Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Ipswich Jobseeker removed from Ipswich Jobcentre by Police

with 25 comments

An Ipswich jobseeker was escorted out of Ipswich St Felix House this week by two police officers.

News have reached Ipswich Unemployed Action that a jobseeker was forcefully removed from the Ipswich Jobcentre by two police officers before almost arrested and banned from the town centre for 48 hours under a Section 27 order (IUA note: s27 is just for drunk and disorderly in a public place?)

We had previously reported about the Nazi security at Jobcentre Plus offices back in 2009!

A fellow concerned jobseeker has described in an email how he experienced in the third person severe abuse of powers at Jobcentre Plus in Ipswich from jobcentre staff, G4s security guards and the even the police!!!

I am sure 1% of the jobseekers in viewing this website might be hoping an employment officer got his or hers comeuppance, perhaps knifed, punched, reduced to tears by insults or soaked with water…

Before we disclose the reasons why police were dispatched and a jobseeker escorted off the premises, the reason for this post is to highlight this ever increasing trend of abuse by G4s security in jobcentres – it seems the police are on side also. Perhaps this doesn’t come as a surprise to some.

The actual reason why this 30 minute incident erupted was due to the employment officer refusing to sign a jobseeker because he read a hand out sheet she had just given him. Even I (who is never surprised at much) had to have this confirmed. Its a shame it wasn’t recorded on video camera to upload to youtube.

Ipswich Jobcentre (like many) is cracking down hard on claimants. Jobseekers are no longer being asked verbally for evidence and a completed ES4JP (job log) is required. Some jobseekers are being forced to trip up …into benefit sanctions.

To make this easier to read, we have split it up (originally was a huge paragraph).

Reading a handout sheet was enough to refuse to sign

This is what had occurred:-

  1. Employment Officer tripped up the jobseeker in question
    Did you apply for the ##### job we gave you?” (The employer wasn’t remembered).
  2. Jobseeker redeemed himself
    After answering “No” and being threatened with benefit sanctions for 5 minutes or so, the jobseeker claimed he had applied for the position stating he had only answered Nodue to the job position wasn’t given from an member of staff but he had applied for it after visiting directGov.After making the bossy old woman red-faced after the jobseeker insisted her to check the system at the jobseekers request for the job position which returned negative; her attitude got quite aggressive.
  3. Jobseeker was given a form
    The jobcentre woman said she was issuing him with a notice and if he had failed to apply for a job again he would lose 2 weeks money “or more”. It sounded as if it was his final warning. Jobseeker picked up the form to read it but was requested to wait until he got home to read it.
  4. Jobcentre woman turned to G4s security guard before wandering off
    Listening to the mild argument with security, it appeared that the jobcentre staff member either highlighted part of the document or wrote on it. Although when the jobseeker went to read it, the interview was terminated. He had claimed he was only folding the document the time after she had warned him to read it at home… The jobseeker who contacted us didn’t see that bit as he was facing the jobpoints but when security was called over the jobseeker had the paper in his hand which was folded into four (in half, than in half again) to fit in his pocket.
  5. Code Zero – G4s security intimidation begins
    After a radio call, the two guards became four… one wandered off somewhere perhaps to call the police (why the radio then?! Maybe low on staff?) the 3 remaining guards surrounded the jobseeker in a triangle formation. When the guard came back it became four.The jobseeker claimed he wanted to just sign on and then he will go. The guards decided to block him in so he couldn’t leave. He seemed rather calm and immune to the bullshit, he even joked out loud about how long it took for the police to get here considering its only a few minutes away. A G4s security guard then gave him the option of leaving or that they will get the police. Surely no lawful authority to hold him if they haven’t even called the police? He stayed. Sounds like they didn’t even call the police in the first place.
  6. Two police officers arrived
    The typical bullshit of pretending to be your friend (Using words like “mate” in every sentence). Officers seems to think it was a criminal offence to be “rude” on “private” premises. (The jobseeker who reported this left the premises at this point)
  7. Section 27 Order
    Outside, one of the police officers were heard threatening to arrest him and ban the jobseeker from Ipswich for 48 hours before they both were trying to drag him along – although he had only stopped to provide details when the officer stopped to get out his notebook to ask him questions.

A combined hour to hour and a half of police time for this rather silly incident.

Our analysis

Was the jobseeker wrong to stay?

Neither the jobcentre woman or the four G4s security guards even asked him to leave. The employment officer had asked the security guard to make the jobseeker leave and the security guard had only asked if the jobseeker planned of leaving.

Under law this was no trespass – he had consent to attend a signing on appointment and should have been signed on. The police had no authority to forcefully remove the jobseeker from Ipswich Jobcentre Plus. The security had no right to intimidate and prevent the jobseeker from leaving (Did they expect the jobseeker having to assault someone just to be able to leave?)

As signing labour market declarations was part of the appointment and the employment officer had not terminated the appointment (although stormed off – she had not actually communicated to the jobseeker about this) the jobseeker had every right to wait even until the end of the day to be signed on.

Could the police actually fight real crime instead?

Probably.. lots of it these days.

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Written by Universal Jobmatch

January 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

25 Responses

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  1. Does anyone have any reports of similar happening at other jobcentres?

    Work Programme

    January 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

  2. Was he wrong to stay? Who knows, in that situation he couldn’t have done anything right.
    It’s difficult to comment objectively, and it’s a shame this wasn’t filmed (though understandable obviously).
    Time to talk to the CAB I think. Get the weight of the law behind a complaint. We all know just how devastating a snotty jobsworth adviser can be.

    wishface

    January 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

  3. Had same sort case was on fnd course and was told I had to do 4wks free labour got to place where had to do free labour had no health and saftey after twenty minutes asked guy was I insured to be there he said I phone insurance company they told him as I was not an employee and had not voluntered and was being forced by way of threat of sanctions I was not insured so was asked to leave , when went to dole office to explain what had happend they did not want to listen as they knew that I was in the right and a row erupeted and to cut to the chase they called the police who must say was on my side as had not broke the law its a lesson for u all that are on work programme and sent out to do free labour if u aint had a health and saftey prio to starting and u have to complete paper work when u had test not just sum body telling u what u should do is ring health and saftey officer at council as its illegal not to have one and next ask to see a insurance docket where shows u insured as I can tel u that u aint insured its like saying we insure drunks long as they dont crash

    W green

    January 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  4. A person on UK ‘unemployment benefits’ should be VERY CAREFULL that they do not give “jobcentre” staff any reason whatsoever to suspend benefits. The unspoken scandal about UK jobcentres is that the staff do not want to get jobseekers into jobs and good training – they want to get them off benefits. In light of the fact that UK unemployment benefits are one of the lowest in the developed world, ‘sanctioning’ is always an act of injustice perputrated by a government agency. The jobseeker is warned that they do not give “jobcentre” staff any excuse to stop benefits. The “jobcentre” is an unethical place where the poorest are mistreated and NOT guided by a government agency.

    It is the bloated salaries of politicians, DWP staff and “jobcentre staff” which are paid out of taxpayers money. They are the ones who are guilty of what they accuse ‘benefit’ receipients of.

    Nalik

    January 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  5. In addition to “jobcentre” mistreatment of the unemployed, UK unemployment benefits also happen to be one of the lowest in the developed world:

    Nalik

    January 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm

  6. I remember the audio recordings a jobseeker made of the conversation he had with the police who had been called to Accrington jobcentre to remove him. Forgot his name, but he had several videos on Youtube

    One of the officers explained to him that the jobcentre don’t have to give a reason, they can just ask you to leave.

    Perhaps someone can clarify if this? It certainly seems odd that a government department can just ask someone to leave their premises without being legally required to give a reason!

    ECAP

    January 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    • Its basic law here…

      You must have an appointment (express consent) or walk on premises to front desk (implied consent) which is legit up until consent is revoked which makes it trespass.

      This is fair enough… go to any premises like a hotel or shop, if they tell you to get off the premises its fair enough… its their property… you can only access with their consent.

      When it comes to public service the rules aren’t the same. The argument is the building is private property without any right of way or implied right to access (Jobcentres were sold to be leased back for this trick to work), however, everyone has an implied right to access to sort out their benefit claim.The police will not recognise the latter.

      It is poor not to be told a reason, however, under law they do not need one in most circumstances. The Government however unlike a private/commercial landlord (although they do not own the property merely lease it…legally occupy it) need to justify its reasons for such public service decisions to be rational and fair.

      Of course, the jobcentre is an independent party here as its G4s who does the dirty work by requesting the police claiming trespass (i.e. permission to stay on premises was revoked, person refused to leave – even if that is only a failure due to not being allowed to leave)

      Work Programme

      January 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm

  7. Perhaps someone can clarify if this?

    i got thrown out of the jc buy security after they said i was not doing enough to look for work at one interview with an adviser and was told i need to apply for 10 jobs a week now to which i said there aint that many i can apply for and was told to stop making excuses and they might sanction my money for two weeks and gave me a form to fill in as to why i have not done enough to find work and then buggered of out back.

    comes back and said they have sanctioned me 2 weeks money for not doing enough to find work so said to the guy you find me 10 jobs to apply for right now and i will and he just said that’s not my job and terminated the interview and just sat there.

    security comes over and says i have to leave now or they will throw me out buy force and phone the police so i left.

    i still wonder why ppl smash the jcp windows every week hmmmm

    super ted

    January 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    • “i still wonder why ppl smash the jcp windows every week hmmmm”

      me too, i have no idea…

      Work Programme

      January 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • Super Ted did you appeal the sanction. If so, did you win?

      ECAP

      January 29, 2012 at 10:57 pm

  8. These people seem to forget they are there to serve YOU. Hastings job centre has a ‘No Mobile Phone’ policy. If your phone is in your hand you’ll be watched like a hawk. Use it for ANY reason and you’ll be ejected. Perhaps its to stop incidents such as this appearing on YouTube.
    However, all job centres should have cameras ‘for client protection’, and a quick request for the footage of this sham should be easy to obtain. Not that there i much you can do if they say it has been wiped. But then in saying that, we could all just request our footage for every visit, even if no incident took place. That’ll create a job… And quite a cushty one at that 🙂

    Patrick watts

    January 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • Wot if an employer fones with a job offer while your in the jokecentre?

      JC User

      January 29, 2012 at 9:49 am

      • Yes this happened yesterday. A woman on the machine next to me, got a call on her mobile. It was from an employer offering her a job interview. She was starting to arrange when she would be available and where to go, but the security and DWP staff came over and made her stop the call. They threatened her with being thrown out. Later she surreptitiously managed to call them back. She explained what had happened, but apparently they said they thought
        she hung up on them so they cancelled her job interview, now they believed her but had given her interview slot to somebody else and all their others were full and they had
        filled their interview quota. And so they were sorry but could not now interview her for the job.

        They have enforced the no food policy against diabetics and mums with small kids, even though the jobseeker can be made to stand all day in the jobcentre. I’ve seen mums with pushchairs asked to leave because they gave a small sweet
        to their own child.

        something survived...

        September 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  9. “Super Ted” says he was told to apply for 10 jobs each week.

    Elsewhere, other people have been saying similar things – with someone been told to apply for 40 jobs each week!!

    Work Programme advisors are also at it – trying to speed-up the treadmill of no hope jobsearch in some crude and inane attempt to shake more people off the dole register.

    This subject is a major controversy in itself – and one which has remained unopposed for some years now.

    Let me be perfectly clear, there is no STATUTORY requirement at all for any unemployed person in receipt of JSA to apply for any minimum (indeed or maximum) number of jobs each week.

    If Jobcentre personnel demand a certain number of job applications to be made, that demand is purely arbitrary in nature – there is absolutely no statutory authority behind such a demand.

    On the old Jobseekers Agreement, it is clearly printed that a Jobseeker must take 3 STEPS each week to actively seek work. There is no mention at all of any minimum number of jobs which must be applied for.

    On the new Jobseekers Agreement, there is a blank box which the Jobcentre clerk fills-in about the number of “things” a Jobseeker must do to seek work. That blank box could well increase the NUMBER of “things” a Jobseeker must do to actively seek work, but there is still no statutory requirement whatsoever to apply for any predetermined NUMBER of job vacancies.

    I suggest “Super Ted” and anyone else being told to apply for any arbitrary number of jobs each week, should contact their local Press and get them to report the case. Also contact your MP and see a lawyer.

    Tobanem

    January 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

    • In any case the idea that you have to do a massive pile of ‘applications’ is completely stupid.

      Particularly in somewhere like Ipswich where the weekly job ads and agency jobs come in tens not thousands.

      You can apply, on-line, by sending spec CV’s, applying to any number of jobs (from dish washer, French polisher to Senior Accountant) and it won’t make a blind bit fo difference to getting a job if they’re not looking for somebody with your profile.

      Andrew Coates

      January 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

      • Good morning, Andrew Coates

        It also won’t make “a blind bit of difference” even if the employer IS looking for someone with your profile – not surpsisingly, when very often there are hundreds and in some cases thousands of applicants competing for one job vacancy these days.

        A short time ago, one Welfare-to-Work company advertised for an internal executive post and received THREE THOUSAND applications!!!

        A headline in the regional press recently reported a politician who had advertised for an office assistant and received over a thousand applicants. Yes Minister, right enough!!!

        Even humble office jobs for the rest of us do not escape the merciless level of competition among an ever increasing number of Jobseekers; one email reply was sent in error by “carbon copy” to every one of the 600+ applicants who had applied for that one job. That error let the cat out of the bag!!!

        With few jobs in sight, and with the economy shrinking, and where 13 jobs are being lost in the public sector for every one job created in the private sector, there is clearly no effective antoidote to the savage competition faced by all Jobseekers in today’s deteriorating jobs market.

        You can’t get a quart out of a pint pot!!!

        Tobanem

        January 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

      • Tobanem, absolutely.

        I just noticed that they’re closing Past Times in the Buttermarket.

        Yet another Ipswich shop gone.

        No doubt the Star will headline the opening of a mini-Waitrose (where nobody on JSA could afford to go) in the town tommorow with “Boost for Ipswich jobs”.

        Andrew Coates

        January 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    • This indeed is the problem.

      A jobseeker is caught amongst two parts:-

      a) not actively participating (Work Programme etc.)

      and

      b) not actively seeking work

      Under Social Security law… if you don’t do everything, A will be treated as if you lost a job by refusing to work, and failing that you will be treated as B, although you exceeded the 3 steps minimum each week.

      Jobcentre does the negative test… a sanction will be guaranteed. It is not what you DONT do to look for work but what you DO. This is kept pending an appeal…

      One exception though, if they can obtain particulars of a vacancy whether or not it even exists, they can use this to say you failed or refused to apply for it… that will get you a sanction regardless of how many other jobs you have applied for.

      Work Programme

      January 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm

  10. well im on the work programme but since i put in a rapid reclaim last year have herd nothing more from my provider or been to visit there dump again as all they want from me is a cv and have nothing to put on one anyway and the induction is done over the phone to which i said no and had to go in for my induction and sat there for a hour and half and then a guy pokes his head in to the training room and said what am i doing here we close in 10 mins ill have to come back another day.

    so they forgot i was even there as when i signed in i only put an x for my name as they copy the sigs out of the book so never sign your name ever in those books.

    i now don’t have to go to the provider i don’t have to do a job search for the last 10 weeks and just sign every 2 weeks and that’s it.

    i wonder how long it will take them to find out there fuck up cos i aint going to say a word to either of them and if the staff at the jc ask how is it on the wp i just say i go and its fine and a complete waste of tax payers money like the last 20 ive done over the years on shit deal.

    super ted

    January 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    • Nice one super ted!

      I like your style. Good luck.

      Mr No

      January 31, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      • Us too – your style is impeccable, Mr No 🙂

        Trinny & Susannah

        Trinny & Susannah

        January 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm

  11. joke is you would get on a better course if you do get sent down;)

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/Sentencingprisonandprobation/Goingtoprison/DG_196222

    super ted

    January 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm

  12. Rising unemployment puts Cameron’s work programme in the spotlight

    The Guardian gets exclusive access to the scheme to get people off benefits – and finds in Hull, some barriers are hard to break

    How do you help solve unemployment in a city such as Hull, where for a time late last year there were 58 jobseekers for each post, the highest number of applicants chasing every vacancy in the country? The government’s solution is the work programme, which David Cameron launched last summer, promising it would be “the biggest, boldest effort to get people off benefits and into work that this country has ever seen”. With unemployment at a 17-year high, the pressure for it to succeed could not be greater.

    Here’s how it works in Hull, under the supervision of G4S, one of 18 organisations (mainly private companies) contracted to deliver the programme for the government.

    On the second floor of a 70s block five minutes’ walk from the station, there’s an open-plan office filled with desks, clustered together in groups of four, run by Pertemps (“unearthing the spark of brilliance in everyone”) – the next layer down in a dizzying chain of contractors and subcontractors that is fulfilling part of the G4S contract in Hull. At each huddle there are three job coaches, who sit at their computers, receiving visits from Hull’s long-term unemployed.

    Exuding kindness and energy, Amanda Knox-Holmes has meetings all day with clients from her 100-plus caseload. First she encourages Mary, 40, a vulnerable, troubled single mum with children in their late teens, to accept an unpaid, 12-week stint of work experience at a care home, as a possible first step towards getting a paid job with them.

    “You’d get 12 weeks’ experience. You will serve food to the old people, you’ll do a bit of cleaning, help do activities with the old people. This is an opportunity to gain social care experience,” she says.

    Mary says she has personal experience of caring for old people, and is initially uncertain.

    “I could get a job out of it?” she asks.

    “Yes, if you pull the stops out, they will be taking people on,” Amanda tells her, and she agrees to sign up.

    Nationally, there have been reports of people doing unpaid work experience in large supermarkets, in a way that sounds potentially exploitative. Pertemps says it will never encourage work experience unless there is a real prospect of a job at the end of it, but the balance between experience and exploitation is a delicate one.

    While her coach goes to get some paperwork, Mary says: “I’m not happy working for free. Nobody wants to work for free, but if it gets me on the ladder, if there’s a job at the end of it … I’ve been looking for four years. There are so many of you going for a job.”

    Next Amanda sees Brian, who is in his late 20s, and sits fiddling with his hearing aid. Something in the way he holds his hands between his legs, and his endearingly childish expression of trust, hints at a profound vulnerability. His clothes are clean, but the smell of a damp, cold home hangs around him.

    Once he had a job as a trolley attendant with Morrisons, which lasted 18 months until he had to move house; now he hopes to be employed by another supermarket. Amanda looks with him at the retail jobs advertised online, steering him away from ones that require managerial experience.

    She asks him if he has an up-to-date CV. “I’m not very good at doing covering letters because of a lack of PC at home,” he tells her.

    “Right, I think I need to book you in for an application form session.”

    She asks what he wants to do. “I’m more into supermarkets. I tried to apply to Asda, but there was a lack of jobs,” he says.

    Amanda will not allow him to give up. “We can send speculative letters to Asda and we could try Morrisons again. We’re just going to have to keep on trying.”

    “I’m hopeful,” he says, but he sounds very sad.

    Painstakingly, he signs an attendance form and hands over a £2.60 bus ticket, which she photocopies so he can be reimbursed for the visit. Because Brian is receiving the new incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance, the government recognises that it will be harder to find him work. If G4S manages to put him into a job that endures for two years, they will get the maximum payment from the government of about £14,000 (much higher than the equivalent £4,000 payment for a regular jobseeker); Pertemps will receive a cut of that payment. Brian leaves, shrinking his head into his shoulders as he crosses the room, like someone who expects to be bullied.

    These people have been referred to the programme because they are long-term unemployed, and the jobcentre is not able to help them. At the first meeting, the coach sits with his or her client, and establishes what’s preventing the client from working (or in the frequently impenetrable language of the scheme, they conduct a diagnostic to identify their barriers).

    Officially, the barrier is never simply that there are 58 jobseekers for every job available in the city (and in any case, staff point out cheerfully that the latest figure for Hull has dropped to just 22.6). The barriers they diagnose could be difficulties with basic literacy and numeracy, it could be drug or alcohol problems, it may be lack of transport, self-esteem, experience, skills or training. All of these things are problems to which Pertemps has solutions. The subtext is that external economic factors can never be the cause of someone’s unemployment: the problem must somehow lie with the individual.

    The jobseeker is allocated a personal coach who will work with them for two years, helping them find courses that could address their alcoholism or equip them with forklift training, improve their English or their ability to add up. In fortnightly sessions, they will highlight jobs they could apply for, work on their CVs, teach them how to write covering letters, do mock interviews and help with motivation and confidence. They may be offered a course in how to be a good shop assistant.

    Similar schemes existed under the last government. The two main differences with the work programme are, first, the “black box approach”, which means the companies that provide the scheme can do whatever they like as long as they get people into secure jobs, and, second, that the companies don’t get much money until they’ve put someone into a job, and won’t get the maximum payment from the government unless that person stays in work and claims no benefit for two years. The onus is on Pertemps to find people jobs that they can stay in, otherwise the business will fail.

    The employment minister, Chris Grayling, likes to explain the model like this: “What we have tried to do is create a situation where our interests and the interests of providers are really aligned. They can make shedloads of money by doing the things we would absolutely love them to do.” The government expects some unsuccessful providers to go bust in the process.

    Is it working? It’s hard to say. Nationally, government has (controversially) decided not to release figures until the programme has been running for 18 months, so there will be no way to analyse its performance before October.

    In the Hull office, the advisers have not met their provisional targets. Pertemps gave figures for the number of clients they had seen and the number who had subsequently found work; these figures show that while they had found work for some people (below 100) they were not on target, however the Department for Work and Pensions and G4S requested that the Guardian did not publish the figures.

    A report on the work programme published this week by the National Audit Office was positive about the payment by results model, but concluded that the calculation of the number of people who will find work was “over-optimistic” and that providers in areas of high unemployment might “struggle to meet targets”.

    “It is hard. It is a hard labour market and our job is made harder by the state of the economy and there not being the jobs out there. There are [ex] public sector workers fighting for the jobs that our clients are fighting for. The long-term unemployed are pushed further down the list,” explains Mark Harrison, regional operation director of Pertemps. “You’re not going to get everyone into work. We’re looking at getting 50%-60% of people into work.”

    The office needs to get 16 people into work a week, to be on track. Last week they found jobs for 15 people: a woman in her mid-40s (with plenty of retail experience) got a job stacking shelves in a supermarket; a younger man got a job as a factory cleaner; another woman was found a job in a care home (there was no transport for an early start, so Pertemps bought her a bicycle); an ex-army man (homeless since the break-up of his marriage and living in a hostel) got work as a security guard; someone else with a drug conviction who wanted to get back into plastering but was unsure how to admit to the conviction, found new work with the organisation’s help.

    The job advisers are delighted every time a job is found, but they concede that a lot of these jobs are part time, 20 hours or fewer, when the individuals wanted full-time work. G4S will get paid so long as they stop claiming benefits (the cut-off starts at around 16 hours). Staff argue that a part-time job is better than no job, and that these posts could lead to more full-time work.

    Critics predict that organisations will make their money by cherry picking, helping the easier-to-reach clients. “The reality is that they are going to park the difficult people because it is not worth them spending the money on them,” Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, says.

    At his company’s headquarters, Sean Williams, a pony-tailed welfare-to-work evangelist, and managing director of G4S Welfare to Work, insists this will not happen.

    “We want to make a return, we think that we can make a return. We only can make a return if we do what it says on the tin, which is to help lots of people into sustained jobs, to save the taxpayer money,” he says. “Of course that becomes more difficult in a difficult macro-economic environment, but the news so far is that it is certainly not impossible and we are still meeting the targets that we were expecting to be meeting.”

    Over the life-time of the programme, G4S is contracted to find long-term jobs for 125,000 of the 250,000 jobseekers it will see. The DWP has allocated £5bn to the work programme over seven years, of which G4S could take a £250m share. The company has never previously been in the welfare-to-work business, so views this as an experimental foray.

    Williams argues that if 125,000 benefits claimants are helped into employment, G4S will be helping the government save £1bn a year in benefits payments (if the average cost of benefits is £8,000 to £10,000 a year). He has spent his entire career on welfare-to-work projects and is genuinely enthusiastic about this model. “It’s a really transformative opportunity for the British economy in terms of not spending money on keeping people in social exclusion, poverty, but spending it on bringing them into the economy and making them happier.”

    A couple of days spent in the Hull office suggests that it will not be easy to meet the targets. The job coaches won’t brook any defeatism, but it’s hard not to keep wondering how assistance with CVs and motivational pep talks, however heartfelt, can overcome the stark local unemployment statistics.

    In a classroom upstairs, an 18-year-old man with red acne scars and a powerful stammer, who has been unemployed since he left school with no GCSEs and whose parents have never worked, is sitting with a 33-year-old father of six, who hasn’t worked since his plastering job, helping renovate the Travelodge hotel, finished two years ago. They’re being taken through an induction programme by a man who introduces himself as a multifunctional trainer and who tells them (reading from a script) that: “Through a range of activities, we integrate your vocational, social, personal development needs with your work aspirations.”

    “We want to share your brilliance with the rest of society,” he tells them. The teenager looks at his fingernails and the older man’s brow wrinkles with polite scepticism.

    The trainer spends a long time taking them through the “You and I Charter”, which he reads with hushed reverence, as if it were poetry. “You and I need to always be on time… You and I need to sustain an understanding of what we are together aiming to achieve. You and I need to be proactive. You and I need to just be… You and Me.” The older man nods agreeably, the teenager bites his lower lip.

    The 33-year-old says he wants to find work in construction, and is hopeful this may help. With such a large family, he is anxious to get a job as quickly as possible. The younger man wants to work in the catering industry; not many of his school friends have found jobs.

    Outside the classroom there are a few banks of computers where another company, subcontracted by Pertemps, Learn Direct, is testing claimants’ maths and English skills through computerised tests. Harrison says that poor basic skills in maths and English are a huge problem and estimates that 25% of the people they see have below entry level 3 standards, which means that they are at a nine-year-old’s level.

    A 26-year-old woman, who has previously done some bar work and cleaning jobs, but who hasn’t worked for years and who also left school without qualifications, is midway through a maths assessment. She is asked what 50cm is as a fraction of a metre, she clicks the 1/50 answer in the multiple choice box. “You need to swim eight lengths over a period of 32 minutes. How long should you spend on each length?” the computer asks, offering her possible answers of 4,8,16 and 256. She isn’t sure and skips the question.

    “Sometimes if you haven’t done something for a while your brain dies a bit,” Olivia Bussey, the basic skills tutor, tells her encouragingly.

    “I reckon my brain’s still asleep,” she replies.

    Bussey was educated in Kenya, and although she has worked in this country for a decade, she is still surprised by the poor literacy and numeracy. “Our attitude to education is different: there is more emphasis on standards. Because your parents are paying for you to go to school you have to perform, there’s pressure on you. Here it’s not the same. A lot of them have problems in their background. The more privileged they are, the better you will find their levels.”

    These are computerised programmes devised to help people over the course of a few weeks with literacy and numeracy problems that 12 years in school have not resolved. It is hard to feel certain that they could work, but Bussey thinks the courses that she started running here just two weeks ago will help people. “At school they don’t think it matters. When people come to us they are more motivated. They understand that it’s important. I explain that if they try they can have a much more successful life, so they do try harder.”

    In London, G4S staff say the success of this kind of literacy and numeracy programme is being carefully monitored. If it doesn’t help more people get into work, then it will be abandoned.

    Downstairs Amanda is talking to Cristof, a recovering alcoholic from Poland, with poor English, who used to work in factories in Hull but has been unemployed for several years. Since before Christmas he has been getting up at 6am to cycle to a charity that Amanda found for him, where he is learning joinery. He looks a bit ill, but capable and motivated. Amanda also sent him on a course to help with his drinking, and he tells her happily that he has given up smoking.

    He is cheerful about what he has achieved. “Not only I’m learning, they are getting something from me. Yesterday I made bird tables, windmills. I can be there as long as I want to be,” he says. The work is unpaid, but he is pleased to be getting training.

    There’s a peculiarity about the payment system here. The government money allocated for helping get people into work was meant to fund whatever external help they needed, but both the course for alcoholics, and the charity which is helping to train Cristof, receive no money from Pertemps or G4S for helping to make him more employable. Once he gets a job, any payment will go to G4S, and Pertemps will get a cut, but the charity will not receive anything.

    With diminishing funding available for charities elsewhere, the work programme was originally highlighted by the government as a vital source of funds, but charities across the country warn that they are not benefiting from the programme in the way the government promised.

    Later there is another induction session upstairs for people who are claiming employment and support allowance. These three men, all in their late 50s and early 60s, have been tested and provisionally found too unwell to work for the moment, but put into a “work-related activity group”, which means that they have to perform some work-related activities (such as attending this meeting) in order to continue getting their benefits.

    Although they do not have to sign up for two years of the work programme, they are obliged to turn up to the Pertemps office in central Hull, and sit through this meeting for an hour. On a flipchart at the front of the room, there is a picture of a smiling shop assistant drawn in blue marker pen, left over from a retail skills class, annotated with lines pointing to positive aspects of his appearance: an approving arrow points to a tie, another line points to his armpit, and is marked “good hygiene”.

    None of the men in this room look like they would be obvious employees at the flashy new shopping centre that has opened next to the railway station, full of not very full Top Shops, Zara and H&M.

    “Why should you join the work programme?” the instructor asks. “It will give you increased quality of life, better health, increased independence, increased confidence, improved finances, improved social life and increased ability to be a role model for future generations.”

    One yellow-faced, grey-stubbled man says nothing until the instructor asks if he is all right, and he replies that he is on morphine because he is recovering from an operation to remove two-thirds of his pancreas and bits of his spleen. “I’m a bit drowsy, from my medication. That’s why I don’t think I will get a job.”

    He is 53, and before this illness has been working without break since he was 16.

    Sitting opposite him, a 57-year-old ex-British Aerospace employee, who was made redundant two and a half years ago, decides he won’t be signing up, not least because he is suffering from prostate cancer, has just finished a course of radiation and is undergoing hormone therapy “I feel shocking,” he says.

    “These personal development courses … I can understand the point of them if you’re 18, but if you’ve worked for 40 years … I don’t need a computer course – I could run one myself.”

    He thinks the government should be spending money on encouraging people to set up businesses, rather than on this kind of programme.

    He has already been on a previous government scheme run by a rival organisation, A4E, to no avail. “This is just a dead-end to nowhere, because the jobs market is so bad. There is only so many people who can go into retail and the retail market is dropping anyway because people haven’t got the money to spend,” he says.

    Labour’s Hull North MP Diana Johnson is inclined to agree with him: “There will be people who need support and hand holding to get them into work, but there are also people who genuinely want to work and who can’t find a job. They are doing everything right, there just isn’t anything there for them.

    “The coalition government’s whole approach to deficit reduction and growth relies on creating new private sector jobs to replace those cut in the public sector. But we’ve lost 40,000 private sector jobs in our region, including many skilled ones.”

    Article here.

    The Guardian

    January 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm

  13. Rising unemployment puts Cameron’s work programme in the spotlight

    The Guardian gets exclusive access to the scheme to get people off benefits – and finds in Hull, some barriers are hard to break

    How do you help solve unemployment in a city such as Hull, where for a time late last year there were 58 jobseekers for each post, the highest number of applicants chasing every vacancy in the country? The government’s solution is the work programme, which David Cameron launched last summer, promising it would be “the biggest, boldest effort to get people off benefits and into work that this country has ever seen”. With unemployment at a 17-year high, the pressure for it to succeed could not be greater.

    Here’s how it works in Hull, under the supervision of G4S, one of 18 organisations (mainly private companies) contracted to deliver the programme for the government.

    On the second floor of a 70s block five minutes’ walk from the station, there’s an open-plan office filled with desks, clustered together in groups of four, run by Pertemps (“unearthing the spark of brilliance in everyone”) – the next layer down in a dizzying chain of contractors and subcontractors that is fulfilling part of the G4S contract in Hull. At each huddle there are three job coaches, who sit at their computers, receiving visits from Hull’s long-term unemployed.

    Exuding kindness and energy, Amanda Knox-Holmes has meetings all day with clients from her 100-plus caseload. First she encourages Mary, 40, a vulnerable, troubled single mum with children in their late teens, to accept an unpaid, 12-week stint of work experience at a care home, as a possible first step towards getting a paid job with them.

    “You’d get 12 weeks’ experience. You will serve food to the old people, you’ll do a bit of cleaning, help do activities with the old people. This is an opportunity to gain social care experience,” she says.

    Mary says she has personal experience of caring for old people, and is initially uncertain.

    “I could get a job out of it?” she asks.

    “Yes, if you pull the stops out, they will be taking people on,” Amanda tells her, and she agrees to sign up.

    More here.

    The Guardian

    February 1, 2012 at 10:15 am

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