing liability orders for arrears. From April 2013, the government slashed funding for council tax benefit by £500m, and instructed local authorities to decide how the reduced benefit should be distributed. The poorest residents, unemployed, disabled or low paid, now find themselves paying council tax where previously they were exempt.

The sums seem small on paper, but to the unemployed and low paid, day to day, they’re untenable. Already on subsistence benefits and faced with rising living costs, even £3-5 is a big dent in a very meagre weekly budget.

As with the bedroom tax, the people receiving these bills previously weren’t charged because they didn’t have the means to pay. Their financial circumstances haven’t improved, they’ve only worsened as the cost of living has risen, but they’re expected to find even more money from ever-squeezed budgets.

Across the country, every poverty charity, MP and council official I spoke to repeated the same message – this is only the first wave of summonses: as the policy takes effect, and as more people struggle to keep up with payments, the courts will find more and more of the poorest in society in their courtrooms. As early as October 2013 Labour estimated that 450,000 vulnerable people had been summonsed as a result of the withdrawal in council tax benefit, and many more have been summonsed since.

Behind this is the following,

Withdrawal of council tax support leads to 30% increase in court proceedings

Councils that passed on government’s cut to means-tested council tax relief report doubling in rate of liability orders sent to non-payers.
The number of households threatened with bankruptcy, repossession and ultimately prison has increased at double the rate in local authorities that passed on government cuts to council tax benefits, leaving 670,000 facing bailiffs in the first six months of this year, new figures have revealed.

In local authorities that made no cuts to the benefit there was a 15% increase in the number of liability orders – issued by magistrates courts for non-payment of council tax – on the previous year as the economy stagnated. However, this figure jumps to 30% in local authorities that withdrew public assistance to the poor.

The survey of more than 200 local authorities, conducted using freedom of information requests by anti-cuts campaigners False Economy, revealed that more than 25 people a day were issued with liability orders between April and September in areas without council tax support.

Ministers cut funding for the means-tested benefit by

The figures in this area are stark:

Council: Suffolk Coastal
Political party: Cons
Change in liability orders: (%) 81.44

Council: St Edmundsbury (Suffolk)
Political party: Cons
Change in liability orders: (%) 90.11

Council: Tendring (Essex).

Political party: Cons

Change in liability orders: (%) 47.87%

 

The figures for other councils in the area near to Ipswich, and Ipswich itself,  are not given.

Indications are that the burden on benefit claimants is likely to increase significantly this year.

Is Seetec the new A4e?

January 30, 2014 30 comments

Seetec (South East Essex TEchnology Centre) is a relatively local “training” organisation that has become a significant workfare player in recent years. Their wikipedia page states their success of seeking 4,417 benefit sanctions to “Work Programme conscripts” in just a single week. They use the Provider Direct sanction hotline more than any other provider. Read more…

End Incentive to Sanctions say MPs.

January 28, 2014 28 comments

Jobcentre staff should no longer be given incentives according to how many benefit claimants they get off the dole but instead should be rewarded for how many they get back into employment, according to a critical report published on Tuesday by a committee of MPs.

The work and pensions select committee said claimants were in many cases wrongly losing their benefits and that a “haphazard” approach to assessing claimants meant that individual needs or problems were often misunderstood.

The select committee report claims jobcentre staff refer many claimants for a benefit sanction inappropriately, or “in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.

The committee also said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needed to take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by claimants losing their benefits – including the collection and publication of data on the number of claimants “signposted” to food aid by jobcentres and the reasons why these claimants were in need of assistance.

The report added that a current government review into sanctions was too limited. The review has been made more urgent by the minister for employment Esther McVey’s admission that the number of sanction referrals made by jobcentre advisers is part of a “variety of performance data” used to monitor their work.

Academic research cited in the report found that 19% of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants in the period from April 2008 to March 2012 were sanctioned – a total of 1.4 million people.

Sanctioning rates in the year to October 2012 were 4.2% of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants per month. For claimants aged 18–24 the rate was 8% per month.

But the latest release of official data, covering the period from the introduction of tougher regimes in late 2012 to June 2013, shows that sanctioning rates have increased further to around 5% each month.

In total 553,000 jobseeker’s allowance sanctions were applied, an increase of nearly 11% on the same period in 2011-12. The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was around 860,000, the highest number in any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form in April 2000.

The committee challenged claims by DWP ministers that staff were not disciplined for failing to meet targets to get claimants off the dole. It also asked if it was sensible that jobcentre staff should be regarded as having succeeded if jobseeker’s allowance claimants simply no longer received benefit.

More on the Guardian site.

The sanctioning regime  might well be one of the reasons for the new unemployment figures.

You hear about people suffering all the time.

It is an utter scandal.

a4e 2012-2013 accounts reveal worrying times for a4e

January 25, 2014 29 comments

Is a4e continuing to do well with Welfare to Work contracts or is their time up? Their latest published accounts (snippets and downloads included) seem to suggest they had a really bad time, further allegations of their credit rating being cut since then doesn’t paint a rosy picture for Emma Harrison and A4e.

Read more…

Ian Duncan Smith Praises Benefit Street, Says Fall in Unemployment Shows His Reforms Work.

January 23, 2014 50 comments

Britain’s jobless rate fell sharply to 7.1% in the three months to November from 7.4%. It was a far bigger drop than economists were expecting, with most forecasting a modest fall to 7.3%.

Johnny Void comments,

No matter how much DWP Ministers try to spin the figures there is still a desperate shortage of jobs.

It is simply not known how much of this month’s fall in unemployment is down to zero hours contracts, or how many of the 4.36 million people now working self-employed are dependent on Working Tax Credits and not making any real money.

Although this month shows a welcome drop in the use of workfare, this also distorts the true picture of the labour market. Unpaid workers on Jobcentre schemes are conveniently disappeared from the official tally of the unemployed. Benefit sanctions, which have risen sharply, can also lead people to abandon benefit claims and drop out of the figures – often to disappear into the black market or become dependent on the charity of friends, families and foodbanks. No-one is counting how many people are now living like this.

Whatever the true rate of unemployment one thing is certain. There are currently 2.32 million officially unemployed people and just 569,000 vacancies. Even if all those vacancies are filled by someone unemployed tomorrow, there will still be approaching two million unemployed people.

Meawnwhile Ian Duncan Smith says this,

Middle-class Britain has been shocked by the hidden reality of welfare ghettos revealed by TV programmes such as Benefits Street, Iain Duncan Smith is expected to say as he welcomes a Bank of England report claiming that his welfare-to-work reforms are bearing fruit.

In a speech on Thursday marking the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, the work and pensions secretary is due to say: “With income inequality under Labour the worst for a generation, whilst the middle-class majority were aware of the problems in poor communities, they remained largely unaware of the true nature of life on some of our estates.

“We let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country. Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street.”

In fact the Liberal-Conservative Coalition has helped create these “ghettos” and its ‘reforms’ will create massive problems in sustaining a drop in unemployment.

  • They are based on the “nudge” theory. That is that people must be pushed into looking for work. This means making their lives on benefits so unpleasant that they will do anything to get off them
  • In this way the Government has created a whole group people trapped in debt, fearful, and unhappy.
  • They have enriched the “unemployment business”. These have made helping finding a job a profession. The experience of these “courses” (from the Work programme’s providers onwards) marks people. The government has reduced access to courses giving genuine qualifications and emphasises beauty competitions for employers rather than skills.
  • By suspensions and low benefits they have  fueled huge increase in the numbers reliant on charity – food banks.
  • The Bedroom Tax has made people insecure in their own homes and has added to the numbers of those barely able to afford the minimum requirement of normal life.

Ian Duncan Smith continues,

“The reality is that our welfare system has become distorted, no longer the safety net it was intended to be. Too often it is an entrapment – as it has been for a million people left on incapacity benefits for a decade or more, or the more than 4 million abandoned on out-of-work benefits even before the recession.”

This is a world, ” where gangs were prevalent, debt and drugs the norm … families broken down … those living there had one thing in common: they were for the most part dependent on the state for their daily needs.

The reality is that Ian Duncan Smith has cut away the safety net, created a system of dependency on the arbitrary provision of Charity, broken up families, encouraged criminality, and helped form a whole generation cut off from mainstream society.

He should be ashamed to even appear in public, let alone lecture us on the ‘success’ of his destructive activities.

Meanwhile, it’s like fucking Narnia in the DWP!

David Cameron’s Government to be reported to United Nations over bedroom tax and benefit cuts

January 20, 2014 62 comments

Is this a turning point to reverse the bedroom tax and benefit cuts? Liverpool Council is reportedly referring the Tory Government’s controversial welfare reform policies to the United Nations for what it says is a breach of the UN economic and social rights convention.

It is to be seen whether other local authorities or government departments will follow suit – and how this action could effect Ipswich and the local area – in addition to the country as a whole.

Liverpool Council says the PM’s government could be breaking international laws on ensuring people are kept out of poverty

Liverpool Council is reporting David Cameron to the United Nations, claiming that his government could be breaking international rules on keeping people out of poverty.

Authority bosses believe the coalition – through its controversial policies such as the hated bedroom tax and welfare reform – could be in breach of the UN economic and social rights convention that sets out minimum standards for access to food, clothing and housing.

Labour members from all parts of the city have spoken of the evidence they have gathered of people who were being forced into degrading poverty because they were being denied access to benefits they desperately needed.

Many are ending up having to resort to what they said was effectively “begging” for food at food banks, the Liverpool Echo reports.

At a meeting this week, councillors heard stories of people stripped of their dole money for up to 16 weeks because they had been late for interviews or had failed to meet the criteria of the government’s Welfare to Work programme.

And they heard claims that in some job centres in the city, suspensions of benefits and other sanctions had risen by up to 500% since 2012.

But the government has hailed the removal of benefits from people who “aren’t pulling their weight” as evidence that the “something for nothing” culture was being tackled.

Cabinet member for children’s services in Liverpool Cllr Jane Corbett, who brought forward a motion along with Croxteth Cllr Barry Kushner, said: “We were elected to represent the people of Liverpool and speak up for them, fight for justice for them to make sure their voices are heard.”

In a rare moment of cross-party unity, Lib Dem Cllr Pat Moloney said: “It is the moral purpose of government to protect its citizens … and to keep them out of hunger and worse.”
by Mark Waddington in the Mirror, Jan 17th 2014: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/liverpool-council-report-david-cameron-3031436

Thanks to Benefit Tales

Getting a Proper Jobseeker’s Agreement.

January 16, 2014 100 comments

More thanks to our friends from Haringey (which incidentally is Andrew Coates’ original homeland).

Signing on? Don’t let the Job Centre rob you.

This leaflet tells you how to get a workable jobseekers agreement (or claimant commitment), sustain your claim for as long as you need it, and resist the job centre’s efforts to make you destitute and prevent you from looking for work.

Staff at this job centre have been told to use illegal targets to stop the benefits of a minimum number of people every week. From the day you claim Jobseekers Allowance, they are your enemies. They will use any excuse, or none, to sanction (stop) your Jobseekers Allowance. They do this by setting you up with a jobseekers agreement, or claimant commitment, that is too difficult to sustain, and that will trip you up sooner or later. If you ‘fail’ on one occasion, you will have your money stopped for four weeks. For a second ‘failure’, they will stop your money for 16 weeks. Your money can be stopped for up to three years.

Don’t let them do it. If you are about to start a claim for JSA, go into the job centre with your own plan of what you intend to do to look for work, that you know is workable – read this leaflet for ideas. If you already have a jobseekers agreement, you can have it changed. Tell the person you see when you sign on what you want changed. They don’t make the final decision about it. If they won’t change your jobseekers agreement, tell them to refer it to a decision maker. They can’t refuse this. The decision maker has to make a decision in writing within 14 days to say whether they will make the change or not. If not, you can appeal.

In a jobseekers agreement, or claimant commitment, you have to set out what you will do to look for work. But if job centre staff try to put any of the following actions in your agreement, they are setting you up to have your benefits stopped:

  • They tell you to apply for a minimum number of jobs every week – how does anybody know how many jobs will come up? It will vary each week, from none to a dozen or more. It is good enough to say you will apply for every vacancy you find that you are capable of doing.

  • They tell you that you have to look in the same newspapers, or at the same websites, on every day of the week, or more than once every day. They’re waiting for you to miss one out one day so that they can stop your money. Websites and newspapers do not always update their job vacancies every day, and vacancies are always advertised for at least a week. You won’t miss anything if you look at each source of vacancies two or three times per week. Besides that, you need to have time to apply for the vacancies you do find! And time to attend any job interviews. Insist in putting in your agreement “I will apply for all the jobs I find that I can do”, and “I will attend all job interviews I am offered, and this will take priority above all other appointments.” This is necessary, because the job centre will sanction people for going to a job interview on the same day as they sign on, even if you tell them why you have to change your signing on time.

  • They tell you that you have to set up an account on the DWP’s job vacancy website, Universal Jobmatch, and that you have to give the job centre staff access to your account, so they can monitor what jobs you apply for. On no account let them monitor you. Their own guidance, contained in the Universal Jobmatch Toolkit, paragraph 56, says they cannot direct you to give them access to your account; this is the customer’s decision, not theirs. You cannot be sanctioned for refusing, there is nothing they can do about it. Besides that, you can use Universal Jobmatch without logging in.

  • The reason you should not let the jobcentre monitor your job searching activities is because there is a new regulation (regulation 9 of the Jobseekers regulations) which says that you have to spend 35 hours per week looking for work. This might be almost possible to do if there was full employment. But there is not. So, if you don’t let the jobcentre monitor independently what you do, they will have to take your word for how much time you have spent.

  • Note: If you are looking after children or a disabled relative, you do voluntary work, you work part time, or you have physical or mental health problems, you can reduce the hours to as low as 17 per week. (Jobseekers regulation 12) The number of hours you do is up for discussion (or argument) with the job centre staff.

  • They tell you to take a ridiculous number of steps each week to look for work. A step is any one of these types of action: looking in the newspaper’s job vacancies section; phoning an employer to get an application form; filling in the application form and sending it back; looking at a company website to see if they’re recruiting; phoning a previous employer to see if they’re taking on any new staff. Taking 10-12 steps each week is as much as you reasonably need to do, to have a good chance of finding work. If you are well organised, and think you will find a lot of jobs to apply for, you could agree to take a minimum of 20 steps. But if you’re asked to do more than that, they’re setting you up. You only have to miss one step out of 20 one week for them to have an excuse to stop your money.

  • They tell you to register for Universal Jobmatch, or put your CV online, when they know you can’t use the internet, can’t read and write easily, if English is not your mother tongue, or you haven’t got access to the internet at home. Jobcentre staff see people with these limitations as easy targets for sanctions. If you’re in this position, don’t be intimidated. If they try to insist on directing you to do something you can’t, tell them to read paragraphs 57 to 60 of the Universal Jobmatch Toolkit guidance. If they still insist, you insist on it being referred to a decision maker. If they still won’t back down, you can both appeal and make a formal complaint.

  • They tell you to go round a certain number of local employers every week to ask for work. –If you agree to this, you’ll have to insist on an end date because you will soon run out of employers to ask. But it is difficult for the job centre to monitor that you’re doing it.

  • Always keep a written record of everything you do to look for work, and make sure it matches what you have agreed to do. Keeping a record is a legitimate requirement for you to keep getting Jobseekers Allowance.

For more information about resisting sanctions, and how to appeal, look at

www.workandbenefits.blogspot.com .

Or contact your local claimant’s union, unemployed centre or anti cuts campaign.

NOTE (Ipswich Unemployed Action):

KEEPING A WRITTEN RECORD OF EVERYTHING THEY ASK YOU TO DO IS A VERY IMPORTANT.

We all have to present evidence of Job Search, and do a kind of ‘school assignment’ every time we sign on, so this should not be too difficult to do to cover what they ask from you..

Though personally it is a pain it is perhaps not a good idea, as some have indicated, to write,

“Went for job in Pencil Factory but I was not sharp enough” “Went for job in bakery but they didn’t give enough dough.”

 

How to Appeal Sanctions.

January 15, 2014 85 comments

LEAFLET how to appeal sanctions

Have your benefits been sanctioned (stopped)?

Do you want to get your money back?

Many sanction decisions are illegal because they are unreasonable, malicious, or because they are not in accordance with the benefits regulations. They could also be illegal if you were sanctioned because your jobseekers agreement or claimant commitment was set up to ask you to do things you were bound to fail at.

If you appeal, you could get your money back. Okay, it’s not an instant solution. It takes a bit of time. But look at it this way: if you don’t appeal, and do nothing, you’ll get nothing. If you appeal – and it doesn’t take up much time – you might not only get your money back. You’ll also be sending the DWP a message that they can’t mess with you. They don’t like having to spend time and money defending appeals. You’re less likely to get sanctioned unfairly again. And the more people who appeal, the less likely anybody is to get unjustly sanctioned.

Here’s how you do it:

If you had your benefits sanctioned before 28th October 2013, you can appeal straight to the office that stopped your benefits. Skip to the section on ‘appeals’, below.

If you have your benefits sanctioned after 28th October 2013, you first write, or phone, the office that made the decision, and say you want a reconsideration. There is a new rule that you have to do this before you can appeal. If you write, you need to give your name, national insurance number, address, the date the decision was made, and which benefit you were claiming.

If you can get enough information to prove the sanction was not in accord with the benefit rules (such as the Jobseekers regulations or other benefit regulations), you might be able to get the decision changed at the reconsideration stage. If your claimant commitment or Jobseekers agreement has been fixed by your job centre adviser to be something you couldn’t do, or so difficult to sustain that you were bound to trip over some requirement in it at some point, you could get the decision changed because it is obviously unreasonable. For example, if your job centre adviser told you to apply for jobs or put a CV online when they know you can’t use the internet, or you have difficulty reading and writing, or if they told you to agree to work hours, or sign on, when you have to take your children to school, this is unreasonable. These are just examples. There are other reasons why a decision might be unreasonable or illegal.

Appeals

If you don’t get the decision changed and get your money back at the reconsideration stage, you can appeal direct to the Tribunals Service. You have to appeal by letter or by using an appeal form. You can use the model letter on the back of this sheet. For the north west region, send your appeal to:

The Tribunal Service, 36 Dale Street, Liverpool L2 5UZ.

For other regions, there are Tribunal Service offices in Sutton, Newcaastle, Leeds, Glasgow, Epsom, Cardiff and Birmingham.

The DWP should send you two reconsideration notices. You have to send one of them to the Tribunals Service with your appeal.

You can add further information to support your appeal after you get the appeal papers from the DWP, and up to two weeks before your appeal hearing. You need to post new information at least two weeks before the hearing date, or the judge might not get it in time to read it.

Model reconsideration letter

Your name

DWP office address………………. Your address…………………………..

………………………………………. ………………………………………….

………………………………………. ………………………………………….

………………………………………. ………………………………………….

Your national insurance number

I am applying for a reconsideration of your decision, made on [put the date of the decision] to sanction my Jobseekers Allowance [if you were claiming a different benefit, put the name of that benefit instead]. My reasons for applying are {state your reasons].

Model appeal letter

Set this out in the same way, but instead of applying for a reconsideration, say:

I wish to appeal against your decision, made on [put the date of the decision] not to reconsider the sanction you have placed on my Jobseekers Allowance payments. My reasons for appealing are [state your reasons].

For an appeal to be valid, it has to state the date of the decision you are disputing, the name of the benefit, and your reasons for appealing. The reasons do not need to be long, two or three sentences is enough to begin with.

If you want help with an appeal or reconsideration

Ask the person or place where you got this leaflet.

If your local law centre or citizens advice bureau still employs specialist welfare rights advisers, you might get help from them. (Not all of them still have funding for welfare rights specialists)

Otherwise send a text message to this number: 07743972236

Thanks to the Haringey friends!

Poverty Porn: Off Our Streets!

January 12, 2014 52 comments

The Birmingham Mail reports today  (I know people in Brum well who have signalled this to me).

It was supposed to a moment of pride for the residents of one of Birmingham’s most deprived neighbourhoods, now infamously known as Benefits Street .

James Turner Street was awarded eighth place in the West Midlands heat of Britain in Bloom.

But the results ceremony, staged at a local school, descended into a battle ground between parents – as ‘White Dee’ accused another mum’s child of biting her son Gerard.

“He’s been bitten,” Dee accuses the women while crossing her arms in anger.

“No-one bites anyone,” she demands, her voice rising as she becomes more irate as the other mum attempts to offer an explanation for the alleged incident and by-standers watch with concern.

The parents are caught on camera by crews filming for the controversial Channel 4 series Benefits Street.

These scenes of anger are due to be screened in the latest episode on Monday night.

It was supposed to a moment of pride for the residents of one of Birmingham’s most deprived neighbourhoods, now infamously known as Benefits Street .

James Turner Street was awarded eighth place in the West Midlands heat of Britain in Bloom.

But the results ceremony, staged at a local school, descended into a battle ground between parents – as ‘White Dee’ accused another mum’s child of biting her son Gerard.

“He’s been bitten,” Dee accuses the women while crossing her arms in anger.

Watched by 4.3million people – far more than any Channel 4 show during, and since, Christmas week – the opening episode was littered with swear words and criminality.

Death threats were made against some of the show’s contributors after shoplifting, theft, benefit fraud, drug taking and anti-social behaviour were featured on the programme.

West Midlands Police officers are viewing the broadcast to assess whether to mount criminal investigations.

The Department for Work and Pensions is also understood to be monitoring the series.

Ofcom received over 400 complaints about the episode, and a petition, calling for Channel 4 to bin the series, has attracted close to 20,000 signatures.

Owen Jones said of this pile of cack,

How edgy Channel 4 must think it is, courageously reinforcing widespread prejudices, heroically hammering away at a message that is heard relentlessly already, bravely echoing the Government mantra about skivers. I hesitate to write about Benefits Street, their miserable programme which aired this week, knowing as I do that I’m partly satisfying its producers’ lust for attention. After all, these are people who seemingly show little concern for people’s well-being in their stampede for ratings. Columns like this one could be passed off by disingenuous TV executives as a sign of the “debate” that their trash has helped to provoke. But the only debate to be opened is why we let our media get away with it.

Johnny  Void comments, with justified anger,

There are few things more unpleasant than a bunch of coked up media wankers deciding it would be a jolly jape to make a film exploiting the lives of people in poverty.

You can imagine the braying laughter as the makers of Channel 4′s Benefits Street egged on people with drink problems to perform in front of the camera, even allegedly supplying them with alcohol to make sure they were shown in the worst possible light.  With clever editing, and in one participant’s case at least, genuinely vulnerable people, it isn’t hard to create the desired freak show.  People perform for the camera.  Fill them full of booze first and film the resulting carnage and watch the ratings soar -  particularly if the group you are stigmatising are already a target of tabloid fuelled hate.

The resulting and all too predictable reaction on twitter, where some people called for benefit claimants to be killed – yes killed – must have been a huge source of amusement to the programme makers.  Boss of documentaries at Channel 4, Nick Mursky, even claims this justified the show, saying to The Guardian that: “the furore surrounding it reinforces my view that we should absolutely be making programmes in this territory.”

Channel Four have been contacting unemployed campaigners during the week asking for our co-operation in a new documentary, for the News programme, about Universal Job Match.

The words, fuck off ! come to mind. 

Lets Lynch the Landlord!

January 8, 2014 31 comments

A pair of property tycoons have sent eviction letters to over 200 of their tenants claiming housing benefit – and have said they’d rather have eastern Europeans in their homes than people on welfare.

Fergus Wilson, who with wife Judith runs a 1,000+ property empire in Kent, has claimed that the move is a purely financial decision, based on benefit claimants’ ability to pay.

And Mr Wilson has advised those on housing benefits to find a job if they wish to get a house.

The landlord said: “When it comes to money, over half of people on benefits were defaulting on their rent, and when it comes to people who are working, we’ve not had one single person default on one single penny.

More here.

 

“Rents are going up in line with the price of houses, and housing benefit levels are dropping at the same time.

“Tenants from eastern Europe, places like Poland, have been here a number of years now and have built up a good enough credit rating to rent privately.”

The couple, both former maths teachers, have steadily built up a property portfolio worth around £225 million since starting out in the early ’90s.

Rab in Hoodie.

January 5, 2014 25 comments

Image for Rab in Hoodie

Rab in Hoodie

“Facing hard times, Rab turns to a life of crime and restyles himself as a heroic outlaw.

“Facing hard times that are harder than ever, Rab turns to a life of crime to help make ends meet. Inspired by Robin Hood, Rab restyles himself as a new breed of heroic outlaw and hides out in a local park.

Not so much Robin Hood as Rab in Hoodie, he and his band of Merrie Men will rage guerrilla warfare against the state – robbing the rich to give to the scum.

When a local news crew take up the story, Rab’s long-suffering wife Mary-Doll (or “Maid Mary-on”) speaks up in support of “Rab in Hoodie” and so the legend grows…”

I watched this.

It’s all about the dole, and the new regime.

Bedroom Tax, Food Banks, and, you get the message.

This appears on the same site about our hero,

“Rab C. Nesbitt is a rude, dirty, lazy, foul-mouthed, sexist, violent, alcoholic. His wife Mary and son Gash must put up with him.

Rab has an opinion on anything and everything; put forward in a way that only Rab can. He is possibly the only person on the planet for whom the phrase ‘dysfunctional family’ is regarded as a compliment.

His theories may have as may holes as his string vest, and there may be a lot more life in that bandage around his head than in any council suburb, but you cannot escape the wrath of the man from Govan.”

Well one could say that the BBC is run by well-paid parasitical and condescending  toffs – like Sky.

One could…

Food Banks not just for Christmas but for Life?

December 23, 2013 152 comments

Charity by our Betters.

The Sunday papers continued to carry stories about Food Banks.

In the Observer we heard of,

…a growing row over food poverty, as church leaders and the Labour party accuse ministers of failing to recognise the growing crisis hitting hundreds of thousands of families whose incomes are being squeezed, while food prices soar.

Responding to requests for a meeting from Chris Mould, chairman of theTrussell Trust, which has provided food supplies to more than 500,000 people since April, Duncan Smith has dismissed claims that the problems are linked to welfare reforms and attacked the charity for publicity-seeking. In his most recent response on 22 November, Duncan Smith made clear that he had received enough letters from the trust and referred Mould to his previous answers. His deputy, Lord Freud, the minister for welfare reform, also explicitly rejected an invitation for talks on 30 August, telling the trust’s chairman that he was “unable to take up your offer of a meeting”.

Mould, whose organisation is struggling to keep up with ever-increasing demand for its services, said that he and his army of volunteers could not understand why ministers were refusing to listen to their suggestions for easing the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need.

In the Sunday Times the bishop of London showed a worrying trend: Christians and other believers proclaiming their superiority because they help set up Food Banks.

Richard Chartres said,

It takes God’s love to open a food bank.

In the full article (which I read in the library, you can only get an extract on the Net, and, no doubt if you cannot afford food then you’d have difficulty buying the Sunday Times), he ended by asserting that secularists and atheists, in the National Secular Society, had not, to his knowledge, opened a Food Bank.

No doubt as they had not followed the ways of Christ and could not feel, the “particular blessing at Christmas”.

Perhaps distributing food to the poor and hungry, and no doubt washing their feet, is something only the Church can do.

In the absence of a welfare system, where benefits are a right, not something we have to depend on the charity of the faithful to provide.

Food Banks Debate Shambles.

December 19, 2013 60 comments

Food Banks annoy me, and lots of people, intensely.

So it was with interest that we followed the debate in the House of Commons yesterday.

We cannot do better than cite the Daily Mirror,

It was the day the Nasty Party showed its true-blue colours – by sneering at the plight of hungry families forced to rely on food banks.

Tory MPs laughed and jeered as they were told how some hard-up shoppers were so desperate they fought to snap up discounted items in supermarkets.

Astonishingly, all the Government ministers from the responsible departments – including Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith – sneaked out after just an hour of the crucial Commons debate.

By then a cowardly IDS had already ducked questions, putting forward his deputy instead.

In one of the most shameful episodes ever witnessed in Parliament, Tory backbenchers sniggered and hooted as Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart told of shocking scenes at her local Tesco in Slough, Berks, as people battled over cut-price fruit and veg.

She said the store had now been forced to draft in extra security.

Almost drowned out by mocking Tory MPs, she asked: “Isn’t that a shocking sign in the 21st century?”

Senior Labour politicians later described the Tories’ callous reaction as “shameful” and “a total disgrace”.

Labour MP Jamie Reed said: “I regret to say the laughter from the Government benches says more about this issue than words ever could.”

His colleague Barry Gardiner said it was “extraordinary” to see Mr Duncan Smith smirking as it was pointed out that half a million people are now using food banks.

And The Trussell Trust, the nation’s largest provider of food banks, said it was “disappointed” by the attitude of those who jeered.

Labour had called the debate after nearly 150,000 people signed a petition backed by the Mirror, the Unite union and The Trussell Trust calling for an inquiry into the growing dependence on food aid.

But Mr Duncan Smith refused to answer for the Government, leaving it to his deputy, Esther McVey.

And in an ill-judged speech, she sparked fury by claiming it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks.

Incredibly she insisted: “It is positive that people are reaching out to support other people.”

She went on: “In the UK it is right that more people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this
£1.5trillion debt personally. We are all trying to live within our means, change gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt.” Labour veteran Sir Gerald Kaufman described her speech as the “nastiest” he had heard in his 43 years as an MP.

Labour’s Lilian Greenwood added: “They are the nasty party through and through. She doesn’t get it and won’t take responsibility.”

Shortly after Ms Mcvey’s performance, Mr Duncan Smith scurried from the chamber, followed by an number of other senior Tories.

Speaker John Bercow said he had no power to stop them, but said the view that it was a disgrace there was no minister there “may be widely shared”. Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said the increasing need for food banks was a damning indictment of Government policy.

She added: “Since April this year more than 500,000 people have relied on assistance from the 400 food banks run by The Trussell Trust charity, double the number of food banks compared to this time last year.” She added: “It’s a scandal which is getting worse and the Government now has the humiliation of the Red Cross helping to collect and distribute food aid in Britain for the first time since the Second World War.”

Former Labour Cabinet minister Paul Murphy told the Commons he had never seen such poverty in his 40 years as a Welsh politician, apart from during the 1984 Miners’ Strike.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves told the House: “It’s a tale of two nations – tax cuts for the rich, food banks for the poor.”

This is also relevant,

In an ill-judged speech, Ms McVey sparked fury after claiming it was “positive” more people were turning to food banks.

She refused to answer Labour’s claims that the Government’s austerity measures, “incompetent” welfare reforms, rising food prices and the bedroom tax had driven more people into poverty.

She said: “It is positive that people are reaching out to support other people – from church groups to community groups, to local supermarkets and other groups.

“In the UK it is right that more people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally which spiralled under Labour, we are all trying to live within our means, change the gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt which happened under them.”

Video here.

Welfare Cuts: What They Mean.

December 17, 2013 45 comments

The Guardian today carries this excellent investigation,

What the welfare cuts mean for us.

“The government is three years into a savage programmme of welfare cuts. Coalition ministers say they aim to save billions on benefits and help ‘hard-working people’ while ending a culture of dependency. But what does this mean for people who need support?”

People contributing to Ipswich Unemployed Action have their own stories, but these are worth looking at (extracts).

Just before Christmas two years ago McPhillips received a letter that declared in angry red block capitals: “Your benefits are being cut.” Two days later he took an overdose and would have died if his brother hadn’t discovered him in time, and rushed him to hospital.

McPhillips, 59, has serious mental-health problems, which forced him, several years ago, to leave the job as an industrial saw sharpener he had held for 25 years. He depends on a handful of benefit payments – disability living allowance (DLA), employment and support allowance, and housing benefit. News of the looming wholesale benefit changes unsettled him so profoundly that he has since tried three times to take his life.

Antonia McKnight’s experience demonstrates the massive disconnect between the picture painted by the government of benefits claimants and the reality experienced by some of those who are seeing their payments cut.

No one could suggest that she is living in luxury or enjoying a lifestyle that could inspire envy in others. The small flat where she lives with her four-year-old daughter has views on to brick walls, the wiring has gone, so there is no light in the bathroom or her bedroom, and the furniture is secondhand and broken. The rent is £500 a week.

Since August, McKnight, 38, has seen her benefits capped at £500 a week, under the coalition’s new £26,000 benefit cap – introduced with the aim of bringing “fairness into the benefits system”. Since her weekly rent is exactly equal in size to her benefits, she is already in serious financial trouble.

Whether McKnight’s flat represents a dream is questionable, but it is clearly very expensive. For anyone unfamiliar with the extraordinary, unfaltering rise of the London property market, a rent of £500 a week will seem unthinkable, but soaring rents are the reason that the housing benefit bill has become so huge. Council accommodation would be far cheaper, but there is a huge shortage of it in central London, and McKnight is still waiting.

If you look at her flat you will see just how exploitative landlords are today.

This story relates to a lot of us.

In the past few years, Tony Marcola, 46, has experienced the dual pressures of the downturn and welfare reform. Having worked all his life, he lost his job as a van driver for a fruit-and-vegetable wholesale firm in 2008, when fuel prices went up, and the company’s owner decided he could no longer afford to offer a delivery service. Not long after, companies started closing offices in Burnley.

“First the jobcentre was empty and then suddenly it was packed full. People were losing jobs left, right and centre,” he says.

He attended courses, learned how to use a computer and write a CV, and continued to apply for jobs but without success. “Burnley was going down a black hole. At the time I was expected to get a job, there were a lot of places shutting down,” he says.

DWP figures show that there was a 24% increase in the number of sanctions from July 2012 to July 2013. Although the principle of getting people to show that they are seriously looking for work in order to qualify for benefits payments is one that Citizens Advice supports, they are concerned that very harsh sanctions are being applied; the charity has seen a 46% increase in problems related to sanctions in the past year, and Guy says problems such as those experienced by Marcola are “systemic”. “The system is all stick and no carrot.”

As part of the government’s drive to reform the system, much harsher conditions have been introduced to ensure that those who are receiving jobseekers’ allowance are seeking work. The use of sanctions – periods when benefits are stopped as punishment – has increased dramatically.

In July, Marcola was told that there would be new conditions attached to the benefits he received, and he was told that he had to prove that he was applying for 20 jobs a week. “I said: ‘Well, I’ll do my best.’ It jumped from four jobs a week to 20, it’s a quite a leap,” he says. He began by meeting that target, even if it meant applying for jobs that he was not qualified for, and stood little chance of being selected for, but one week in July he only managed to apply for 15 positions. He was struggling financially anyway, with increased gas and electricity costs, and a new £20 bedroom tax charge for the spare room in the house where he’d brought up a child, who was no longer living at home. After bills, he was left with about £13 a week for food. Applying for jobs involved finding places with free internet, because he couldn’t afford to have internet access, let alone a computer, at home.

There is more – you can see it through the link above.

The article ends with this,

An online campaign group, the WOW petition, which organises resistance to the “war on welfare”, has gathered over 100,000 signatures, calling for an end to the work capability assessment and a cumulative impact assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people.

Already Food Banks are being touted as way to meet the needs of those in dire poverty, often caused the failure of the welfare system.

The situation will get a lot worse next April when Workfare, run by greedy private companies and ‘charities’ is introduced.

We need a complete change of policies:

  • A Party that’s committed to end the war on welfare and create a just system for claimants.
  • An end to the punitive  sanctions regime.
  • Get rid of the welfare-to-work parasites running the Work Programme and replace them with real training and real paid jobs.
  • The Living Wage for all: so that when we are in work we do not have to rely on benefits.
  • A solution to the housing crisis: build council homes, and introduce rent controls.

Call for Inquiry in Benefit Sanctions.

December 12, 2013 54 comments

Nearly every time I go into the local Job Centre I hear about sanctions, people complaining, staff asking their colleagues what they should do to sanction somebody.

So it’s no surprise that this letter in today’s Guardian caught my eye,

 

Call an inquiry into benefit sanctions

Your report about targets for benefit sanctions makes disturbing reading (Whistleblower says DWP staff given targets to stop benefits, 10 December). The Department for Work and Pensions recently announced that there were 553,000 benefit sanctions between November 2012, when the new sanctions regime started, and June 2013. This is an extraordinarily high rate and compares with an average of 300,000 a year between 2001 and 2210, according to the New Policy Institute.

Sanctions have been a necessary feature of the National Insurance system since its inception, but recently they have become far too prevalent. They often deprive people of financial support for trivial reasons – eg a blind man for not going after a cleaning job, or a man who failed to sign on when he was on a DWP training programme. A survey by Greater Manchester Citizens Advice found that two-thirds of those sanctioned were left without any income. The rapid expansion offood banks is partly due to benefit sanctions.

As a former senior manager of UK jobcentre services, I am sure that the present high rates are driven from the top in some way by performance management systems. Are ministers unaware of the vast literature about the demoralising effects of prolonged unemployment? Sanctions on this scale increase debt, demoralisation and despair and make people less rather than more job ready. Ian Duncan Smith should agree to the proposal from Church Action on Poverty, the Trussell Trust and the Child Poverty Action Group for a wide-ranging independent inquiry into benefit sanctions and their effects.
David Price
Sheffield

 

 

Ian Duncan Smith Humiliated Again, and Again and Again.

December 10, 2013 60 comments

http://thebackbencher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/iain-duncan-smith-image-1-760284306.jpg

Humiliated, Humiliated and Humiliated.

Iain Duncan Smith confronts claims DWP staff given targets to stop benefits

First it was this:

Iain Duncan Smith was confronted at the work and pensions select committee with claims that job centre staff are being handed targets to reduce the number of claimants by moving them off the register or ensuring that they have their benefit removed.

An anonymous whistleblower, a former job centre worker who was employed in the Greater Manchester area, told local Labour MP Debbie Abrahams and the Guardian that on one occasion the entire staff at a job centre were warned they would be disciplined unless they increased the number of claimants coming off the register, or raised the number threatened with the loss of their benefit entitlement.

The complainant’s concerns were subsequently aired at the select committee by Abrahams, but in an interview before the work and pensions secretary’s appearance, the former employee told the Guardian that the system of benefit sanctions is very subtle. “They say to you that not enough people are coming off the claimant register and that if you do not get more people off the register you may be subject to an internal disciplinary assessment – a personal improvement plan.

“If you ask managers how many people you are supposed to get off the register, they say more and more continuously. It is your job to make the claimant’s life difficult, they say. It creates a target culture.”

The former employee also says that a Department of Work and Pensions internal whistleblowers system is not working since the complaints by staff are being handed to the senior district managers responsible for demanding job centres do more to drive claimants off the register.

The complainant wishes to remain anonymous, saying they were made ill by the strain of seeking to complain, but told the Guardian they would like nothing more than to meet Duncan Smith to explain the culture that has grown up in the department.

Then it was this,

The Universal Credit scheme has wasted £130million on ‘useless’ IT systems and will only reach one tenth of its intended recipients by 2015, MPs heard today.

But despite the latest revelations, the project’s pioneer Iain Duncan Smith claimed it is still on track in angry clashes with Labour MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions select committee.

Duncan Smith insisted: “There is no debacle in Universal Credit.”

He admitted £40.1million had been written off on IT systems – but his figures did not include £91million spent on software which will have to be replaced in five years’ time.

The figures also show IDS had forecast 4.5million could get the credit by 2015-16 – but this has now been revised down to 400,000.

Howard Shiplee, the ex-Olympics’ boss brought in to sort out the mess, admitted that the system – which covers six benefits in one payment – is not up to dealing with “complicated” family situations and much of the work has to be processed manually.

Mr Shiplee said: “Couples come together, they divide, have children. Things happen.”

He admitted the system, which is being piloted in a handful of areas, will only be running in the North West of England by the end of next year.

The Government has already said it will not hit the 2017 UK-wide deadline.

Finance Director General Mike Driver said the £91million of IT depreciation had been taken into account.

Labour MP Glenda Jackson was scathing about the way the project had “slipped”.

But IDS accused critics of “moaning” about his performance.

Now it’s this:

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to force claimants to spend 35 hours a week endlessly applying for unsuitable jobs via the DWP’s shoddy jobsearch website have suffered another humiliating blow.

Universal Automation, which was recently released as a trial version, has now been launched in google’s Chrome store and is free to download.  The app automatically applies for jobs on Universal Jobmatch, the Jobcentre website that claimants are often forced to use as a condition of claiming benefits*.

According to the developers the latest version has several new features:

  • You can now set all Universal Jobmatch search parameters in the extension options. We added distance, posting date and job type.

  • The extension will apply for jobs on all pages of search results, not just the first one. To control that, you can set the maximum number of jobs the extension will apply for in a single session.

  • When the extension finishes applying, you can see a report with all jobs that were applied for.

  • There is a new delay option. It can be used to slow down automated applications so that the extension behaves more like a human using Universal Jobmatch.

The Void adds,

Whilst registration on the Unversal Jobmatch website can be compelled, there is currently no requirement to tick the box allowing the DWP to snoop on your jobsearch (you can also untick the box which asks if they can send you emails).  You should be under no obligation to use the website anywhere but Jobcentres and there is really no need to tell the DWP if you have a home computer.

 

 

Hats off the UJM Activists!

December 8, 2013 34 comments

The Guardian reports (Hat-tipObi Wan Kenobi)

A group of techno-activists have devised a way of sending CVs to multiple employers on the government’s official jobseekers’ site, in protest at poor-quality adverts and “the drudgery of work”.

Developed by “a loose collective of people who identify as anarchists and work in the tech industry”, the Universal Automation plugin, which was added to the Chrome web store in early December, mimics the action of a real-life jobseeker. After the user searches for a job, with one click, the plugin automatically sends a CV to every position advertised on the first page of the results.

NOTE: HERE IS THE MAGIC LINK FOR YOU TO USE (??? – probably thwarted by now).

“I’m sure you applied for jobs on the internet before and you know it’s the most tedious thing to do,” said one of the developers, who has asked to remain anonymous. “Most of time you’re just sending the CV to as many places as you can and hoping that you’ll get a response.

“With Universal Jobmatch it’s even worse,” the activist told the Guardian. “The majority of postings on the site are spam. If they are not outright attempts at identity theft, a lot of them (and I mean a lot, I would say up to 90% on some queries) are third-party posts which are automatically reposted on the site and link to their websites.

“Now people who use Universal Jobmatch do so because they are forced to do so and they’re also forced to apply to jobs posted directly on it, so that they can be monitored by job centres.”

More broadly, however, the collective is aiming to highlight the drudgery of work in general.

The Universal Job Match site is a disgrace: hard to us, ugly, and useless.

Hats off to the Techo-activists!

On Back to Work Courses.

December 5, 2013 63 comments

There must be many people, if not all of us, who read Ipswich Unemployed Action, who’ve done (and have had to have done) courses on helping you back to work.

Despite having finished the Work Programme I just did a Course (half a day) on Effective Job Searching.

The back-to-work industry is focused on getting people’s CVs right.

This is useful and you can’t complain.

There’s also the guidelines on how to apply for jobs, use the Net, keep records, set goals, and prepare for interviews.

So far so good.

Though having done a handful I can’t say that I’ve learnt more by having to do to more and more and more of them.

One thing I have noticed is that as the welfare-to-work industry gets more desperate about their pitiful record in the Work Programme the more intense the pressure on claimants has become.

It used to be that we should present ourselves respectable and take a serious attitude towards getting a job.

At the worse it was if we should be like agricultural labourers in the 19th century.

They had ‘fairs’ where the assorted shepherds, milkmaids, cordwainers, cowmen, and ploughmen, not to mention domestic servants, would assemble in their best clothes and clogs, covered with ribbons, and smiling, all looking for the kindly farmers and gentry who would employ them.

Now it’s our CV’s that are bedecked with finery.

Yet I notice that we are expected to do more.

We have to make nuisance calls, and generally pester people saying ‘Give us a job please.”

Those giving the courses (I am not signaling out any individual, but if the cap fits…), seem have got harder as well.

Inspiring tales (true or not) of those who’ve found work are only a step away from saying that those who have not got any are to blame themselves.

The idea that the high streets are increasingly derelict (post-Xmas), that machinery, from automatic check-outs to robotics, are making the long-term  need for human employment less likely, never gets mentioned.

Instead it’s get up and go! Be like me!

Live off the out-of-work the UK’s Unemployment Industry.

And, I hate, really hate, an audience being called “you guys”.

It’s like that tick in the shops, “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

I am not a ‘guy’, blood.

More Back-to-Work Failures.

December 3, 2013 37 comments

The Daily Mirror has just reported.

A flagship back-to-work scheme for troubled families has been dismissed as a “catastrophe” after a Government watchdog savaged its failings.

Bungling ministers spent almost £8million trying to find 88,000 people from these families a job – but managed to get just 720 off the dole.

This left taxpayers with a £10,000 bill for each person helped into work on Iain Duncan Smith’s scheme.

The Work and Pensions Secretary had set a target of getting 19,832 on the scheme into work.

But a damning National Audit Office report found the “families with multiple problems” programme was missing this target by 96%.

Under the scheme the Government pays private companies to get those from troubled families off benefits.

But Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of Whitehall’s Public and Commercial Services union, said the poor results also showed that giving work to private firms was “fantastically misguided”.

He said: “It’s difficult to see the DWP programme as anything other than a catastrophe for the vulnerable families who deserve our help but are being let down.

“First with the work programme and now this, private companies are proving themselves incapable of providing the kind of complex, dedicated support necessary, despite the hundreds of millions of pounds of public money being funnelled their way.”

Public Finance adds,

By Tom Forrest | 3 December 2013

Two government departments did not work effectively together when introducing overlapping programmes to support troubled families, according to a report published today by the National Audit Office.

 

Auditors said there had been ‘poor co-ordination’ between programmes run by the Department for Communities & Local Government and the Department for Work & Pensions. As a result, there were doubts over whether their ambitious targets could be achieved.

The DCLG’s Troubled Families programme is attempting to turn round the lives of 120,000 families, while the DWP’s Families with Multiple Problems scheme aims to find employment for 22% of participants.

 

But the NAO report said that the DWP programme had only achieved 720 employment outcomes, just 4% of its target. Meanwhile, the number of families attached to the DCLG scheme by local authorities is 13% below auditors’ assessment of what would be reasonable.

 

‘These innovative and ambitious programmes are beginning to provide some benefits, but elements of both are underperforming,’ said Amyas Morse, NAO head.

Workfare Conference Today: Ipswich Unemployed Action Takes Note.

December 2, 2013 7 comments

We would love to be there (from the Void).

We met some people from Boycott Workfare in London a couple of weeks ago and were impressed.

Apart from congratulating them on their actions, IUA  gave our solidarity.

But we will not be at this demo.

On Monday 2nd December the welfare-to-work industry will be splashing out yet more tax payers’ money on their annual workfare conference in a plush Central London venue.

Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.

Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike Employment Minister Esther McVey and Matthew Sinclair from hard right think tank the Tax Payer’s Alliance who will both be giving speeches at the event. The Tax Payer’s Alliance recently released a report calling for permanent workfare for those out of work even if this is due to sickness or disability.

The conference is being organised by ERSA, the trade body established to represent the welfare-to-work racket along with the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI).

Boycott Workfare will be holding a noise demo outside the conference from 12.30pm as part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions . A day of online protest has been called targeting the sponsors of the event who hope to gain some positive publicity from being associated with this workfare love-in. Contact them on social media and let’s make sure that doesn’t work out quite in the way they hoped as they are named and shamed for their support of forced work.

What we will do is track down and nail every workfare exploiter in Suffolk.

Help welcome.

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