Cuts to Employment and Support Allowance: More Cruelty from Coalition.

October 30, 2014 10 comments

More cruelty from the Liberal-Conservative coalition.

The BBC says,

Ministers are considering drastically cutting the main Employment and Support Allowance sickness benefit, internal documents seen by the BBC suggest.

New claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, could be given just 50p more per week than people on job seekers allowance.

Current recipients get almost £30 per week more.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the ESA proposals were not government policy.

The papers reveal that the government has also been forced to hire extra staff to clear the backlog on the benefit.

Some 100 healthcare professionals are being hired to carry out fitness-for-work tests. The staff, who will be employed through the Pertemps agency, will help to reduce a backlog of more than 600,000 cases.

They will be in addition to any extra staff brought in when a new contractor is announced shortly to replace ATOS. The BBC understands that the American firm, Maximus, has been selected.

Leaked documents this summer showed that ministers considered ESA – formerly known as incapacity benefit – to be “one of the largest fiscal risks currently facing the government”.

They also revealed concerns about claimants moving off jobseekers allowance onto ESA.

Giving consideration to cutting the differential paid to ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – individuals who have to prepare for employment – is a reflection of that concern.

They currently get £28.75 more per week but the documents show plans are being discussed to cut that to just 50p more than jobseekers allowance. People receiving JSA, who are aged 25 or over, currently get £72.40 per week.

Employment and Support Allowance is paid to approximately two million people. Claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.

Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said she would support overhauling the delivery of ESA but “did not envisage” any reduction in the value of the benefit.

“That’s not reform, that is just saving money. I hope that is not something the government is going to come forward with.”

The Guardian reports.

Government ‘considered cuts to employment and support allowance’

Internal documents seen by BBC suggest officials considered cutting ESA by as much as £30 so it is effectively worth the same as jobseeker’s allowance.
The government is considering cutting the value of the main employment and support allowance (ESA) sickness benefit by as much as £30 so that it is effectively worth the same as jobseeker’s allowance, internal documents seen by the BBC suggest.

New claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, could be given just 50p more per week than people on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA).

The Department for Work and Pensions said the ESA proposals were not government policy, but that they reflected ministers’ search for a solution to the backlog of claims for ESA and its higher than forecast cost. George Osborne, the chancellor, has said he is seeking a £12bn cut in the welfare bill, and has so far identified a quarter of these cuts mainly through freezing the value of most benefits for two years.

The DWP has been struggling with ESA ever since it replaced incapacity benefit. The main contractor, Atos, quit the contract assessing claimants after a massive backlog built up and criticism grew of the way in which the medical assessments were made. The backlog is currently running at more than 600,000. It is thought an American firm, Maximus, has been selected to replace Atos.

Government officials will be looking at cutting the value of ESA, partly because of concern that JSA claimants are moving off JSA to claim the higher value ESA.

The government will be focusing on the differential paid to ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – individuals who have to prepare for employment.

Those in the WRAG group currently get £28.75 more per week than people receiving JSA, who are aged 25 or over, who currently get £72.40 per week.

The ESA is paid to approximately 2 million people. Claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.

It never ends does it?

Can they go any lower?

Universal Credit Shambles, Channel Four and Radio Four.

October 28, 2014 76 comments

Iain Duncan Smith Owns Up to Failure (not).

Last night (Monday October the 27th) two important programmes were shown on Welfare ‘reform’.

Both  left a deep impression.

The second was perhaps the most revealing – it was by Jonathan Porter, former DWP chief Economist, former chief Economist at the Cabinet Office (Note word ‘former’).

Inside Welfare Reform. (Radio Four) basically laid bare the crumbling wreck that is Universal Credit.

Writing in the Guardian on the same say day Porter says,

This decade’s flagship programme – the integration of the six major working-age benefits intouniversal credit – is far behind schedule, with tens of millions of pounds of IT investment already written off and much more to come. The NAO’s verdict has been damning, describing weak management, ineffective control, and poor governance, with both ministers and civil servants coming in for severe criticism. External experts – most of whom supported the principles behind universal credit – are unsure of whether the system can ever be made to work, even several years late.

But this is far from the worst of the failures. The collapse of the department’s contract with Atos to reassess incapacity benefit claimants means perhaps half a million remain in limbo. The suffering of individual claimants misclassified by Atos and DWP – in some cases left literally starving – has been well-publicised. Less so has been the cost to taxpayers. But the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Welfare Trends report, published last week, shows an upward revision of £3bn a year in spending on incapacity benefits – entirely attributable to delays and mismanagement.

What went wrong? There is lots of blame to go round. But the evidence points to a combination of hubris on the part of Iain Duncan Smith, a reluctance by civil servants to push back against unrealistically ambitious timetables, and arbitrary, Treasury-driven spending cuts.

Porter is obviously somebody with a certain dry wit.

He allowed some Tory golden boy to say exactly the opposite, that Iain Duncan Smith was the biggest success story of the government.  That he stood out as a shining example of Conservative radical purpose. The he had driven down unemployment. That his legacy would stand for ….(I gave up listening).

There is a word for people like that, “contrarian” – saying the opposite of what everyone expects, in order to stand out.

King Canute – pioneer of fight against rising sea levels.

Attila the Hun  – vegan and early Green.

Margaret Thatcher – Poll Tax her biggest achievement.

But this is digression.

Porter talks of the misery created by eform to the disability benefit system, ” angry claimants, disgruntled staff, a contractor who wants to escape as quickly as possible, and mounting costs for taxpayers.”

This would be applied to the effects of Universal Credit’s Pilot schemes.

We know that there is now “no deadline” for the  over 7 million people who were planned to go on the scheme.

Channel Four investigated the experience of some of the few thousand being experimented on now.

Guardian.

A leaked staff memo at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to show the government is still struggling to roll out its flagship welfare programme, universal credit (UC), across the UK.

The memo, seen by the Guardian and titled: “Ideas please: Sinking”, appears to be a plea from a jobcentre manager to her staff for solutions to tackle an ever-growing workload brought about by the new system for delivering social security to more than 7 million people.

The internal email, sent in late September and uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches as part of an investigation into UC to air on Monday evening, appears to show that one of the 60 centres where the scheme has been rolled out is generating such a substantial backlog of claims, centre staff will have to work three times more than their limit to clear it.

Benefits Britain indeed showed these, harrowing cases.

Liz MacKean reports from Warrington, where claimants have been trying out the new benefit for a year. It’s meant to simplify claims and offer seamless support to people moving in and out of short-term and low-paid work.

Dispatches meets some claimants who say the new system, far from simplifying things for them, has been making basic errors and leaving them at risk of losing their homes or having to choose between paying the rent or feeding their children.

It took three months for Universal Credit staff to process one couple’s claim, and they ended up with over £2000 of debt. Nicky, who is pregnant, tells Dispatches that some days she goes without so that she can make sure her four-year-old is properly fed.

Three things particularly stuck out (for me).

  • Paying people’s rent to them and not the landlord. They say it’s to make people responsible for themselves, dealing with money like somebody in paid work. But welare payments are nothing like paid work. You constantly striuggle. The potential for cock ups, and, frankly, using the money to pay of another debt, is obvious.
  • Council Tax – which we have to pay an increasingly hefty chunk of, without any extra money to do so. Universal credit will make thsi worse by obliging you to make a separate claim for the shrinking level of Council Tax benefit. Benefits Britain found claimants who hadn;t got to grips with this. What a surprise….
  • Work Coaches – apparently the DWP  are actually using the coachy-coachy word. Really!

Both programmes were excellent.

Depressing.

I was going to watch a repeat of Star Trek the Next Generation.

Now in that series they’ve got rid of money and unemployment completely.

A lot more than Iain Duncan Smith will ever do.

Lord Freud Bounces Back at House of Lords – Celebrates Sanctions and Job Coaches.

October 26, 2014 57 comments

Most people would have thought that Lord Freud would have gone into hiding after his comments that some disabled people were ‘not worth’ the minimum wage.

That he would be right now trembling in some dusty bunker, grasping at a bottle of whisky, swallowing tranquillisers  and contemplating a loaded revolver on a desk in front of him.

Not so!

The dapper gent found time last week to pontificate on the government’s success in renaming”client-facing people” “Job coaches” and other “transformations” his department has brought into the world.

During his generously paid attendance at the House of Lords, that is.

A few half-hearted and meaningless words (‘full and unreserved apology’) about his vile statement and the old boy is away again!

Sanction “safety nets”, encouraging Monetary Policy Committees,  transforming roles, work coaches….

Does he ever stop?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014.

Hansard.

House of Lords. 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in implementing the Oakley report on Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): We welcome the findings of Matthew Oakley’s review and have published our response, in which we accepted all his recommendations. We know that sanctions play an important role in conditionality, and it is crucial that the system is operated effectively and fairly. We are taking forward all recommendations and have already completed a number of improvements.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, as welcome as any improvements are to this punitive sanctions regime, given that Mr Oakley himself acknowledged the narrowness of his brief, the historically high level of sanctions and the accumulating evidence, including from food bank providers, of the hardship that they are causing, will the Minister now accept the growing demand for a more thorough, independent review of the whole sanctions system, as called for by the Work and Pensions Committee?

Lord Freud: I will respond to the noble Baroness in a moment, but first I would like to take this opportunity to repeat briefly the apology that I made last week. I want to make a full and unreserved apology for the comments that I made at the Conservative Party conference. Of course disabled people should be paid

21 Oct 2014 : Column 548

at least the minimum wage, just like everybody else, and I am profoundly sorry for any offence that I caused.

I turn to the noble Baroness’s question. Matthew Oakley found that benefit sanctions provide a vital backdrop in the social security system for jobseekers, and the OECD has ranked the UK as mid-table for the strictness of its sanctions regime. My right honourable friend Esther McVey has looked at these recommendations more widely and has made sure that we are reviewing claimant communications for all JSA claimants, not just the ones whom Matthew Oakley looked at, and that we are introducing a new IT interface to make sure that our relationship with local authorities works more smoothly.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend think that the largest annual fall in unemployment ever recorded, which was announced the other day, and the fact that 116,000 more disabled people are in work, might just have something to do with the painstaking work that he has done, both for the previous Government and for this Government, in bringing about the welfare reforms that are bringing to so many people, able bodied and disabled, the opportunity of a place in the workplace?

Lord Freud: As my noble friend said, the issue is that we are doing everything we can to help people into the workplace. It was a very encouraging assessment from the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, which said:

“A tightening in the eligibility requirements for some state benefits might also have led to an intensification of job search”.

That echoes something that the deputy governor had said a little while before. It is apparent that our reforms are working, with employment up by 1.7 million since 2010 and record numbers of people now in work.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, the Oakley review suggested that some claimants do not understand—or even open—their correspondence about sanctions. What are we doing about this?

Lord Freud: Matthew Oakley was very concerned about the communications aspects of talking to claimants about sanctions. We have taken that point very seriously. Indeed, we have accepted his recommendations on that and are going further; we are reviewing and improving all our claimant communications on sanctions across every benefit, and we aim to ensure that people understand that they have received a sanction and why they have received it. We have introduced a claimant communications unit that tries to get the language right—because, as many noble Lords know, some of the language that the DWP put out in the past was clunky at best.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister has taken the opportunity to read the evidence that was given to Matthew Oakley when he did this report. I accept that sanctions are a necessary part of the system, but it is quite clear that many people have been sanctioned who have done literally

21 Oct 2014 : Column 549

nothing wrong. Look at the evidence from the CAB of the man sanctioned twice for missing appointments with his Work Programme provider; in fact, he had been to all the appointments with a company to which it had subcontracted him, but he was sanctioned. Then there was the man who was sanctioned after being told to be in two different places at once and the woman who was sanctioned for being in hospital having treatment for cervical cancer, despite having given advance notice of her hospital appointment to the system before she went in. I could go on. There is a very real risk of claimants starting to believe that the Government are more concerned with cutting their benefits than getting them into work. Will the Government sort this?

Lord Freud: My Lords, it is clearly utterly important that the sanctions regime is fair to people. We have put in layer on layer of protections and safety nets in the machine. People have, to start with, five days to respond to the letter saying that we are looking at a sanction. Then it goes to a decision-maker and then, if claimants do not like that, to a mandatory reconsideration, which is an extra layer. Then you can go into the tribunal process, and we have hardship. We are putting many measures in to make sure that we run this system as fairly as we possibly can.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. Having worked with him closely in the past four or five years, I think that the Minister plays an absolutely crucial and effective role in the important reforms that are designed to assist low-paid families in this country, and if he was not here, things would be harder to deliver on time and on budget. However, the scale of sanctions surprises me, with 800,000 or 900,000 sanctions per year. That is not something that I expected ever to see. The claimant commitment that we have is beginning to appear to be used as a coercion document to get people to do things that they do not really want. Will the Minister look again at the report that Professor Paul Gregg did some years ago, which suggested that the way in which to get an appropriate use of sanctions is to involve the claimants at an early stage in a joint enterprise to get a claimant commitment to work?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we have really transformed the role of the client-facing people in Jobcentre Plus and turned them into work coaches; that is what the claimant commitment does. It is something that has been done very recently. The relationship between claimants and the work coaches has changed very substantially already.

Young Unemployed Should Pick up Ragwort, Says Tebbit.

October 23, 2014 91 comments

With Suffolk County MyGo being set up in Ipswich, the Conservative linked Charity has received a suggestion from prominent local (Bury St Edmunds) Tory, Lord Tebbit.

The former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit has said young unemployed people should be made to pull up ragwort from roadside verges in return for benefits.

The 83-year-old Tory grandee made the proposal in a letter to Matt Shardlow, chief executive of a charity called Buglife, which is concerned about the effect of declining ragwort on bees and rare insects.

In his reply to the charity, Tebbit said ragwort was a major problem in his part of East Anglia and proposed it could be weeded out by “Neets” – young people who are not in education, work or training – and “low level criminals”.

He wrote: “I suggest you come to the Norfolk/Suffolk border areas of East Anglia. Landowners who wish to control ragwort face an impossible task when roadside verges are dominated by it to an extent I cannot remember in the past.

“There would be little cost to bring that under control if Neets and low level criminals were required as part of their contribution to the society which finances them, or which they have abused … to uproot this weed.”

Tebbit later told the Guardian: “Given a bit of organisation, they [unemployed young people] would be happy doing something constructive. That’s something constructive for them. It’s appealing, it gets rid of a weed which is a danger to some animals and helps landowners in the cultivation of their land.

“That was my thought that caused me to suggest the idea … in a way it’s a form of national service, of doing something for society in a way in which anyone unless they are physically disabled can participate.”

Asked whether he acknowledged some might find the idea of forced labour in return for benefits controversial, he said: “It’s workfare but I think there are some powerful arguments for workfare and so does [Labour MP] Frank Field for example. It’s not a way-out idea in that sense.”

Guardian.

For the sake of scientific honesty we add this (via Twitter BE) from the admirable “Ragwort Facts” site.

This site has been written to inform the public of the true scientific data surrounding ragwort. It exists to balance the hysteria generated in the British press. Whilst ragwort is of course toxic, it is only one of a great many toxic plants and the stories that have been published do not accurately reflect what is known from the international scientific literature . Many false claims are made about this plant, often when investigated you find there is a vested interest, selling ragwort controls of questionable value, or maybe using the hysteria to help raise an organisation’s public profile. Other people, naturally worried about animal cruelty have been convinced by the false stories and lacking the background to determine the truth are genuinely, but unnecessarily worried. This site should serve to inform the public as to the facts in a rational, informative manner. This enables land managers to take rational decisions about ragwort without falling victim to rumour and falsehoods.

More on site…..

MYGo Centre Jobs (Ipswich), Nice Work…. if you can get it….

October 20, 2014 44 comments

As a Public Service to the Unemployed we signal these Ipswich jobs,

In-Work Support Officerscirca £18k – responsible for supporting customers who have gained employment to stay in work. This will be achieved by offering face-to-face contact, via telephone, email or online support.

External Partnerships Managercirca £28k - responsible for sourcing new employers and account managing
partners and key stakeholders to generate new referrals to the Centre. Also responsible for managing the External Engagement Officer and Outreach team.

Training and Activities Manager – circa £28k – responsible for coordinating and managing all aspects of training, in line with a strong commercial focus.

Support Services Manager – circa £25k – this role is responsible for the smooth running of the Centre, from facilities management, centre logistics right through to health, safety and security.

Outreach Officers – circa £22k – responsible for engaging with and securing customer referrals from within the greater Ipswich area, targeting local communities and encouraging young people to participate.

Casework and IAG Manager - circa £28k – responsible for the day to day management of the Caseworker team to ensure the quality of delivery and outcome targets are met.

If you would like to apply go to Jobs24.

Whether they’ll do much to help solve youth unemployment or not, some people will get some very well-paid jobs out of this!

UK’s first Youth Employment Centre opening soon

 

Fraser House, Ipswich is the new location for a pioneering approach to youth unemployment.

Works begin on the UK’s first ever dedicated youth employment centre at Fraser House in Ipswich.

In October 2013, Ipswich was unveiled as the location of the MyGo centre which will open in November 2014. The centre will pioneer a new approach to helping young people get into work.

Led by businesses, local councils, New Anglia LEP and Jobcentre Plus; this programme supports aims to halve youth unemployment in the greater Ipswich area over the next two years.

The MyGo centre will offer all 16-24 year olds in Ipswich and the surrounding area free training, career and employment support.

The project is being funded by money unlocked through the Greater Ipswich City Deal – the government’s flagship programme to devolve power to local authorities and businesses to put them in control of economic opportunities and challenges.

EOS Works Ltd, a training and welfare company owned by the Staffline Group plc, has recently been appointed by Suffolk County Council to operate the MyGo Centre and deliver the service.

Outreach services will also be provided from mid-2015 across Greater Ipswich; including those living in Babergh, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal. This will include the use of EOS’s new tablet software – allowing users to access services without the need to travel.

Work has already started on fitting out the MyGo centre and creating an inspiring, modern and supportive environment. It will be staffed by Jobcentre Plus, EOS and Tomorrows People employees working together so that young people can access all the help they need in one place.

Tomorrows People is a National Employment Charity with a 30 year track record of helping young unemployed people into sustained employment and is partnering EOS on this initiative.

Staffline,

Our dedicated welfare to work division, incorporating EOS and 2014 acquisition Avanta, provides a ground-breaking and highly effective approach to reducing worklessness. Our Employment Centres offer jobseekers practical, sector-specific experience of working in various professional directions, placing them back into sustainable employment.

Vision and Values.

vision_values_full

 

Background of Staffline:

Staffline Recruitment Group has denied accusations in a BBC Inside Out documentary that it exploits Eastern European workers.

 

The documentary claimed that the jobs and wages which the workers were promised in Poland were not always delivered when they arrived in the UK. And it alleged that accommodation in the UK, provided by the recruiter, was often overcrowded and in poor condition.

Staffline Recruitment Group managing director Andy Hogarth dismissed the claims.

“The allegations and insinuations in the BBC programme were entirely unfounded and based on poor information,” he argued. “From showing ’cramped’ accommodation, which we had not provided, to filming a former contractor who bemoaned the lack of expected overtime.”

Hogarth said the company, which employs 3,500 workers from Europe, consistently engages with relevant agencies to ensure workers’ interests are protected. These include the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, the Agricultural Labour Providers Association and the Temporary Labour Working Group, as well as the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.

Meanwhile the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has voiced concerns about the generally negative portrayal of recruitment agencies and the suggestion that migrant workers are systematically exploited.

Tom Hadley, the REC director of external relations commented: “Instances of bad practice must of course be addressed but the general tone of the programme is wide of the mark.

“The vast majority of agencies provide a valuable and ethical service to job-seekers looking to work in the UK and to employers with staff shortages.”

Tomorrow’s People also has a very dodgy background.

This is is what they say about themselves.

“2011 Coalition government launches the Work Programme, reflecting payment by results policy Tomorrow’s People has long argued for.

Praxis, research and innovation unit, launched to test new solutions to unemployment.

Independent report estimates every £100 spent on Tomorrow’s People programmes benefits society by £240.

Heathfield Works! launched to offer a lifeline to unemployed young people in isolated rural communities.

ThinkForward, pioneering programme with Private Equity Foundation to improve work prospects of young people while still in school, launched.”

Tomorrow’s people  was prominent in the failed “Getting Families Ready for Work” programme.

We see this:

Charity Commission raps Tomorrow’s People for ‘supporting’ Conservatives

Scott, who accepted an offer last year to become a Conservative peer, appeared in a full-page picture on page 14 of the Conservative Party’s 2010 election manifesto, Invitation to Join the Government of Britain.

Many will say that this Ipswich initiative is a Conservative Party publicity stunt.

TUC Demo: People’s Assembly Against Workfare.

October 17, 2014 100 comments

The TUC is holding a march on Saturday.

Supporters of Ipswich Unemployed Action, and DPAC, will be on coaches from our county, to back the demonstration.

Many of us will be there be as part of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Suffolk People’s Assembly.

National TUC Demonstration | 18 October 2014

 

Assemble: 11 am, Victoria Embankment, London
March to Hyde Park

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be mobilising in support of this mass demonstration called by the TUC. This will be the third demonstration this summer, following our No More Austerity demo on 21 June, which saw 50,000 people take to the streets, and the co-ordinated strike action on July 10, with over 1 million public sector workers on strike (watch the footage from Trafalgar Square here).

Some key reasons for getting involved:

  • Poverty Pay - 1 in 5 people in Britain now earn less than the living wage, and for the first time ever we have more people in work below the poverty line than the number of people unemployed!
  • The Cost of Living Crisis – We are told that we have recovered from the cost of living crisis, but ordinary people are still £40 a week worse off on average than they were 5 years ago. Furthermore, if bankers hadn’t crashed the economy and wages growth had stayed on track, workers would have £100 a week more in their pay packets!
  • Rising Inequality – In 1998, Chief Executives received 45 times the average pay. Now they receive 185 times the average pay. Put in other terms, they make more in a day and a half than what most people earn in 12 months!

There has been controversy over the TUC’s stand on workfare.

This is the People’s Assembly policy (which I moved) on Workfare, passed at the PA National meeting on March the 15th 2014.

  • 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.
  • It 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. A
  • ll 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.

The Power to Sanction Drives People Mad.

October 15, 2014 27 comments

New regime for JSA from October 2012

From October 2012, new sanctions rules for JSA were introduced:

  • 3 categories of sanction – ‘higher’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘lower’ – depending on the nature of the offence
  • different levels of sanction for first, second and third offences
  • changes to the date a sanction starts

These new rules broadly align the rules for JSA sanctions with the rules for Universal Credit.

Previously, a sanction started from the beginning of the benefit week after the Decision Maker (DM) decided to impose the sanction. However, to ensure that claimants see the consequences of their actions or inactions sooner, the new rules enable DMs to impose sanctions at a time closer to the offence. The new sanction period begins either:

  • on the first day of the benefit week in which the offence occurred, if the claimant has not been paid JSA for that week
  • on the first day of the benefit week following the date the claimant was last paid JSA

Sanctions can be enforced for a variety of reasons but we will concentrate on this,

The first situation is when claimants fail to comply with the most  important jobseeking requirements, these are:

  • through misconduct loses employment as an employed earner
  •  without good reason – voluntarily leaving employment; refuses or fails to apply for, or accept if offered, a situation in any employment which an employment officer has informed him is about to become vacant; neglects to  avail himself of a reasonable opportunity of employment; and fails to  participate in Mandatory Work Experience.
  •  Failing to attend an adviser interview at the Jobcentre;
  •  Failing to participate in schemes to assist claimants in obtaining employment under section 17A of the Jobseeker’s Act (other than Mandatory Work Activity), this includes the Work Programme and Skills Conditionality;
  •  Refusing or failing to comply with a reasonable opportunity to take part in a training scheme or employment programme;
  •  Refusing or failing to apply for or accept a place on a scheme or programme; or
  •  Giving up a place, failing to attend a training scheme or employment
    programme or losing a place through misconduct   More here.

In reality the most important criterion is having to prove that you’re actively seeking work and the list of activities you fill out in the Jobseeker’s Agreement.

Always be careful, when you think you’ve done all you can, have satisfied the normal people who make up the majority of people you deal with in the Jobcentre, there may be a nit-picker or a plain nasty individual amongst the Advisers.

Unfortunately that is also the person who is the Decision Maker able to sanction you.

This JobCentre Adviser, or ‘Job Coach’ has, potentially, a lot of power.

That is, regardless, of all the potential for  appeals, all the safeguards, and so on, it’s up to the first Decision Maker to make….the first decision.

This is one result.

Kate Belgrave posts this: 

You must do your JSA jobsearch online, even though we know you can’t

Iain Duncan Smith, planner extraordinaire, aims to have the majority of Universal Credit claims made online. Here’s an example of someone who will be completely excluded from claiming because of that:

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article about Eddie (name changed) and the problems that he was having with his online jobsearch. I’ve met twice with Eddie since then.

Eddie is a 51-year-old Kilburn man who has mild learning difficulties. He struggles to read and write. At the moment, he signs on for jobseeker’s allowance. He has worked for most of his life as a catering assistant in hotels, pubs and in kitchens, but was made redundant about four years ago. He has been unemployed ever since. He is very keen to get another job, but has not been able to find one. He wants someone to help liaise with potential employers on his behalf – to ring people who take staff on, put him forward as a candidate, promote him and his work history and to talk through any problems that employers may have with his literacy difficulties. Eddie has taken CVs into businesses all over Kilburn. He never gets called back.

The upshot of all of this is that Eddie must go to the jobcentre every fortnight to sign on and to show that he’s searched for at least 14 jobs. This post will show you how difficult and pointless this jobsearch exercise is for him. One of Eddie’s main problems is his struggle to read and write. He can write letters out if people tell him which ones to choose (for example, he asked me how to spell “Customer Service Advisor” when applying for one job, then wrote it as I spelled it out), but has trouble with more complex words. He also finds computers challenging. He doesn’t have a computer at home, which means that he rarely uses one. He wasn’t sure what a browser was when I took my laptop around to his flat to help him with his jobsearch (you’ll see some of this in the videos below).

Nonetheless, a couple of weeks ago, Eddie’s jobcentre adviser instructed him to choose and apply for at least three jobs online as part of his fortnightly quota. He was given this sheet of paper – you’ll see that it lists job ads and links…

See the rest of Kate’s post and weep: here.

Guide To Stopping Harassment From the DWP.

October 12, 2014 30 comments

Guide To Stopping Harassment From the DWP.

From: Obi Wan Kenobi.

 

This is largely recommended, as a starting point for thinking about action, from the The Sanctioned Jobseeker

Guide (see full text).

What is Harassment?

Harassment is generally defined as any course of action which causes the recipient to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened. In law, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997provides a legal remedy for recipients of harassment if it can be shown that an offence has occurred as a result of:

  • a course of conduct;
  • which amounts to harassment of another; and
  • which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.

This specific piece of legislation is what I have relied upon to prevent the DWP from harassing me further, as detailed in my Cease and Desist letter dated the 11th of September 2014.

Example of Harassment

  • Jobcentre Plus advisers behaving in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened. This could be anything from the way they speak to you, to more specific actions, such as threatening to stop your benefits for no reason (i.e. an unlawful sanction).
  • Being forced to attend a Work Programme related activity despite it not being in your immediate or long-term interest
  • Being repeatedly called to pointless interviews or meetings at the Jobcentre Plus/DWP
  • Causing unnecessary delays when processing complaints, claims, appeals or other documents
  • Making false accusations or claims about you
  • Misrepresenting information you have given

 

 

How to Stop The Harassment.

The moment that the DWP act in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened, you must complain to them in writing that their behaviour made you feel that way and that you don’t wish to be treated in that manner. Send the letter by Recorded Delivery or make sure you get a signed and dated copy and receipt from the DWP if you hand deliver it.

Once the letter of complaint has been sent, if you experience a second incident which makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened, then you need to have ready a Cease and Desist letter ready to give to them and simply hand it to them without telling them what it is and once they accept the letter, inform them that it is a Cease and Desist letter for harassment and that if they breach the terms of the Cease and Desist letter then you will file charges for harassment and get the police involved.

The important point after the letter has been handed in is to maintain the pressure on them to get the outcome which you require. I will be posting audio clips of my various phone calls where I had to invoke the power of the Cease and Desist letter and you will hear for yourself just how fearful the DWP employees get when confronted with someone who knows their rights, can remain calm and assertive, plus has the power to threaten the DWP employee with a visit from the police if the person in question can be shown to have breached the terms stated in the Cease and Desist letter.

What to Do if They Don’t Stop the Harassment

If after the Cease and Desist letter has been handed in they continue their course of harassment, then you are within your legal rights to phone the police and demand that they investigate your claim of harassment against the DWP or the individual in question. Inform the police that you have given them a lawful Cease and Desist letter for harassment and that they have breached the terms of the letter and you now wish to formally press charges against the DWP or named individual.

If the harassment is solely from one individual, or the same group of individuals, then you can also insist that the police investigate an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office, an offence which can be proven by proving malicious harassment from employees who hold Public Offices, such as Jobcentre Plus advisers. The offence also carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

It is a good idea to have copies of all evidence readily available for the police to investigate as this will make it appear an easier case for them to look into (harassment is pretty much clear cut in cases involved mistreatment at the hands of an organisation).

If the police refuse to take your allegations seriously, or refuse to investigate, you should ask to speak to the Duty Sergeant and make a formal complaint about their refusal to investigate a crime despite having proof of said crime.

 

Important Note from Ipswich Unemployed Action: I would urge extreme caution in involving the police in anything but the most serious cases.

 

Older Workers Face Job Discrimination on Universal Job Match

October 8, 2014 43 comments

I’m sure there’s plenty of people here (cough, cough….) who could confirm this without even stirring.

In fact being a bit ‘Older‘ I was listening to the News at One, drinking me 99 Tea and heard this……

The government’s Universal Jobmatch website is publishing adverts using terms that could be breaking anti-age discrimination laws, the BBC has found.

It also found similar jobs ads posted online by Reed – one of the UK’s biggest employment agencies.

On both sites, hundreds of employers say they want “recent graduates”, which lawyers say implies they are looking for younger applicants.

Many older job seekers say they are being frozen out of the jobs market.

A typical example of wording used in job adverts reads: “My client is recruiting a recent graduate to join their extremely busy team. You should be looking for a career, have good customer service skills and good administration skills including data entry.”

The BBC showed some of the adverts to James Davies, a solicitor from law firm Lewis Silkin, who specialises in age discrimination cases.

“A recent graduate obviously favours younger candidates,” he said. “It would be lawful if it could be justified, but it’s difficult to see why an employer needs a recent graduate when someone who graduated 10 or 20 years ago wouldn’t be equally suitable.”

‘Ambitious young people’

One advert on Universal Jobmatch, which is used by millions of job seekers, was even more blatant.

“We are always looking to recruit talented, ambitious young people who may fit well into one of our progressive thinking departments such as media, including social media, TV, press officer or other departments such as office administration,” it read.

According to Mr Davies the company responsible, Leisure Leagues, based in Warwick, which says it is the UK’s largest provider of five-a-side football leagues, could be breaking age discrimination laws with this wording.

“Here we have a company which is clearly opening itself up to problems,” he said. “An older person applying for a job with this company who fails to get it will be able to point to the term ‘young’ in this advert and will be some way down the line to a successful claim against them.”

The BBC contacted Leisure Leagues to ask them why they were seeking “young people”.

A spokesman said he could see nothing wrong with it because in the leisure industry people needed to be young and fit. He said occasional refereeing duties might be required, although the job advert did not mention this requirement.

The company later emailed to say the advert had been withdrawn and an employee had been disciplined. But a week later, the job advert was still posted on Universal Jobmatch.

On Reed’s website, more than 800 jobs specified “recent graduate”. There were even a dozen adverts looking for a “young graduate”.

Reed told the BBC it agreed such terms were “inappropriate” and as a result of the BBC investigation would be changing company policy to ensure similar terms would not be used in future. Reed also said it would be re-training its staff in equality laws.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions, the government department responsible for Universal Jobmatch, said it did not think terms such as “recent graduate” were discriminatory. “We have thorough checks and balances in place and remove anything which doesn’t meet our standards,” it said in a statement.

‘Unconscious bias’

The government is trying to encourage people to work longer and retire later, but older jobseekers say they often feel ignored by employers.

Simon Silvie, 57, a former senior manager for a national IT firm, from Barrow, Cumbria, said he had applied for hundreds of jobs after being made redundant 18 months ago, but had rarely been invited to an interview.

“I would say it is age discrimination,” he said. “However, it is so hard to prove. I think that the people who are perpetrating this don’t even realise that they are doing it. It’s an unconscious bias against age.”

Ros Altmann, the government’s business champion for older workers, said there should be clearer instructions for people posting job ads, and possibly sanctions.

“We really do need to change our attitudes to older workers,” she said. “There’s no reason why you can’t have talented, ambitious people of any age – they don’t have to be young.”

The government has phased out the official retirement age, and raised the age at which some workers can get the state pension to 68.

The average retirement age for men is 64.7 and 63.1 for women. The Department for Work and Pensions said this week it would like the average retirement age to rise by as much as six months every year.

BBC

An immediate response was this,

Employers should be barred from only advertising jobs for recent graduates, the Government’s business champion for older workers has said.

Ros Altmann said the term was a “euphemism” used to recruit younger people and suggested there should be sanctions against companies that use it in recruitment adverts.

Ms Altmann disagreed with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by suggesting the phrase was discriminatory against older jobseekers and should be stamped out.

BBC Radio 4’s World At One discovered that hundreds of job adverts listed on the Government’s Universal Jobmatch website asked for “recent graduates” to apply.

Telegraph.

My only comment is that any change in the form of words these agencies use is not going to make a blind bit of difference.

Warning to all Jobseekers about Enigma: All the World Can Read Your CVs!

October 5, 2014 61 comments

en_GB

 

 

 

Warning: Watch out For Enigma!

Some people have been instructed by their Advisers to register with the site Enigma.

This site, American based, lets all the world see your Cvs.

If you don’t believe that see here where you can read “administration assistant CVs in Stowmarket” with people’s personal details – their life story –  on them.

Who are Indeed?

As the world’s #1 job site, with over 140 million unique visitors every month from over 50 different countries, Indeed has become the catalyst for putting the world to work. Indeed is intensely passionate about delivering the right fit for every hire. Indeed helps companies of all sizes hire the best talent and offers the best opportunity for job seekers to get hired.

Our Company
Indeed is the #1 job site worldwide, with over 140 million unique visitors per month. Indeed is available in more than 50 countries and 28 languages, covering 94% of global GDP.Since 2004, Indeed has given job seekers free access to millions of jobs from thousands of company websites and job boards. As the leading pay-for-performance recruitment advertising network, Indeed drives millions of targeted applicants to jobs in every field and is the most cost-effective source of candidates for thousands of companies.Founded by Paul Forster and Rony Kahan, Indeed is a subsidiary of Recruit Holdings Co., Ltd. Indeed has offices in Austin, Mountain View, New York and Stamford in the US, as well as offices in Dublin and London. For more information about Indeed, see our blog orcontact us.

If you don’t want the entire world looking at your intimate details, watch out!

Some say that making your CV available for all and sundry to peer at in not an obligation when you resister on Indeed.

That is simply by looking at the web site.

If you log-in you can even find people’s addresses and phone numbers.

We would welcome clarification about this.

As it stands this looks like a pretty dodgy practice.

Indeed is owned by Recruit Holdings.

“Recruit Co.,Ltd. (headquarters: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; President and Representative Director, CEO: Masumi Minegishi; hereinafter “Recruit”) has reached an agreement to acquire 100% ownership of U.S. based Indeed, Inc. (hereinafter “Indeed”) in an all cash transaction (hereinafter “the Acquisition”). Indeed is scheduled to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Recruit in early October.” Here.

We would be also interested in more about this (Wikipedia),

The Recruit scandal (リクルート事件 Rikurūto jiken?) was an insider trading and corruption scandal that forced many prominent Japanese politicians to resign in 1988.

Main article: Recruit (company)

Recruit is a human resources and classifieds company based in Tokyo.[1] Its chairman, Hiromasa Ezoe, offered a number of shares in a Recruit subsidiary, Cosmos, to business leaders and senior politicians shortly before Cosmos went public in 1986. Following the public offering, Cosmos’s share price skyrocketed, and the individuals involved in the scheme saw average profits of ¥66 million each.

Although only seventeen members of the Diet were involved in the insider trading, another thirty were later found to have received special favors from Recruit.

Among the politicians involved in the scandal were Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Takao Fujinami. In addition to members of the LDP government, leaders of the Komeito[who?], Democratic Party of Japan[who?], and Japan Socialist Party[who?] were also found to be involved. As a result, Takeshita’s cabinet was forced to resign, although some of its members returned to political prominence later (including future prime ministers Kiichi Miyazawa and Keizo Obuchi).

The chairmen of NTT, the Yomiuri Shimbun, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun were also involved in the scandal.

Despite the breadth of the Recruit Scandal across party lines, the LDP was hurt most significantly by the scandal. It is often said to be one of the main causes of Morihiro Hosokawa‘s opposition party victory in 1993, which briefly interrupted the LDP’s otherwise continuous reign over Japan.

 

Claimant Segmentation Survey: More Nosey-Parker Questions.

October 3, 2014 68 comments

Claimants to be Lab Rats for Iain Duncan Smith’s Latest Mad-Cap Plans.

We recently covered  the DWP’s intention to give claimants psychometric tests.

Boycott Workfare posts today on the department’s plans as they will soon be rolled out, to use so-called “segmentation survey”.

Now it’s first of all important to note that your answers are part of a test using you as lab-rats to sound out their plans to make your lives harder (if that’s possible…).

The DWP states, 

“The Claimant Segmentation Trial is being rolled out to 27 Jobcentre Plus (JCP) offices across  the country. It aims to test what the impact of weekly jobsearch reviews (WJRs), also known  as  weekly  signing,  is  on  claimant  success  in  finding  work,  and  most  importantly  identify  which groups of claimants respond best to WJRs.

The trial will use an approach known as ‘Randomised Controlled Trials’ (RCTs) to rigorously test  the  impact  of  WJRs.  This  means  that  we  will  need  to  randomly  assign  claimants  to  either  WJRs  or  standard  fortnightly  jobsearch  reviews  (FJRs),  also  known  as  fortnightly  signing,  and observe the outcomes.

This is the bit we’ll be interested in (all from DWP link above) with instructions for your lab technician (job ‘coach’):

NINO and consent 

To begin a new survey, click ‘Begin new survey’. You must then enter the claimant’s National Insurance number. Please ensure that this is correctly entered as this will be the only means we have  to  track  claimant’s  data.  If  the  number  entered  is  not  a
valid NINO you will be prompted to correct it.
 
You must then ask for the claimant’s consent for us to collect information  about  them.  This  is  necessary  because  we  are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the  claims  process  for  the  purposes  of  research.  Please  read out the passage to the claimant and ask if they are happy with this. Please click either the ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ buttons.

If they disagree they will still be part of the trial using the data  we already have available and the questions about your views  on the claimant, and the NINO must still be entered.

If the claimant has any questions about this trial, see the FAQs below,  which  should  address  most  of  their  concerns.  If  the claimant  requires  further  information  still,  please  seek  advice from your SPOC or manager

The DWP repeats this point saying,

Q: What if the claimant refuses to take part? 
A:  The  claimant  may  refuse  to  answer  the  survey  questions;  however,  they  cannot  opt  to not take part in the trial. 

The trial is looking at the impact of receiving WJRs / FJRs, and as such  they  must  adhere  to  the  signing  regime  they  are  assigned  so  long  as  their  claim  is active.  If  a  claimant  is  worried  about  being  part  of  a  trial, explain  that  their experience  of claiming  JSA  will  not  differ,  except  in  the  frequency  of  the  signings  which  is  nationwide policy.

Boycott Workfare says,

These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’.  The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:

1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers

You do not need to be a docile lab-rat.

Boycott states,

These are the facts:

  • If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
  • Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:

“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”

  • Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.

They conclude, and we agree (repeating our earlier posts),

“Workfare and others have consistently called on the British Psychological Society to challenge the use of ‘psychometrics’ and ‘psychological surveys’ and ‘attitude profiling’ to scapegoat and coerce claimants. And we do so again.”

 

Pre-Paid Cards: Tories to Tell us How to Spend our Benefits.

October 1, 2014 87 comments

This may have been overlooked,

The government is to introduce pre-paid benefit cards to stop claimants spending their money on alcohol, drugs or gambling .

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it would help those “on the margins break the cycle of poverty”.

The cards could only be used for some items in some stores, and would not be valid in betting shops or off licences.

The scheme will be initially piloted on a voluntary basis and will be targeted on those with addiction problems.

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said government sources said the move was aimed at helping claimants with drug or alcohol issues and protecting their families.

An estimated one in 15 working-age benefit claimants in England suffer from addiction to drugs, such as crack-cocaine and heroin, while an estimated one in 25 working-age benefit claimants is suffering from alcohol dependency.

 

BBC 

Clearly some people will make a lot of money out of these cards, so we can expect pressure to grow for them to be used for all claimants.

The Guardian‘s    continues the story.

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, told the Conservative party conference that a system of prepaid cards would help lift families ‘on the margins’ out of poverty. 
The latest tantalising nostrum from the Conservatives is a move to prepaid benefit cards: a system designed to limit the scope of individual spending in order to eradicate “destructive habits” and elevate families from poverty through prohibitive safeguards.

 

When the state makes judgments about necessities and enforces it on the vulnerable, we create a “peasant” and “benevolent benefactor” dichotomy. This is neither progressive nor morally sound. The welfare state is a safety net to which we all contribute so that if circumstance dictates, we may use it: something those least likely to ever need it conveniently forget. When we start incorporating punitive addendums, we lose sight of the wider issue. The poor are instantly stigmatised through a caricature of recklessness and fecklessness: the undeserving lumpenproletariat in need of correction through fiscal imprisonment.

 So much for the party of “freedom of choice”!

Young Unemployed will be Made to do “Community Service” – just like Offenders.

September 29, 2014 89 comments

This is the new proposal from the Conservatives: punish the young – again.

Any young person who has failed to find a job after six months on the dole will have to go on a community work scheme.

Cameron said on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “At heart I want us effectively to abolish youth unemployment. I want us to end the idea that aged 18 you leave school, go and leave home, claim unemployment benefit and claim housing benefit. We should not be offering that choice to young people. We should be saying to people you should be earning or learning.

“We are not talking about those people with children. This is about single people aged 18 to 21. You can start a life on dependency and that is no life at all, that is no future for your children when you do have them. We are saying save the money, make sure after six months every one of those young people has to do a job or in training and use the savings to provide three million apprentices”.

He defended the cut to the welfare cap, arguing that a better education system and welfare reform was one of the best ways to lower immigration. “All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down saves money, will mean more families getting into work, and what I want to see – the plan we have for Britain – is to spend less money on welfare and more on helping people into work.”

The chancellor, George Osborne, said: “It is not acceptable for young people under the age of 21 to go straight from school or on to benefits and into a home paid for through housing benefit – benefit funded by other people who are working.” He said single parents and those coming out of care would be exempt from the exclusion of housing benefit.

Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is currently worth £50.95 per week for those aged 16 to 24 and £64.30 for those over 25. JSA will be replaced with a six-month allowance, after which claimants will have to do community work if they have failed to find a job or an apprenticeship.

New apprentices will be paid with savings from cutting the welfare benefit. There are currently 150,000 18 to 21-year-olds on JSA.

Guardian

So, the young unemployed will end up with the same penalty as those doing a  “community sentence”

The Mail gives the ‘wage’ that these forced labourers will receive,

The dole, officially called the Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) is currently worth £50.95 per week for those aged 16 to 24 and £64.30 for the over-25s.

Mr Osborne intends to scrap the JSA for 18 to 21s and replace it with a ‘youth allowance’ – set at about the same level as the dole.

But they will only receive it for six months. After that, if they have failed to find a job, apprenticeship or a training scheme, they will have to do community work, such as cleaning up public places, to continue receiving it.

Community sentences can be given for crimes such as:

  • damaging property
  • benefit fraud
  • assault

I would add minor drug offences.

Let us remind ourselves of what those sentenced to do “community payback” (for offences) have to do,

Community Payback is unpaid work like:

  • removing graffiti
  • clearing wasteland
  • decorating public places and buildings – for example, a community centre

You will usually work in your local area, and be managed by a Community Payback supervisor. You must wear a high visibility orange vest while you work.

You can expect to complete anything from 40 to 300 hours of Community Payback, depending on how serious your crime was.

You have to work 3 or 4 days each week if you’re unemployed.

The Community Payback work will be arranged outside your working hours if you have a job, eg evenings or weekends.

The sentence for being unemployed after 6 months if you’re under 21 is…..unlimited!

The resentment this will cause is not hard to imagine.

Unlike National Service it will not apply to everyone.

Just the poor.

Benefit Sanctions, 4,500 Hit in Manchester.

September 26, 2014 86 comments

The Manchester Evening News reported this week.

Hard-up jobless people in Greater Manchester have been hammered hardest by benefit sanctions in the UK, according to a new report.

Around 4,500 people – 8 per cent of the region’s Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants – have had their payments frozen or stopped completely as part of the government crackdown.

That compared with just 6 per cent of jobseekers in other areas since October 2012.

As part of the tough new regime, claimants face having their payments stopped if job centre staff class them as ‘unavailable for work’.

But critics say the broad brush approach has unfairly penalised many people with legitimate training or childcare commitments.

However, the analysis by think tank New Economy shows that most of those affected were sanctioned because they failed to turn up to appointments intended to help them find work.

The second highest reason for a sanction was because claimants were unable to show they were looking for job.

I looked at the last item and thought…..

In Ipswich the Jobcentre has a few computers, about 4, looking lonely,  when I last looked for jobsearch.

Ipswich Central Library computer system is in chaos.

Most of the computers are out of order (3 days now).

There is fierce competition to use the few terminals (using a new system)  that work – 8 of them downstairs.

This is for thousands of people who have to 35 hours jobsearch a week (and some now who have to do 40 Hours!)

So a lot of people in Ipswich are going to find it hard to show how they are looking for a job.

Rachel Reeves (Labour Conference) slates Iain Duncan Smith’s reverse “Midas Touch”.

September 23, 2014 94 comments

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, in a speech to Labour’s Annual Conference 2014 in Manchester, said:

“Just think conference, it could be less than a year left for the Bedroom Tax.

Because the very first thing I will do if I am Secretary of State for Work and Pensions next May is repeal it.

It’s unfair, it’s unworkable, and it’s on its way out – across the whole of the United Kingdom. Scrapped, binned, axed, abolished, put out of its misery, consigned to the history books.

And that day can’t come soon enough.

And for those Liberal Democrats who now say they’re against it too – we will see how serious they are when Parliament returns. Because we will call a vote on the Bedroom Tax. Today I have written to Nick Clegg to urge him to do the right thing and vote with us – not to water it down, but to cancel it altogether.

Change can’t come soon enough for the half a million families caught by the Bedroom Tax, all of them on low incomes, two thirds of them disabled, clobbered by a government that has handed 13,000 millionaires a tax cut worth £100,000 with an average annual charge of more than £700.

Change can’t come soon enough for Tony Cunning, a former sheet metal worker I met in Trafford. He had to give up his job because he needed kidney dialysis three times a week. He was looking forward to having that equipment installed in his flat so he wouldn’t have to keep going into hospital. But then he was told that the room he needed for the dialysis machine counted as a “spare bedroom”. Tony faced the choice between finding another home, or finding another £977 a year to cover his rent.

Change can’t come soon enough for my constituent Alice. Alice works three shifts a day as a cleaner to support her family, but had to wait four months for tax credits she was entitled to. Alice was trying to survive on rolled over payday loans, and had to come to me to ask for food vouchers.

Change can’t come soon enough for the former Remploy workers I met in Wakefield. They were promised help to get new jobs when their factories were shut, but instead they were just abandoned.

So the Bedroom Tax is just the start of what we will have to put right after five years of this Tory-led Government. Five years of favours for a privileged few while life for working people and their families gets harder and harder. Five years in which David Cameron has left the Department for Work and Pensions in the hands of Iain Duncan Smith. A man with his own special Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a complete and utter shambles.

Universal Credit – stuck in first gear.

Work Capability Assessments – in meltdown.

Personal Independence Payments – mired in delays.

The Work Programme – failing the people who need help the most.

The Youth Contract – an embarrassing flop.

It would be comical if it wasn’t so criminal. We should be angry that taxpayers’ money is being squandered. That vulnerable people are being ill-treated. That lives are being scarred. That talent is being wasted. We should be angry – and they should be ashamed.

The Tories will leave a truly toxic legacy. And for all their talk about cutting welfare, they’ve overspent on social security by £13 billion in this Parliament with a rising in-work benefits bill left for the next government. Because what the Tories will never understand is that you can’t control the costs of social security if you’ve got economy where people can’t earn enough to keep up with the cost of living.

So let me be straight with you: there will be tough decisions on resources and priorities for the next Labour government. But we will also target the deeper causes of rising welfare spending by building a recovery that leaves no one behind.

That’s how we ensure a system that is fair and affordable, so we can keep up the fight against child and pensioner poverty, upholding and renewing the principles our welfare state was built on: responsibilities and opportunities for all who can work; dignity for those who cannot; hard work and contribution recognised and rewarded.

Those are my values, and this is my mission. So here’s our plan to deliver it:

Step one: a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee so no one is left on unemployment benefit for years on end.

Comment: we need details, and the rates of pay offered.

Step two: a Basic Skills Test so we intervene early to tackle skills gaps that can condemn people to a life on benefits.

Comment: There are already plenty of tests. Testing is part of the problem not the solution.,

Step three: a Youth Allowance that means young people who lack key qualifications are expected and supported to do the training they need.

Comment: What will the allowance be? Will there be a choice in training? Who will do the training?

Step four: replace the failing Work Programme, with power devolved to local councils and communities, instead of big contracts signed in Whitehall.

Comment:will  the Programme  still be outsourced to the usual suspects, SERCO, SEETEC and the other chancers?

What will it consist of?

Will Mandatory Work Activity be Abolished?

Will the exploitative and oppressive Community Action Programme be abolished?  

Will the timewasting prison of  Mandatory 35 hour Job s7 earch be abolished?

Step five: ensure our pensions market works for all working people, so that everyone can save for their future with confidence.

Comment: we need higher universal pensions not more markets.

Step six: ensure that disabled people who can work get the tailored support that they need.

And as for the Work Capability Assessment, we need real reform, with disabled people given clear rights and a real say. And I give you this commitment: as Secretary of State I will come down hard on any contractor that gets these critical assessments wrong, or fails to treat disabled people with the decency and respect they deserve.

Comment: we need an end to more privately run assessment fiddles: no more “contractors”!

And Conference, it’s not enough to get people into work if they’re still reliant on benefits to make ends meet. So we will get more workers paid a living wage. And because the fall in the real value of the National Minimum Wage since 2010 is now costing the taxpayer £270 million a year in additional benefits and tax credits, we’ll set the Low Pay Commission a target to raise the Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by the end of the Parliament, so we aren’t using our social security system to subsidise the profits of big companies paying poverty wages.

That’s a future worth fighting for. And the fight is now on. It’s a fight for hardworking mums and dads who put in the hours but still fear for their family’s future. A fight for every young person who deserves a fairer chance to make the most of their lives. A fight for all those doing what they can to get into work and who need to be supported not stigmatised. A fight for all the people forced into debt, or to queue at a foodbank, because of inexcusable benefit delays. A fight for hundreds of thousands of disabled people to stay in their homes without having to pay the indefensible Bedroom Tax.

We’ve got 226 days left to fight for that with everything we’ve got. Conference, let’s make it happen.

Labour Press.  

Concluding Comments.

A decent level of benefits should be the aim of any Labour government: work or full maintenance!

The present system needs a radical overhaul.

To begin with we need an end to the Sanctions Regime and a full review of the abuses taking place by the DWP and private contractors (in the Work Programme and elsewhere).

There should be prosecutions for those who have mistreated claimants.

Those private outsourcing companies engaged in profiteering from the system should be subject to hefty fines.

A priority for claimants is restoration of full of the Council Tax Benefit!

Plus a rise in benefit levels.

A grand People’s Commission, charged with creating an equal and fair welfare state, should have the power to bring the benefit system under democratic control for the good of all. 

Universal Credit Still in the Doldrums.

September 20, 2014 59 comments

James Bloodworth writes, “Just a fraction of the people the government wants to move to Universal Credit have been put on the new payment system, according to new statistics from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).
13,260 people have been moved onto universal credit since it began in April 2013. Of these, 11,070 were still claiming by the end of August 2014.

This means that work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is 986,740 short of his original target of one million people to be moved to universal credit by April 2014. IDS is also far short of his revised target of 184,000.

The latest statistics show a large disparity in the number of claimants across the country. Oldham, which was one of the original pathfinder sites, had a caseload of 2,240 claimants at the end of August. Meanwhile Birmingham and Rochdale had 10 (see chart). The low number for Rochdale is probably explained by the fact that the system only went live there recently.

Universal Creditj

A report from the Work and Pensions committee of MPs warned in April of this year that it was still not clear whether the universal credit roll-out would actually work.

“Whilst it is right to ensure that the system works properly before extending it, there is a difference between cautious progress and a snail’s pace,” said committee chair Anne Begg MP.

“Given the excruciatingly slow pace of roll-out to date, it is hard to see how the most recent implementation timetable can be met,” she added.

Given today’s figures from the DWP, the roll-out of universal credit doesn’t appear to have significantly picked up the pace.

 

More on Left Foot Forward.

This, by David Finch from the important Public Finance bulletin (10th September) , raises wider concerns,

Universal Credit attempts to be a big bang solution to the complexities of the welfare system but new incentive structure could undermine the intended benefits

Despite parties gearing up for the next election and the chancellor already placing further spending cuts to welfare firmly on the table, attention has moved away from the expected impact of Universal Credit on families, and has instead turned to the implementation issues that have dogged it so far.

Cuts in welfare spending have already made Universal Credit less generous than originally envisaged and it is unclear what the impact of Universal Credit will be when it does arrive.

As a paper published today by Resolution Foundation argues, simplification of the benefit system is certainly a positive step. Universal Credit is a radical and big bang approach to dealing with the often confusing complexities of the current benefit system. A single benefit will ease the process of moving into work by removing the need to claim different benefits.

Financial rewards to start work are improved through work allowances (effectively earnings disregards) which mean that the initial earnings of a household, up to 20 hours of work at the minimum wage for a couple with children, are kept before any benefits are withdrawn.  Once earnings go beyond this point UC is withdrawn at a single rate of 65p for every additional pound of earnings.

But this new incentive structure creates its own problems. For some, particularly those claiming support with their housing costs, the point at which this allowance runs out is much lower, for a couple with children claiming support with housing costs it is equivalent to working eight hours at minimum wage.

A new regime of in-work conditionality is expected to counter the risk that people who now find it more worthwhile to enter work at a low number of hours get stuck in those jobs. People will be expected to be earning the equivalent of 35 hours at minimum wage or risk having their Universal Credit award reduced.

Finch then states,

“… the radical nature of this system should not be underestimated.  Little evidence exists to inform its design which is a huge departure from the current role of Jobcentre Plus. Yet the policy design is still not complete and it is unclear whether the default of an evolved Jobcentre Plus is the correct agency to deliver such support. “

Is this news item related?

Iain Duncan Smith’s department has raked in nearly £120,000 from calls to Government helplines.

Pensioners and redundant workers are among people forced to pay the rip-off phone charges.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Smith – already under fire over his discredited Bedroom Tax – may now have to explain why his department still has 0845 numbers for its helplines.

The Government has pledged to stop using the numbers, which cost up to 41p a minute from a mobile phone.

But Labour MP Roger Godsiff has discovered the DWP has made £117,000 during the past five months from the high-rate numbers.

Among the DWP helplines with the 0845 prefix is the Future Pension Centre which gives pension statements and information.

Higher rates are also charged on the Redundancy Payments helpline.

The DWP gets 0.3p per minute from every call to its 0845 numbers, which is then spent on operating ­other phonelines.

Daily Mirror.

The new system, and the present system, are unfathomably complex and people often ring up the DWP to try to get help.

The benefits system increasingly relies in Call Centres, and we learn they may introduce (as with other government agencies) voice recognition questions.

The application by phone system will be another hurdle for people to jump over.

Remember: we will all end up on Universal Credit….sometime, or Never?

Labour in power could abandon universal credit (19.9.14.  Inside Housing)

Take the Jobseeker’s Psychometric Test (DWP approved).

September 18, 2014 83 comments

We make no apologies for having shamelessly ripped this off from Britain’s leading investigative journal, the Daily Mash,

“UNEMPLOYED? The Department for Work and Pensions’ psychometric test uses advanced science to work out why you’ve utterly failed as a human.

Try it, for fun and also because if you don’t all your money will be stopped forever and you will die.

The DWP Psychometric Test for Jobseekers

Which of these statements best describes you?

A. Diligent, honest, reliable.
B. A feckless cider-swilling parasite suckling at the rancid teat of the bloated welfare state.

Which of these sets of random words do you find most appealing?

A. Love. Friendship. Family. Happiness.
B. Commission. Only. Telephone. Sales.

What do you find more sexually arousing?

A. Imagining having sex with attractive Hollywood actors like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
B. Stacking cardboard boxes.

At a party, are you:

A. Outgoing and always the centre of attention.
B. I do not go to parties because I do not deserve to have fun.

Which challenges do you look for in a job?

A. Solving problems in a creative way as part of a team.
B. Quickly cutting off your trapped hair before the machine pulls your head in.

You are walking in the desert when you see a tortoise stuck on its back. What do you do?

A. Help the tortoise by flipping it over.
B. Help the tortoise by signing it up for a great job-hunting course run by a training company that really cares.

Do you find it easy to connect with others on an emotional level?

A. Yes. I am good at sensing what other people are feeling.
B. Emotions are for the weak.

Which of these statements best describes Iain Duncan Smith?

A. A vindictive mediocrity who can only get hard by taking things away from people.
B. A wise, charismatic leader whose baldness in no way reduces his sexual charisma.

How did you do?

Mostly As – Your are a happy, creative person with a positive can-do attitude to work – especially work in windowless warehouses where the air smells of hot chemicals and you get shouted at a lot.

Mostly Bs – As above.

Equal amounts of As and Bs – As above. “

 

IUA says: this may give the DWP some useful tips!

Tests for Jobseekers Must be Ethical – let’s Ditch them Entirely!

September 14, 2014 58 comments

We are all ‘umble, very ‘umble indeed.

The British Psychological society has stated, 

If psychological tests are to be used to judge whether jobseekers have a psychological resistance to work, they must be administered by experienced users of psychometrics and proper feedback must be provided.

That was the reaction of the British Psychological Society to the news that the government is considering such a move.

Dr Ian Bushnell CPsychol from the University of Glasgow, the chair of the Society’s Division Division of Occupational Psychology, said:

“Psychometrics can be a valuable source of information for guiding people in their career search and decisions; the longer term unemployed could find the insights provided by a professionally conducted psychometric assessment very helpful in determining their choices about jobs.

“It is critical, however, that all assessments are conducted by experienced users of psychometrics – ideally under the supervision of a chartered psychologist. The success of a psychometric assessment of jobseekers will depend on sensitive, constructive and meaningful feedback about the results.”

Esther McVey, a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, announced the scheme last week.

Under it, interviewers will assess jobseekers’ attitudes, behavioural norms and levels of self-belief by asking them to describe what they regard as the “risks of going to work”, the “value of work” and how confident they are of finding a job.

This will be combined with a profile on their background, looking at whether they come from a troubled family, whether their spouse will help them in looking for a job and when they last worked.

The scheme is currently being piloted in three job centres. If it proves successful, it will receive a voluntary trial involving 27,000 jobseekers in 27 cities to assess whether the tests can accurately predict whether someone will take a job.

The British Psychological Society’s Psychological Testing Centre provides information and services relating to standards in tests and testing for test takers, test users, test developers and members of the public.

Our Scientific and Psychometric Research Department has been looking into this and found the following (2013),

Jobseekers’ psychometric test ‘is a failure’ (Guardian. May 2013)

US institute that devised questionnaire tells ‘nudge’ unit to stop using it as it failed to be scientifically validated.

An American psychology organisation has told a UK government agency to stop using a personality test on jobseekers because it is a failure.

The Behavioural Insight team, or “nudge” unit, which was created by David Cameron in 2010 to help people “make better choices”, has been accused by the Ohio-based VIA Institute on Character of bad practice after civil servants used VIA’s personality tests in pilot experiments in Essex despite being refused permission to do so.

More through link above.

We also found this….

DWP’S TOP PSYCHOLOGIST TO BE INVESTIGATED OVER FAKE TEST

Since I revealed in April that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and its Jobcentre Plus ‘subsidiary’ were forcing jobseekers, under the threat of sanction, to take a fake psychometric test on behalf of Downing Street’s ‘nudge unit’, the story has run on and on. The DWP denied that anyone had been forced to take the test and claimed that no one had risked losing benefits for non-compliance – and thenadmitted, in a bizarre Freedom of Information (FOI) response that it had done exactly that.

Meanwhile, the head of the nudge unit, David Halpern, had written a letter (jointly with creator of the ‘test’ and US psychological torture guru Martin Seligman) to the Guardian repeating the denial – which the FOI then showed to have been completely untrue. The situation caused considerable uproar among psychologists, particularly within the British Psychological Society‘s ‘Division of Occupational Psychologists‘ (BPS; DOP), some of whose comments in a Linkedin discussion forum you can seehere.

I can now reveal (together with the Guardian) that the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is investigating David Carew, the DWP’s Chief Psychologist, over the use of a ‘test’ which evidently lacks proper development and validation, and which consisted of simply extracting 48 questions from the hundreds contained in a properly-validated test created by a US organisation, the VIA.

The fact that the full test was apparently properly validated does not mean that any question, or subset of questions, is therefore validated as well – and approving a non-validated ‘test’ for use on unwilling subjects could represent a serious breach of professional ethics. The BPS said it was taking the complaints seriously and that the DWP had failed to provide full answers to its detailed questions about the test’s scientific rigour or the qualifications behind those implementing and devising the survey, saying:

We approached the DWP to try to discover how the Behavioural Insights Unit drew up its test. We have received a reply, but without our questions being fully answered.

The DOP, which represents around 4,000 BPS members, issued a separate statement saying it was “very concerned” by way in which the test had reportedly been applied and the “technical credentials of the instrument”. They said that they had “been unable to establish” from their appeals to the DWP…

More through link above.

Despite these reports the DWP hasn’t give up!

Talk about reinforced misbehaviour……

A Touching Plea for the Work Programme.

September 11, 2014 46 comments

The Void posts on this letter to the Guardian,

You report that the coalition partners are looking to make changes in the Work Programme in their manifestos (Lib Dems widen attack after bedroom tax victory, 8 September). We agree improvements can be made. Much has been learned about about how to support the long-term unemployed over the last few years, particularly during a time of recession.  However, it is important that all politicians remain committed to helping the long-term unemployed back into sustainable employment.

Since 2011, the Work Programme has helped more than half a million people into work. Of these, more than 300,000 are already in long-term employment. This is a win-win for taxpayer, employers and, crucially, jobseekers themselves.

As employers we believe that the commitment of politicians to employment support – whether the Work Programme or a different scheme – must continue. We are asking for all politicians to put aside their difference and to put the long-term interests of the country and jobseekers first.

It’s worth scrolling down the list of parasites profiting from free labour who use this letter to  plead for their cash.
Paula McCarthy Domus Healthcare,

Simon Wilson Intelling

Adrian Swain MAS Landscapes

Andrew Grant Major Energy

Andrew Levesley Building and Property Maintenance

Anita Adams MTL Group

Ash Sawney Ocado

Clare Beasley Drayton Manor

James Thompson e-achieve

Mark Burley Square Orange Associate

Rachel Blake Rotherham Council

Stuart Forrest ICM (Global)

Warren Bennett Assist Recruitment

Fiona Mcbride Jurys Inn

Lise Evens K-10

Lloyd Silver Crossfold Electrical

Martin Cox Leigh Tec Solutions

Melissa Zagara Cre-namic Security

Muhammad Imran Wyeth Security Services

Alison Jackson Caremark

Barbara Anderson Genistar

Braam Theron Homebase

Debbie Pierson Kingdom Security

Dennis Phillips Timpsons

Elizabeth Gilmore-Jones Llandudno Alliance

Gerald Shervington Atlas Washrooms Systems

James Norrie Nationwide Event Support

Janet Lanza Hairways

Jay Zaman Cineworld Cinemas

Larry Berkowitz Bluebird Care

Nazmul Sumon Stag Treorchy

Paul Merriman Kiln Park

Paul Rhodes Pilkington Glass

Ray Mason Lloyds Bank – General Insurance

Richard Hainsworth City and Guilds

Rob Webb Gap Personnel

Ross Savage Trackwork

Simon Williams RPQ Inns Ltd – The Grapes Hotels

Steve Butler Ideal Mobile Solutions

Steve Dalton Nico Manufacturing

Sue Taylor WEPRE Villa Homecare

Victoria Nupen Experts in Media

Ollie Bennellick Armada Tube and Steel

Anette Dolan Bath Antiques

Karen Mercer-Tyson Select Sandwich & Coffee Co

Barry Jordan Bowden Derra Care Home

David McKay Bellcome Call Centre

Lee Hannan BAM Facility Management

Luke Edwards South West Laundry

Melissa Nichol Merson Signs

Nareen Owens Clyde Valley Housing Association

Neil Hunt Dove Project

Daniel Hobbin My Claim Solved

Carole Swanton Poppies

Ian Gaskell Poundland

Mark Bamford Poundworld Retail

Kirsty McHugh Employment Related Services Association

A quick glance shows that  sellers of cheap goods to the poor, Poundland, get on the list.

A quick thought – the studies showing how useless the Work Programme has been would fill a Homebase warehouse.

Johnny comments,

The last signatory on the list may reveal one explanation for how this strange initiative came about.  Kirsty McHugh is the Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Assocation, or ERSA for short.  This is the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work parasites like A4e and G4S who run the Work Programme.  Just last week they published a breath-takingly dishonest report making wild claims that no-one believed about how much money the Work Programme is saving the country.  It seems likely that this latest letter was co-ordinated by ERSA as part of a shabby PR campaign designed to convince the DWP to keep giving welfare-to-work firms billions of pounds of our money.

What is Rotherham Council doing on it?

Rachel Blake, “Senior Economic Development Officer at Rotherham Borough Council

Past

  • Policy and Partnership Officer at Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

  • Work and Skills Board Manager at Rotherham Borough Council.

You’d have thought Rotherham Council (Labour) had enough on its plate at the moment.

Beyond the Work programme what do these organisations and companies think of the new workfare scheme?

Here is what Ipswich Borough Council (Labour)  says about workfare,

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

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

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

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

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

Today Ipswich Council has stated it will not be participating.

Council Leader David Ellesmere said:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Tests for “psychological resistance to work” to Determine who goes to 35 Hours Prison.

September 8, 2014 124 comments

Wiser than the DWP “psychological testers”. 

Having had time to look into this one it certainly trumps previous hare-brained DWP schemes.

In fact I’ve known many March hares, very cautious and reliable spring hares, with wit and intelligence,  who have had more sense than the people who came up with this “nudge” (or kick in the bollocks),

People claiming benefits will be expected to undergo attitude tests to assess if they have a psychological resistance to work under new plans revealed by the employment minister.

Esther McVey said benefit claimants will be profiled to see if they feel “determined”, “bewildered” or “despondent” at the prospect of employment.

Those who are deemed less mentally prepared for life at work will undergo intensive coaching at the job centre, The Telegraph reports, while people who are judged to be more positive about work will be placed on less rigorous schemes.

It will be scales of eager, despondent, maybe apprehensive. There are factors within that: somebody who is apprehensive but willing is different from someone who is reticent but disengaged,” said Ms McVey.

Independent

The Telegraph adds,

Ms McVey’s “segmentation” programme has been inspired by the work of Therese Rein, the wife of the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose firm has used attitude profiling in back-to-work schemes since the 1990s.

Back-to-Work, that is workfare schemes, for which Australia is notorious.

Segmentation or “selection” as we might call it.

This is the most relevant bit,

It is likely to be used to select candidates for the work programme, under which claimants have to work in order to receive benefits. It will also be used to recruit to a new scheme obliging the long-term unemployed to spend 35 hours a week at the Jobcentre as they learn to write cover letters and sit interviews.

So ‘tests’ with about as much scientific validity as astrology, crystal therapy and homoeopathy, will be used to decide who gets sent to Jobsearch prison for 35 hours a week.

 

Warning: Bradford Shows What Horror Supervised Jobsearch Will be.

September 5, 2014 107 comments

UNEMPLOYED people in Bradford must hunt for jobs from “nine to five” or be stripped of benefits, under a controversial new crackdown.

The city, which has more than 14,500 people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, has been picked for the first trial of a Government scheme to target benefit claimants who “lack motivation” to find work.

From next month, they will be required to visit a Jobcentre every morning to sign an attendance register, then spend the whole day working on job applications.

Ministers say the jobseekers will be given intensive help with important skills such as compiling CVs, writing covering letters, timekeeping and interview techniques.

But the policy also carries a big stick – a threat to remove benefits from claimants who fail to hunt for jobs for 35 hours each week, for three months.

A first breach of the rules will trigger a loss of four weeks’ benefit and the second will mean forfeiting three months’ money.

The Jobcentre Plus offices in Bradford, Keighley, Shipley and Leeds are among 64 across the country that will carry out the trial.

Staff began handing out factsheets today to jobseekers claimants not on the Work Programme or taking part in a community work placement.

Not all claimants at those centres will take part – and lone parents and carers might not be required to attend for the full 35 hours a week.

But the scheme last night divided opinion among the district’s MPs with those in the coalition Government supporting it, while those in opposition heavily critical of it.

Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) said: “I’m completely in favour of this scheme on every possible level, I think it’s a great initiative.

“It’s quite right that unemployed people treat looking for work as a full-time job, it is completely unacceptable for them to be loafing at home watching TV. “

David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said: “If it is something that can help people get back into work, then it must be seen as a good thing.”

But George Galloway (Respect, Bradford West) said: “This idea is a joke and yet another waste of money. It’s a compliment to call it half-baked, it’s not even in the oven.

“It is a horrendous imposition on some people who are genuinely claiming benefits.

“The scheme sounds like prison, it’s madness.”

And Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab, Bradford South): “I’m not sure this scheme gives a motivation to find work, and I don’t think keeping people cooped up in a job centre all day is the way forward.”

In total, about 6,000 people will take part, across West Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Sussex and Surrey.

Esther McVey, the Work Minister, said: “It’s right that we ask claimants to do everything they can to look for work in return for their benefits.

“This pilot is testing how we provide that extra support to those whose motivation or job hunting skills get in the way of finding a job.

“A life on benefits for those who can work is no longer an option – we’re helping those who aspire to the security of a regular wage and the chance to develop a career.”

The “nine to five” scheme was announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the Tory conference one year ago, but it has taken 12 months to set up the pilot.

Other, more draconian parts of the “Work for the Dole” scheme has seen claimants required to cook meals for the elderly, pick up litter and clean up graffiti, or lose their benefits.

Meanwhile, those with deep-rooted problems must attend therapy sessions to deal with poor literacy, or drink and drug addiction.

From Telegraph and Argus.

Supervised Jobsearch Pilot to Begin in East Anglia in October.

September 3, 2014 54 comments

The supervised Jobsearch scheme (putting people in a jobsearching Prison and made to ‘job search’ for  35 hours a week) is set to begin in East Anglia this October.

This “pilot scheme’ is

In return for receiving their benefit, some Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants will be required to undertake supervised jobsearch activity under a new trial to be introduced next year.

Under the trials selected jobseekers will be required to attend a local centre where they will receive expert support and supervision while they search and apply for jobs. They will be required to attend the centre for 35 hours a week for up to 6 months.

Two pilots are due to be run: one targeting the very long-term unemployed, and the other focusing on claimants who are identified as likely to benefit from this intensive regime early on in their claim.

Attendance at the centres will be mandatory and failure to participate without good reason will lead to a benefit sanction.

Pilots are expected to be running by the end of 2014, and each of the pilots is expected to have around 3,000 participants.

DWP

 

More information (Supervised Jobsearch Pilot Scheme) Regulations 2014.

This is believed to be a model of the the new Jobsearch centres (Supervisors’ office in the centre, Jobseekers’ cells circling around it):

 

Sanctions: Another Guide.

August 31, 2014 29 comments

A number of people, some of them professionally involved in Welfare advice, have recommended, very highly, the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty’s guide published this August. .

Their site is excellent as well.

Here is the main text on what claimants should do faced with this threat.

AVOID SANCTIONS

  1. When signing on always give the Jobcentre as much info as possible about your jobsearch.
  2. If you have health issues ask to be seen regularly by a Disability Employment Adviser.  Your health should be taken into account when decisions are being made about what your jobsearch.
  3. Ask for everything in writing, where possible.  If the Jobcentre or the Workfare Provider (A4e, Ingeus, etc) say something is mandatory, ask them to write which law/ regulation states this.
  4. If something is agreed by phone, or verbally, write or e mail to ask them to confirm it.
  5. Ensure your Job Seekers Agreement is realistic.  If the Jobcentre proposes changes you do not agree to, then you can ask for the issue to be referred to a decisionmaker, and meanwhile the original agreement stands.  If your current agreement is unreasonable, you can ask for it to be reviewed.
  6. Be accompanied to any tricky appointments by a friend or advisor.  This is your right.

SANCTIONS – WHAT HAPPENS

The process for imposing sanctions is

1) The Jobcentre or a workfare provider (eg A4e ) makes a SANCTION REFERRAL.

2) Then a DWP decision-maker, generally in a different decisionmakers section, in a different location, makes the decision about whether or not a sanction is to be imposed.

Sometimes, especially if the sanction referral is made by the Jobcentre for allegedly not doing enough to actively seek work, your benefit is suspended immediately.

The decisionmaker should write to you to give you the chance to put your case before he/ she makes their decision.  When they do make their decision, they should send you a decision letter.  It seems that often they do not do this.  If they don’t send both these letters, this is something you can use in your appeal and in an official complaint.

SANCTIONED/ BENEFIT SUSPENDED/ SANCTION REFERRAL? 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

It’s vital to contest the sanction – over half of appeals succeed.

WRITE TO ARGUE AGAINST A SANCTION

  • You should submit full information, in writing, as soon as possible to the decisionmaker, to argue against a sanction.   Act right away.  Whether it is a sanction referral, or an actual sanction, whether your benefit is suspended or not, put forward your case in writing as soon as you can.
  • If the sanction referral is for allegedly not doing enough to look for work then write to the Decisionmaker with as much info as possible about your jobsearch, including ALL the steps you have taken.  This can include phone calls and emails to employers, looking in newspapers, at websites, asking friends and family etc, as well as actual job applications.  Where possible provide evidence.
  • Do not rely on the Jobcentre forwarding all the information they hold about your jobseeking to the decisionmaker.  We have supported claimants in cases where the Jobcentre has withheld information about jobseeking activity from the Decisionmaker and from the Tribunal, thus making it appear the Jobseeker had done much less job search activity than they actually had.
  • If your sanction is for missing or being late for an appointment you need to show you had “good cause” or “good reason” for this.  A domestic emergency, illness, a funeral and other reasons could constitute good cause.  More info on this below.

INSIST ON A MEETING WITH A MANAGER

As soon as you know a sanction referral has been made, then insist on a meeting with a Jobcentre manager to explain why the sanction referral should be withdrawn (if the referral is done by a workfare provider like A4e then seek an appointment with a manager at the provider).  We have succeeded in stopping several sanctions this way.

The Jobcentre in particular is likely to resist a meeting but this is your right.  If you and a rep go to the Jobcentre, insist on a date for an appointment with a manager, and won’t leave until you get a time and date for a meeting, then it won’t be easy for them to refuse. If many claimants insist on a meeting with a manager when sanctioned, it will help make the mass imposition of sanctions unworkable.  If refused an appointment, make an official complaint, copying it to your MP and seeking their support.

MAKE AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT

If the sanction referral is clearly unjustified, make an official complaint to the Jobcentre manager. Copy the complaint to your MP and insist he/ she supports you.  If you do not get the proper response, you can escalate the complaint to the DWP District Office and then to the DWP Chief Executive’s Office in London.

ADVISER PROBLEMS? GET A NEW ONE

If your adviser has treated you badly, then as well as making a complaint, you can request a different adviser.  This is your right, whether at the Jobcentre or at a Workfare provider like A4e or Ingeus  We have supported many claimants to successfully do this.

HARDSHIP PAYMENTS

As soon your benefits have been stopped/ suspended, or as soon as your sanction is confirmed, claim Hardship Payments from the Jobcentre.  Do not delay as it will be difficult to get them backdated.  More info from Refuted here.

KEEP YOUR HOUSING BENEFIT AND COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT

Tell Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) to make sure that both these benefits continue as normal while you are sanctioned (In Edinburgh, contact City of Edinburgh Council Revenues and Benefits).  While sanctioned you are entitled to the same Housing Benefit and CTB as before, but you MUST tell the Council of your changed circumstances or these benefits will automatically stop.

WRITTEN STATEMENT OF REASONS

If the sanction is confirmed, write to ask for a written statement of reasons for the decision.  This will help in focusing your arguments against the sanction when you request a Mandatory Reconsideration.

MANDATORY RECONSIDERATION

The government has changed the rules about appeals, to make things worse for claimants.  Now you cannot just make an appeal, you have first to apply to the DWP for Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision.  You should send a letter with a detailed written argument why the sanction is not justified.  As before, if the issue is allegedly not doing enough to seek work, write with details of EVERY SINGLE STEP you took in the relevant period to look for work.  Best to get advice, we can help.

There is no set time for the DWP to take for this, but if you have not heard after three weeks then chase them up.  They may phone you up about the Mandatory Reconsideration, but it is important to put your full case in writing.

Here is the link to the official government site which explains the process of Mandatory Reconsideration for benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (the rules are different for some other benefits).

AUTHORITIES STILL NOT LISTENING? CONSIDER A SOLIDARITY DEMO

If the Jobcentre or provider are still not listening to you about the sanction, then you could consider a protest at the Jobcentre or provider’s premises.  Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have a solidarity network of people like yourself we can call on to give backing to people who need support against the authorities.  If you would like to consider this, we can discuss it with you, and it will be up to you to decide the form of the protest, so it is something you are happy with.

We have held solidarity demos in support of individuals, over various issues over the years, and the vast majority have been successful.

CARRY ON CLAIMING

Do not be intimidated into giving up your claim, this is what they want.  Continue signing on, even if your benefit is suspended – if you win you will get the money back, but if you stop signing on, you won’t be able to get backdated money.

APPEAL TO AN INDEPENDENT TRIBUNAL

If the mandatory reconsideration does not restore your benefit, then appeal to an independent social security tribunal.  Best to seek advice and support.

SANCTIONS FOR CLAIMANTS ON SICKNESS BENEFITS

Disgustingly, even claimants too ill or disabled to work can be sanctioned if they are in the Work Related Activity Group of the Employment and Support Alllowance.

If you are in this situation and forced onto the Work Programme, then protect yourself by submitting medical evidence to the Workfare Provider (eg Ingeus) that shows you are too ill to attend office appointments.  We have supported claimants at Ingeus on the Work Programme to gain the right to have contact by phone calls rather than appointments.

If you are sanctioned, or a sanction referral is made, then the advice in this leaflet applies, plus do get medical evidence to back up your case, eg to say you were too ill to make an appointment.

Remember to take someone with you to any appointments.

If they refuse to take your illness into account you can sue the DWP and workfare provider for disability discrimination.

SURVIVAL

As well as claiming Hardship Payments you may be able to get a grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund, run by local councils, in Edinburgh contact 0131 529 5299.  And click here for more info.

Investigate Food banks, you usually need a referral.  Ask us for more info on sources of free food.

TOP TIP

When submitting any info to the DWP it is vital to either post it SIGNED FOR or hand-deliver and get a receipt.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The unprecedented wave of sanctions is part of the government’s war on the poor.  The rich are trying to get us to pay for the crisis caused by their greed and the chaos of the global profit system.  We need to fight back.  We need to resist all benefit cuts, and link up with all struggles resisting austerity.

It’s no good relying on politicians or political parties, they are part of the problem.  We need to organise at the grass-roots and take direct action.  Ultimately we need to challenge capitalism – this system is based on the legalised robbery of the majority by the ruling class.  Why shouldn’t the world’s resources belong to the world’s people and be used to meet human need?

We are keen to organise more action against sanctions, like our demonstration at Leith Job Centre.  Opposition to sanctions is growing, as we write in summer 2014 demonstrations are being organised against sanctions in Clydebank, Dundee and Glasgow.  Get in touch if you would like to join with us to fight back against sanctions.

More information on the site here.

As said, highly recommended.

Sanctions, Destitution and Food Banks.

August 28, 2014 43 comments

In a heart-warming tale we learn this week that,

Foodbanks in South Yorkshire are forging better links with local businesses to help them feed the rising number of hungry families using their services.

Andy Niblock, who works at the Sheffield S6 foodbank based at St Thomas’ Church on Gilpin Street, near Shalesmoor, said they were having to feed more and more hungry mouths.

He said: “There is an ongoing increase in the number of referrals from people with food vouchers wanting to use the foodbank.

“We have partnerships with supermarkets and get very generous donations from lots of people like neighbours, families, schools and churches.”

Companies across South Yorkshire are stepping in to help out foodbanks.

The Star.

In a less heart-warming story we hear that,

A vulnerable 60-year-old has been left penniless and dependent on food bank support after his Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was sanctioned at the end of July while on the Work Programme. South-east Londoner James Dearsley received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (below) telling him that he had been sanctioned from July 29 and that his JSA would not be reinstated until October 29. James, who is already in arrears with his council tax, has spent more than three weeks without social security. This withdrawal of money means that he’s already been forced to use Greenwich food bank twice.

From ANN MCGAURAN

 As Johnny Void says,

Understandably much of the rage against the vicious welfare reforms –  which are costing an increasing number of lives – has been aimed at blundering fucking idiot Iain Duncan Smith.

But it is David Cameron who has cheered along whilst the DWP has spent billions driving the poorest people in the country into destitution.  It is David Cameron who has been in charge whilst hundreds of hungry families have queued at foodbanks, or disabled people have been driven from their homes due to the Bedroom Tax.  And it is David Cameron who is ultimately responsible for the deaths of David Clapson, Stephanie Bottrill, Victor CuffJacqueling Harrisand all of those driven to ill health and suicide by his Government’s callous devastation of the social security safety net.

No amount of cockle-warming tales from charitable Business is going to change that.

Ipswich JobCentre Goes Computers and Rips out Public Phones.

August 26, 2014 13 comments

It’s finally happened here, Ipswich Jobcentre has ripped out the public phones and plans to introduce computers-only jobsearch help.

This is a point made by a Bolton jobseeker in March this year.

 

A CAMPAIGNER has launched an e-petition against a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision to remove customer access phones from Jobcentres.

Robert Inman, aged 21, spent time as a jobseeker and said the phones — which could be used to call potential employers, to speak with the DWP directly or to contact other departments — were vital during his period of unemployment.

He added: “I currently work at Asda, but I was a jobseeker and I used those phones a lot.

“They were free phones, but a lot of the numbers for the jobcentres are 0845 numbers, which people on benefits can’t afford, so the free phones really did help people.”

The DWP said it was planning to “bring Jobcentres into the 21st century” by replacing phones in centres as well as Jobpoint machines, which can be used to browse for available jobs.

Instead there will be 6,000 new computers and Wi-Fi access.

A spokesman said: “This is part of a nationwide programme that sees greater levels of individual support to help claimants get back intoemployment.

“New computers and Wi-Fi access are being installed across Britain’s jobcentres to make sure claimants have the right help to get into work.”

But Mr Inman, from Halliwell, said this might not work for everyone.

He added: “The DWP has said it is part of modernisation, but for many people the phones were what they needed and, as yet, they haven’t been replaced.”

The DWP said more than 80 per cent of claims to Jobseeker’s Allowance are now made online and that as Universal Credit continues to be rolled out, more claimants will be interacting with the department over the internet.

More here.

We hear that for those unable to use computers staff will provide help.

That this is not a cost-cutting measure and a means to bring surveillance into the 21st century

Believe that if you want to!

Sanctions, Should We Film the Process? Video example.

August 7, 2014 258 comments

Yesterday the Guardian published reponses to its report on the sactioning of David Clapson.

 

‘Even the sight of a CV would give me an anxiety attack': Guardian readers on benefit sanctions

Our story on David Clapson, who died after his benefits were stopped, prompted a deluge of stories from Guardian readers struggling with the benefit payment sanctions regime.

We wonder if videoing when people get sanctions is the right, and permitted, response?

And if not, why not?

Here is an example (from  regular poster Tobanem).

 

 

 

Dying Penniless and Alone: the Reality of DWP ‘sanctions’. Fight Back!

August 4, 2014 44 comments
Hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions that killed my brother

 

This article in today’s Guardian  is heart-breaking.

No one should die penniless and alone': the victims of Britain’s harsh welfare sanctions

David Clapson was found dead last year after his benefits were stopped on the grounds that he wasn’t taking the search for work seriously. He had an empty stomach, and just £3.44 to his name. Now thousands of other claimants are being left in similarly dire straits by tough new welfare sanctions.
We know that David Clapson was actively searching for work when he died because a pile of CVs he had just printed out was found a few metres from his body. The last time he spoke to his sister, a few days before he died, he told her he was waiting to hear back about an application he had made to the supermarket chain Lidl.

But officials at the Jobcentre believed he was not taking his search for work seriously enough, and early last July, they sanctioned him – cutting off his benefit payments entirely, as a punishment for his failure to attend two appointments.

Clapson, 59, who had diabetes, died in his flat in Stevenage on 20 July 2013, from diabetic ketoacidosis (caused by an acute lack of insulin). When Gill Thompson, his younger sister, discovered his body, she found his electricity had been cut off (meaning that the fridge where he kept his insulin was no longer working). There was very little left to eat in the flat – six tea bags, an out-of-date tin of sardines and a can of tomato soup. His pay-as-you-go mobile phone had just 5p credit left on it and he had only £3.44 in his bank account. The autopsy notes reveal that his stomach was empty.

More here.

Sign, Sign this  “An online petition calling for an inquiry into his death has gathered 43,000 signatures.”

We are heartened that the site Job Seeker Sanction Advice which following the notice on the Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants news, we gave publicity to a few days ago is really taking off,

One group of former DWP employees has set up a free online advice service, jobseekersanctionadvice.com. The founder, a 54-year-old grandmother who left the DWP in 2011 and who asked to remain anonymous, says she became uncomfortable with having to implement policies that she believed were designed to punish people for making small errors. Last Monday morning the site had 200 emails, most of them requests for assistance, but six of them offers to help staff the site, two of them from former DWP employees.

Iain Duncan Smith, ‘Lord’ Freud and his other band of cronies have blood on their hands!

Unemployment and Welfare Blogs, Updates.

August 1, 2014 61 comments

This is to bring Blogs to people’s attention.

Long-standing sites, like the Void, can be seen on the boxes on the side-bar already.

We welcome any additions!

Here are some Blogs worth reading.

Britain Isn’t Eating. Excellent blog, name says it.

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger “Confirmed – The FULL Impact of Cuts Disabled People Face.”

Disabled People Against Cuts. This is an important campaign group, leading the fight against ATOS and their ilk.

glynismillward189 ” David Cameron and George Osborne cash in on secret tax deal for Downing Street homes

Job Seeker Sanction Advice Home Page

Hello and welcome to the website of the J.S.S.A.

Now we wouldn’t blame you for wondering, who are Job Seeker Sanction Advice? So let us give you some background information.

The organisation is run by Denise Symonds, Andrea Nicholson and Jean Calvert.

One thing we’re most certainly not, as is made clear throughout this site, is to have any connection whatsoever with any government agency, neither are we solicitors, so, with who we are NOT out of the way, let’s focus on who we ARE.

We’re a small network of 3 disgruntled ex, Department of Work and Pensions civil servants who left the service for a variety of reasons, not least of which was our dissatisfaction with the pressures being placed on staff to achieve what many of us saw as targets, which were designed in our eyes, to punish people financially for the smallest error or indiscretion.

Keep Volunteering Voluntary.

The keep volunteering voluntary agreement

As charities and voluntary organisations we know the value of volunteering. Volunteering means people independently choosing to give their time freely to help others and make the world a better place. Workfare schemes force unemployed people to carry out unpaid work or face benefit sanctions that can cause hardship and destitution.   We believe in keeping volunteering voluntary and will not participate in government workfare schemes.

Sign up to our agreement to keep volunteering voluntary here.

Respect for the Unemployed and Claimants.

UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR

“Jobseeker Sanction Advice”:

Vox Political

Case Of David Clapson Sparks Calls For National Inquiry

Some have asked if this would have happened if David Clapson had not been a former soldier.

I, however, see this as a very small piece of progress. I’m always grateful for progress, whatever the reasons for it.

The case of a diabetic former soldier from Stevenage, who died after his benefits were sanctioned, has led to calls for a national review.

Last week, the Advertiser told the story of David Clapson, who could not afford electricity to keep his insulin cool after his jobseeker’s allowance of approximately £70 a week was suspended on June 28 last year.

Just three weeks later – on July 20 – he died aged 59 at his home in Hillside from fatal diabetic keto-acidosis, which the NHS calls “a dangerous complication of diabetes caused by a lack of insulin.”

Where’s the Benefit. Confirmed – The FULL Impact of Cuts Disabled People Fac

Is it Compulsory to Register with Universal Jobmatch? What Evidence of Jobsearch do we have to provide?

July 29, 2014 64 comments

 

Pronounced Uooj.

Many people ask us: is it compulsory to Register with Universal Jobmatch?

What can the DWP force us to provide as a record of our job seeking?

Some answers.

 

 

Hat-Tip: Obi Wan Kenobi

Current UJ Toolkit as of 15/4/14.

92. We cannot specify to a JSA claimant how they provide us with records of
their jobsearch activity and Universal Jobmatch will not change this – it is
not therefore possible to require JSA claimants to give DWP access to
their Universal Jobmatch account.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/201552/response/504427/attach/html/3/1138%20Response.pdf.html

No Change.

Now this is also important (also from Obi)

I’m sure many of us had had new demands placed on us (er….me, to start with).

Here’s something very interesting I’ve just dug up on the What Do They Know website.

From: Operations FOI Requests
Department for Work and Pensions

11 June 2014.

Annex 1 for 2537 WDTK Travis.pdf

The Jobseekers Agreement
Introduction.

3.

Achievable – any agreed actions must be actually achievable.
Activities that are clearly beyond the claimants capabilities or that are
simply unreasonable should not be agreed.

Realistic – job aims and job seeking activity must be realistic, taking
into account the claimants skills, experience, capabilities, etc and the
local labour market. For example, it is pointless agreeing a job goal
where the jobs in question are not available within the areas in which
the claimant is willing to work.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/215684/response/528167/attach/html/4/Annex%201%20for%202537%20WDTK%20Travis.pdf.html

So the next time you make a Jobseekers Agreement out, make sure the adviser is aware of these rules.

In other words don’t agree to do something silly like 20 jobs apps per week.

Oakley Sanctions Report – DWP, all we need is better “communication”.

July 26, 2014 14 comments

Benefit sanctions hit most vulnerable people the hardest, report says

(This came out earlier this week.)

Claimants not told about hardship system and sanctions imposed when they were not at fault, DWP study finds.

 

Systematic problems in the way the government administers and imposes benefit sanctions, including disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable, are revealed in a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The report found the way in which the DWP communicated with claimants was legalistic, unclear and confusing. The most vulnerable claimants were often left at a loss as to why benefits were stopped and frequently not informed by the DWP about hardship payments to which they were entitled, it said.

It also revealed serious flaws in how sanctions were imposed, with Work Programme providers required to send participants for sanctions when they knew they had done nothing wrong, leaving “claimants … sent from pillar to post”.

The independent report was written for the DWP by Matthew Oakley, a respected welfare expert who has worked as an economic adviser for the Treasury and for the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange.

He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading thinkers on welfare on the centre right and as a result his criticisms, couched in careful language, are all the more damaging for a government that has consistently said the sanction regime is fair.

The DWP responded to the report by saying it would be updating the way it talked to benefit claimants, setting up a specialist team to look at all communications, including claimant letters, and working more closely with local authorities and advice centres to simplify the system.

The government will also streamline “the robust checks and and balances that are already in place that give claimants the opportunity to provide evidence why they have not complied with the rules”.

It will also clarify the guidance on how claimants can access hardship payments, as well as co-operate more closely with Work Programme providers so there is more integration about what a claimant is permitted to do without facing the threat of a benefit sanction.

Oakley’s report said: “No matter what system of social security is in place, if it is communicated poorly, if claimants do not understand the system and their responsibilities and if they are not empowered to challenge decisions they believe to be incorrect and seek redress, then it will not fulfil its purpose. It will be neither fair nor effective.”

Although Oakley said the regime was not fundamentally broken, he made 17 recommendations for reform.

His terms of reference confined him to the way in which sanctions are administered on mandatory back-to-work schemes, which cover a third of those claimants at risk of being sanctioned, but he said his proposed reforms were relevant to the entire benefits system.

The report said “letters were, on the whole, found to be complex and difficult to understand. Partly as a result of the legal requirements the department has to fulfil when it writes to claimants, regular concerns were that letters:

• Were overly long and legalistic in their tone and content;

• Lacked personalised explanations of the reason for sanction referrals;

• Were not always clear around the possibility of and process surrounding appeals or application for hardship payments; and

• Were particularly difficult forthe most vulnerable claimants to understand – meaning that the people potentially most in need of the hardship system were the least likely to be able to access it.”

The report added: “Actual and sample letters that the review team saw were hard to understand (even for those working in the area), unclear as to why someone was being sanctioned and confusingly laid out.”

The review found that many people “expressed concerns that the first that claimants knew of adverse decisions was when they tried to get their benefit payment out of a cash point but could not”.

The report also said jobcentre advisers had highlighted the damage sanctions imposed on the most vulnerable. It stated: “Many advisers also highlighted the difficulties of communicating with particular groups of claimants. In particular, many advisers identified a ‘vulnerable’ group who tended to be sanctioned more than the others because they struggled to navigate the system. This concern for the vulnerable claimants was consistent throughout the visits.

“For these groups, particular difficulties were highlighted around the length of time it could take to ensure some claimants fully understood what was required of them and in conveying that a ‘sanction’ could entail the loss of benefit for a prolonged period of time.”

The report also criticised the failure of the jobcentre to highlight hardship payments. It said: “A more specific concern surrounding the hardship system was that only those claimants that asked about help in Jobcentre Plus were told about the hardship system. Advisers, decision makers and advocate groups argued that this means that groups with poorer understanding of the system are less likely to gain access.

“Since, on the whole, more vulnerable claimants are those with the poorest understanding of the system, this suggests that some of those most in need are also those least able to access hardship.”

The report also found that providers of mandatory work schemes were unable to make legal decisions regarding good reasons for missing appointments and so had to impose sanctions.

“This means that they have to refer all claimants who fail to attend a mandatory interview to a decision maker even if the claimant has provided them with what would ordinarily count as good reason in Jobcentre Plus. This situation results in confusion as the claimant does not understand why they are being referred for a sanction.

“A very high proportion of referrals for sanctions from mandatory back-to-work schemes are subsequently cancelled or judged to be non-adverse.”

A lack of coordination between the jobcentre and Work Programme can “result in a situation where claimants are passed from pillar to post, without either Jobcentre Plus or providers taking responsibility for explaining the claimant’s situation. More commonly, we heard that Jobcentre Plus advisers had to spend large amounts of time dealing with claimants’ queries about sanctions from mandatory schemes.”

Poor understanding of the good reason process mean claimants subsequently appeal a sanction and often win, at cost to the DWP and taxpayer.

A key reason the report found for the confusion was that, because different organisations use different IT systems, neither providers nor Jobcentre Plus hold all the information needed about a claimant’s current experience and potential sanctions.

The report (available here)  begins by asserting that sanctions are a “vital backstop”  of the welfare system,part of the arrangement of “mutual obligation”which means claimants are “held accountable” for doing all they can to “,move back into work”.

What are the limits of the “obligation”  for “doing all they can to take on that support ” and find employment are is never laid out.

Or to put it more clearly, what are the limits to  the rights the DWP and private “provider” Nosey Parkers  claim over claimants.

It might be interesting to discover how claimants enforce the “mutual” obligation that DWP or the Work Programme “providers” have to get work for people.

Or what obligations the exploiters of workfare have to anybody but themselves?

Or what obligations we can force on the whole rotting system known as the Work Programme?

How do we apply sanctions to them?

And stuff about ‘communication’, ‘more information’ – that’s the typical gasp of management when something is not working.

But I digress.

For all of the above the report  contains one clear recommendation:

That the department should provide an “accessible guide to benefit sanctions”, in hard-copy and on-line.

This is the upshot of all this, as the DWP has announced (here),

The government is set to update the way it talks to benefit claimants, setting up a specialist team to look at all communications – including claimant letters – and working more closely with local authorities and advice centres to simplify the system.

Independent expert(1)  Matthew Oakley has conducted a review of how Jobcentre Plus and back to work scheme providers communicate with claimants who have their benefits stopped – called a sanction – for not keeping up their end of the bargain.

Acknowledging that sanctions have a vital role to play, Mr Oakley has today made a series of recommendations that will help encourage more claimants to do the right thing – and help save taxpayers’ money – which the government has accepted.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said:

Every day Jobcentre Plus advisers up and down the country are helping people get the skills they need to get a job and turn their lives around, and only this week we saw employment match the highest level on record.

Our welfare reforms are helping to transform people’s lives, and we are committed to continuous reform of the sanctions system to ensure it remains fair to taxpayers and to claimants.

By sticking to the government’s long-term economic plan and making further reforms, it will mean even more people can help build a better future for themselves and their families.

Matthew Oakley, author of the review, said:

The sanctions system plays a vital role in the modern day welfare system. While the majority of those sanctioned do understand what is expected of them, more needs to be done to help the most vulnerable. The recommendations in my review will ensure that all claimants know when and why a sanction will be applied and give them the information they need to challenge that decision and claim the financial help that they might need.

It is encouraging to see the department already making great strides to improve the system and I hope my proposals are taken forward to ensure that many more people are helped into long-term and rewarding jobs.

(1) ‘Independent’  right-winger as the Guardian already notes.

So what do we have?

 A  fog of words:

Actions agreed include:

  • setting up a specialist team to audit all communications including claimant letters, texts and emails and transform how claimants on all benefits are provided with information about their responsibilities and the support on offer – this team will take on board the latest academic research and innovations in private sector communications
  • streamlining the robust checks and balances that are already in place that give claimants the opportunity to provide evidence of why they haven’t complied with the rules
  • clarifying guidance and updating the process in which claimants can access hardship payments once they have been sanctioned
  • working more closely with local authorities to coordinate their approach to deliver Housing Benefit for claimants who have been sanctioned for not doing the right thing
  • ensuring the contract that claimants sign up to in exchange for their benefits – the Claimant Commitment – in which they agree what they will do to get a job, can be shared with their provider throughout their time on a back to work scheme
  • working with providers, stakeholders and advocates for groups to continuously explore alternative formats for all types of communications with claimants.

There are justified protests at the whole system of ‘sanctions”, and frankly waffle about ‘communication’ is not going to change that.

But, as the Void points out, all too many bodies are implicated in the system in the first place.

Name and Shame Workfare Exploiters!

July 23, 2014 41 comments

Refuted carried this information yesterday,

Court orders DWP to name and shame workfare exploiters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the exploiters SEETEC operates with?

We want to know!

Update.

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

All Jobcentres to be Shut?

July 21, 2014 38 comments

Iain Duncan Smith Urged By Senior Tories To Shut All Jobcentres

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

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

It was just signaled on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

The article continues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jobpoints in Jobcentres Disappearance: Mystery Solved.

July 19, 2014 116 comments

DWP Dumps Jobpoints: Too Tight-Fisted to Upgrade.

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

The mystery is now solved.

Obi  Wan Kenobi (Guest Post) explains.

Jobpoint systems in Jobcentres being removed:

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

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

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

My Two Cents!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This will make IDS’s failure complete.

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

July 17, 2014 29 comments

Just when you thought they’d gone away.

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

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

By Sooraj Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Computing predicted severe problems for Universal Credit in 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 15, 2014 42 comments

 

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

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

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

The Independent today reports the TUC saying that,

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

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

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

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

These are the main schemes,

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

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

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

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

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

Community Work Placements

Seetec wins Community Work Placements contracts in five areas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iain Duncan Smith Goes for the Mentally ill.

July 14, 2014 22 comments

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

Yesterday the Mirror reported this,

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb also blasted the plan.

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

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

Iain plans to go ahead with the plan,

trial scheme is expected to begin this year.

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

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

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

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

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

Mirror

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

Bravo Iain!

You know how to cling to your job!

Iain Duncan Smith to Lose DWP Job?

July 11, 2014 33 comments

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

 

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

 

Is IDS about to be given his marching orders?

POSTED ON JULY 11, 2014

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

ALittleecon.

View image on Twitter

 

Now the BBC reports,

 

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

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

…….

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

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

But this is amongst the most recent,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

……

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

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

 

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

July 10, 2014 22 comments

This is what we are all up against:

DWP accused of ‘black propaganda’ in universal credit debate

Jon Land from here.

DWP accused of 'black propaganda' in universal credit debate

DWP accused of ‘black propaganda’ in universal credit debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IntoWork Convention: Employment Minister McVey to Confront Trussell Trust.

July 7, 2014 18 comments

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

Inclusion is re-launching the Welfare to Work Convention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Mould 
Chairman, The Trussell Trust

McVery is notorious, recently, for saying this,

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

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

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

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

Independent. 14th May 2014.

And there’s this:

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

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

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

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

Huffington Post 22nd May 2014.

Let us not forget this either

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

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

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

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

Daily Record. May 7th 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3rd December 2012.

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

The Void recommends the following:

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

 

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

July 4, 2014 27 comments

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

Poundland store
Poundland was one of the employers 

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

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

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

Ministers said they were “disappointed” and would appeal.

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

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

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

‘Minority of cases’

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

Cait Reilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slave labour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

This is the case by the Public Interest Lawyers:

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

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

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

They add:

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

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

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

July 3, 2014 13 comments

How the Tories chose to hit the poor

Tom Clark. Guardian 2nd of July.

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

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

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

Council Tax Reduction replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013.

Each council runs its own scheme.

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

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

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

By October  2013 this was the picture,

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

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

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

This was the result by October in the Capital.

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

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

The result?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essex County Standard January 2014.

Ipswich Unemployed Action reported in April 2014,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Indeed it has.

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

July 2, 2014 3 comments

 

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

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

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

solidarity

Suffolk DPAC.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the Friday event,

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

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

Bring balloons, party poppers, cake…

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

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

No sanctions!
No workfare!
Decent jobs for all!

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

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

July 1, 2014 26 comments

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

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

The disappearing  service is to be replaced with …what?

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

Not well either.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Yes, Welfare statistics are about “controversial” areas.

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

Incidentally, anybody heard anything about Help to Work?

Not a sausage round here.

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

June 30, 2014 4 comments

Andrew Coates:

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

Originally posted on Vox Political:

140630minimumincome

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

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

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

This year’s research finds:

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

View original 459 more words

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

June 29, 2014 9 comments

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

Why stubborn Iain Duncan Smith is no statesman

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

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

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

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

This is worth recalling,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does he continue?

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

Mad, bad and very, very bad.

Claimants – know your rights on sanctions.

June 25, 2014 21 comments

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

Claimants – know your rights on sanctions.

 

KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS

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

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

 

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

 

FIGHT SANCTIONS TOGETHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

After Fiasco Deepens Labour to Halt Universal Credit?

June 23, 2014 26 comments

 

Are these stories related?

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

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

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

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

Ministers say the changes will get under way next week.

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

BBC 20th June 2014.

And now this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22nd June 2014. Politics UK.

Labour’s Ill-thought out Welfare Plans.

June 19, 2014 34 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent.

The Guardian notes,

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

Comments.

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

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

On this point the Guardian says,

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

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

So many people will be further pushed into poverty.

And for those already on benefits.

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

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

Will full Housing Benefits be restored?

Miliband is silent.

New Enterprise Allowance Statistics: More Hare-Brained Schemes.

June 17, 2014 27 comments

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

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

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

The key findings are:

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

But has it worked?

How many enterprises have succeeded?

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

We are reminded of this comment on its launch,

Accountants slam New Enterprise Allowance as ‘hair brained’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tories to Punish Feckless Parents on Benefits.

June 13, 2014 40 comments

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

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

 

No you could not make this one up.

It’s far-right political correctness gone mad!

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

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

 

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

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

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

Daily Mail.

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

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