Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

A4E and Other Attacks on Democracy.

with 22 comments

These two important Blog articles should be read together:

Undemocratic and Socially Malign

 (London Review of Books).

“Whatever the outcome of the A4e affair, it is a symptom of virtually everything that has gone wrong with British political life since 1979 – and especially of the worst thing, the privatisation of the state and its functions. The decision to hand over so many of the state’s responsibilities – and not only in Britain – to the private sector or voluntary associations or charities has had several terrible consequences. First there is the loss of expertise. The state has built up historically a huge fund of knowledge and experience which is simply not available to voluntary associations, however enthusiastic they are. The result is notorious wherever the Big Society is found. The contracted bodies do the easy bits while passing back the difficult and more important bits, like finding jobs for the unqualified unemployed, back to the state. It is exactly the same as with the PFI projects: the profits are privatised while the risks remain with the taxpayer. That is why the history of the welfare state is the history of the decline of private welfare. It was, among other things, never up to the job.

Such privatisations are also profoundly undemocratic. The state might bully you or its agents be rude, but at least as a citizen you can claim legitimate rights in dealing with it. It stands for a democratic bargain. There is no democratic bargain with the privatised employment agencies or schools. As a citizen you have no legitimate or democratic claims on them. You are a social inferior who wants favours and you are expected to behave appropriately. They are there to reinforce social hierarchies and are more important to those who run them than to those they are supposed to serve. The rhetoric of social engagement, community spirit, all-in participation, is designed to conceal the reality of privatised welfare both from those who practise it and those who are subject to it. That is another reason why an increasingly democratic state once, but no longer, turned its face against private charity.”

Read the rest Here.

Quacking Plums has a brilliant post which shows just what all this means in practice,

“A current client says of their work experience: ‘It’s great, it’s enabling me to improve my skills and look at other avenues. It’s making me smile again.’
 That’s what the Salvation Army Employment Plus website tells me. They claim the organisation:
Works to redress the negative effects of unemployment on people’s lives – their self-esteem, overall well-being, families and wider communities, to provide jobseekers with targeted professional support through:
  • our nationwide network of community and social work centres
  • our teams of specialist employment advisers
  • and our partners in employment services
 These are not negative effects caused by unemployment but by capitalism: the lack of money in a society where money is everything and the social opprobrium brought about by not being what society wants you to be: an economic drone, instead of a rounded thoughtful caring individual. That’s the first point to make; don’t be telling me that unemployment is the diseases when it’s merely an inevitable symptom of a much greater problem. As long as we keep the system as is, there will always be unemployment – and consequently there will always be people like the Salvation Army to capitalise upon it.
A nationwide network of community and social work centres? What the hell is this? There’s no such thing. Certainly not for me – unless tatty old church halls decorated like something from the 1970’s are what they mean. Hardly the brunt of a progressive movement toward helping people. I don’t even think they have internet access!
Specialist employment advisers? Well for a start they are SA officers (they really do like to think of themselves as some kind of army!) and they expect me to be 100% comfortable being in their Christian environment. Good job I’m absolutely an atheist – oh wait. I don’t see any evidence of specialism at all. Anyone could have done what P did: print out some leaflets and tell me how little they can help. I’m not sure what partners they refer to either, I’m not sure I’d want to find out.
To be honest they are using the same kind of pseudo religious work ethic nonsense as Duncan Schmidt; but then they are both followers of the same belief system. Welfare dependency – which they want to replace with what…income dependency presumably. Wage slavery. In work or not, you are still dependent on the money you receive, that isn’t being challenged.”
Read the rest here.
You can’t help feeling that the Welfare-to-Work Business is run by a combination of Dicken’s characters: Mr Chadband(oily Preacher), Mrs Pardiggle (arrogant ‘do-gooder’ who knows what’s best for the poor) and Mr Merdle. It’s the last one, the fraudulent banker, who’s in charge.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

22 Responses

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  1. I signed on on Friday. They asked me how many jobs I apply for on average per week. Apparently, according to new government research, every 50 jobs you apply for, you are guaranteed an interview…

    And if you don’t get one, what do you think happens next?

    Charlie D

    April 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    • “guaranteed”? Who gives the guarantee?
      I suspect that this is some uneducated and ill informed attempt to manipulate statistics.
      They have probably jumped from “on average an interview is obtained for every 50 applications made*
      “every 50 jobs you apply for, you are guaranteed an interview…”
      Utter nonsense!


      May 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

    • For every 50 applications an employer receives they invite one applicant in for an interview, so how does this “guarantee” anything? You could apply for 5 million jobs and still not be interviewed. It is just the jokecentre trying to bamboozle.

      It’s like saying if you apply for 50 astronaut vacancies you will receive one interview, and out of each 10 interviewees one will be given the job. So by applying to NASA 500 times you are “guaranteed” to fly to the moon 🙂

      Neil Armstrong

      May 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

  2. Thanks for reading my blog (though it’s quacking plums, not quaking plums 😀 ).

    I hope that entry came across as fair at least. It’s not intended as a hit piece on Salvation Army Employment Plus, though frankly they don’t deserve much else.


    April 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    • I have corrected the name Wishy, and highlighted it.

      The Salvation Army’s schemes are important because they are not out for siphoning large amounts of public money for a company’s bosses, or simply empire-building, but a case where an organisation with a moral-political agenda is shaping public policy and trying to run people’s lives.

      The Salavation Army has a long history of moral campaigning, going back to its teetotal and Evangelical origins. It was involved in the Festival of Light which opposed the “permissive society”, drugs, sex and homosexuality – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_Festival_of_Light

      They try to disguise this now with stuff about “alchool concern” but some attitudes die hard – such as anti-gay prejudice; http://www.bilerico.com/2010/11/why_you_shouldnt_give_to_the_salvation_army.php

      Everyone of the following Salavation Army campaiging and action on, “Homelessness, Employment Services, Anti-human trafficking,Community Services, Addiction – Alcohol and Gambling” is informed by a definite Christian vision.

      It is not the place of the state to put unemployed people in a position where they are dependent on an organisation with such a clear political-religious agenda.

      Andrew Coates

      May 1, 2012 at 8:49 am

      • Thanks for the correction. Keep up the good work.

        Oddly being parked, as i believe the term is, puts the claimant into a kind of limbo. It’s not as liberating as I hoped it would be, but that maybe different for people depending on their circumstances. What it does mean is that each time I sign on, when I have to bring along my jobsearch, I have nothing I can really add to that jobsearch. I’m not getting any help – but I still have to jobsearch and it’s becoming increasingly hard. I don’t know whether I should even tell the JC+ that I’v ebeen abandoned; that feels, oddly, like rocking the boat. Maybe i’m better of this way, given how crap the WP is. I’d rather be parked than on workfare!
        But I say oddly because that isn’t how this was sold to the general public. And it won’t be what Grayling will claim the experience is despite the evidence.


        May 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      • I think they’re increasingly taking their £400 up front fee and ‘parking’ anybody they don’t think will earn them the money from getting a job quickly.

        Andrew Coates

        May 3, 2012 at 11:50 am

      • i don’t even have to do a job search now not even done one since middle of last year when i was sent to wp.

        provider sent letters to me so i sent them mine had 1 failed induction at the start then another to get me to sign the forms to which i said like fuck im signing that i know what your game is you got your 400 fee and that’s all your getting out of me.

        that was a year ago lmfao

        super ted

        May 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    • …. always thought it was sucking plums, duck 🙂

      Vera D

      May 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      • I should be so lucky!


        May 5, 2012 at 7:56 am

      • …. you can pop round mine place any time, duck, and I’ll cut you a slice of me hearthrug pie 😉

        Vera D

        May 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

      • Vera D, you are nowt but a blooming harlot. You should be blooming well ashamed of yourself!

        Brenda Barnstubble

        May 6, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  3. Not that I would ever romanticise the past but here are some scenes from a time before A4e, Working Links, and their like:


    April 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  4. This is worth noting: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=927

    At the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) conference in April, a motion was passed congratulating Boycott Workfare and other groups for our “successful campaigning against workfare which has helped persuade a number of major companies to pull out or suspend involvement in such schemes.” Agreeing that “these schemes largely serve to provide participating companies with cheap labour”, NUT policy now reads:

    “No to workfare and the work programme. For all placements of unemployed people on work experience schemes to be genuinely ‘voluntary’, without threat of loss of benefits, and to at least pay the minimum wage.”

    This follows a commitment from public services union, PCS, to offer its support to anti-workfare campaigning in February, when PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:

    “The campaigns against workfare are exposing the true nature of these schemes that are providing a pool of free labour for big businesses that could afford to pay proper wages.

    “Instead of exploiting our young people and seeking to blame them for mass unemployment, the government should be helping to create long-term paid jobs and training to get people off benefits and into meaningful work.”

    The Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union has also signed the pledge to boycott workfare at a national level, joining many Trades Councils and union branches to have already done so. The pledge reads: “We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!”

    If you are a union member, please bring motions to your union branch and take it to regional and national level. Workfare is being rolled out in five different schemes, often implemented at a local level. It is up to all of us to challenge it in our workplaces and communities, and we can stop it.

    Andrew Coates

    May 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

  5. “These are the rules of big business. They have superseded the teachings of our parents and are reducible to a simple maxim: Get a monopoly; let Society work for you; and remember that the best of all business is politics, for a legislative grant, franchise, subsidy or tax exemption is worth more than a Kimberly or Comstock lode, since it does not require any labour, either mental or physical, for its exploitation.”

    — Frederick C. Howe, in Confessions of a Monopolist (1906)

    Frederick C. Howe

    May 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

  6. Aintree jobseeker gets help from Labour MP Bill Esterson in exposing ‘Victorian workhouse scam’ A4e

    An Aintree jobseeker has turned to Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson to help him expose a welfare-to-work firm which he says is nothing more than a “Victorian workhouse scam”.

    Philip Hammond of Lincoln Drive in Aintree, slammed A4e which he said is “solely for financial gain, off the backs of vulnerable unemployed people”.

    A4e (Action for Employment) is a controversial training company which is contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to work with unemployed people and train them to get back into employment.

    But the company has become dogged by controversies with many people saying the company is not fit for purpose and the DWP has now announced an independent audit into its own relationship with A4 following allegations of fraud.

    A4e chairman Emma Harrison was recently forced to step down as David Cameron’s personal adviser on ‘problem families’ because of the fraud allegations.

    Philip Hammond, who has been looking for work for 14 months, said the company consistently failed to help him find employment and persistently bullied people who they were supposed to help.

    Philip said: “A4e is bullying people at a time when they need support. They run a campaign of intimidation and undermine any self confidence you may have in yourself.

    “One example of this is how they are forcing people to sign a 50 page contract which gives A4e the right to monitor them, their finances, employment history, everything, for two years. People think that if they don’t sign the contract, they are going to lose their money. But that’s just not the case. People are signing their rights away to a private company when they don’t have to. It’s very wrong.

    “Just because you are unemployed, it doesn’t give anyone the right to take away your basic rights. People want to work, but they are being ground down and undermined by A4e. As a jobseeker, I am on £90 a fortnight. I don’t intend to be on benefits any longer than I have to.

    “I’ve been unemployed for 14 months. I’m 50 years old. It’s getting harder for me to get back to work. But I am doing everything I can to get myself back into employment. I’ve had numerous jobs, from working for a bank to being self employed, I even worked for the war graves commission.

    “I’ve told them I’d do anything to get back into work, but there’s just nothing out there for me at the moment. But I am still trying.”

    Philip said there should be a full audit into the company.

    He added: “A4e is letting people down at a time when they need help the most. People are scared of losing their money. Some are already in debt. A4e takes advantage of that. They are taking advantage of vulnerable people.

    “A4e say they improve people’s lives, but as far as I’ve seen, they make people’s lives a misery.

    “A4e is a big business run by a lot of well to do people who are well connected. Emma Harrison’s friendship with David Cameron proves that. They are taking advantage of people to make a fast buck. A fast buck made on the backs of vulnerable people who need help.

    “I just want A4e to be held to account.”

    Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said Philip’s experience is not unique.

    Bill said: “I have spoken to a number of constituents who have had similarly awful experiences with A4e.

    “People are finding themselves out of work for no fault of their own and they are being treated like criminals by a company which should be helping them.

    “The national news about A4e is that they are being investigated over allegations of fraud. But I think there is a much more urgent need for A4e to be investigated for how it conducts its business on behalf of the government.

    “There needs to be a full investigation into how the company treats people who are referred to it and what number of people have been helped back into employment by A4e.

    “This is something which I am taking up directly with the Prime Minister and I am calling for a full investigation into A4e’s practices.

    “I don’t want any more of my constituents to have to go through what Philip has been through when all they want to do is find employment and get their lives back on track.”

    Martin Williams
    Message left at 10:37 am, Wed 11th Apr 2012
    I have been outspoken to the press, i have had the honour of speaking to the Report on BBC radio 4 Twice, and once on the PM programme. I have been to a4e three times, three times they promised to help and 3 times they didnt. I have documented my experiences. Told the job centre, told the staff at a4e, and yet nothing was ever done. It is great that people are slowly waking upto the fact that A4e and the other providers, are not fit for purpose

    Message left at 07:52 am, Mon 9th Apr 2012
    They moniter your finances? thats illegal the hell are A4E getting away with this? the whole work programme is nothing more than profit for private companys, why are politicians silent on this? they represent the people right?

    Message left at 06:25 pm, Sun 8th Apr 2012
    Why is this NOT surprising. A4e are a rotten outfit. I agree with most of the above. I have personal experience with A4e several years ago myself. I was not helped one bit. There was chronic overcrowding, a lack of basic facilities (four slow PC’s and a solitary phone for 25 odd clients), non-existent courses and incompetent staff. Fortunately not all staff were this bad. The sad point is that Labour is largely responsible for A4e’s meteoric rise over the past 18 years (and that of other W2W providers). It’s great that you and Margaret Hodge MP are looking closely into A4e. However, we still have David Blunkett MP working for them as a business advisor. And about 3 years ago my views on A4e on a BBC radio phone in were dismissed by former minister for welfare reform, Tony McNulty. Three things really need to happen from this point onward: Firstly, A4e’s current contracts MUST be terminated and no new ones awarded as long as the they are being investigated for fraudulent activities. Secondly, a FULL and INDEPENDANT audit of A4e and its subsidiaries needs to be carried out ASAP. With the results made public. Thirdly, a full public enquiry into the ENTIRE W2W industry needs to happen as A4e are not the only culprits.

    Aintree jobseeker gets help from Labour MP Bill Esterson in exposing ‘Victorian workhouse scam’ A4e

    Bill Esterson MP

    May 2, 2012 at 5:42 am

  7. Crosby woman turns to Labour MP with catalogue of complaints about government back-to-work programme A4e

    A Crosby woman has turned to Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson for help in submitting a catalogue of complaints about a government back-to-work programme which had her sitting through presentations on “a brief history on the invaders of Britain through the ages” followed by pictures detailing where not to park a car – including on the ramp of a boat.

    Karen Turner said she and the rest of the job seekers on the A4e scheme were left humiliated by ‘trainers’ who told her during one full class session that she should have a chlamydia test, “there and then”.

    The 48-year-old mother of one, was left so angry at the scheme, she has turned to her Labour MP for help to “expose the disgraceful practices of A4e”.

    Karen said: “The way A4e is treating people is absolutely disgusting. They treated us like we had committed a crime. I had been unemployed for three months and I had to accept a place on the A4e scheme or face losing my Job Seekers’ Allowance for up to three years. While i was happy to accept any additional help to find work, I objected to how we were being forced into the scheme at the risk of losing our benefits.

    “But throughout my group was constantly warned ‘you agreed to this, conform or leave and lose your benefits’.

    “On arriving at the A4e Bootle office, I was struck by the total lack of organisation. People were left sitting in a room for several hours with no structure or purpose.

    “After several hours sat at a table, the only thing we had managed to achieve was the viewing of a short slide show of injuries in the workplace, some basic stats on economics and a brief history on the invaders of Britain through the ages, followed by some pictures of ‘where not to park a car, including the ramp of a boat’.

    “On a number of occasions, I felt my time would be better spent looking for a job and clearly others felt the same way and left to return to the job centre to complain.

    “But I stayed and was introduced to a placement work advisor who proceeded to talk to the group like a primary school teacher addressing a group of six year old. We were told to ‘shut up, sit down, don’t speak, put your hands down, you can’t ask questions and don’t speak over me’. She then proceeded to bring in a team of health workers and told me in front of the group that I should have a chlamydia test, there and then.”

    Karen said the demeaning way in which she was treated along with the rest of the group, made her feel like they were being punished for finding themselves unemployed.

    She said: “It strikes me that this scheme is nothing more than community service for the unemployed. I see very little difference to the treatment people being forced into the A4e scheme receive and the treatment those convicted of a crime and sentenced to community service receive.

    “This is people’s lives they are dealing with and many are already suffering from depression, low self esteem and other socially related problem, due in part I’m sure to being out of work and financially challenged.

    “On a number of occasions, i was actually concerned that the lack of empathy and understanding from A4e staff, was leading to a lot of confrontations and volatile situations, which was clearly dangerous for both clients and staff. And it could have been avoided.

    “Are the unemployed not entitled to a voice, being non-tax paying drains on society, as described by Conservative MPs?”

    Labour Member of Parliament Bill Esterson’s caseworker, Veronica Bennett, said the MP is receiving a growing number of complaints from constituents about A4e.

    Veronica said: “We are seeing more and more people bringing to the attention of their MP the appalling way they are being treated by A4e.

    “Many of the constituents make the same complaints, namely the way they are treated and the ineffectiveness of the training.

    “One man has even told us that he was threatened that his benefits would be stopped if he didn’t attend the session. But the reason he wasn’t going to attend was because he wanted to go on a one-day training course which would give him the skills he needed to get the job he wanted.

    “It is this type of case, and the experience which Karen had, which is being echoed by constituents throughout Sefton Central.”

    Labour MP Bill Esterson is demanding the government conducts a full investigation into A4e, which is already facing allegations of fraud.

    Bill said: “I have spoken to a number of constituents who have had similarly awful experiences with A4e. It is utterly despicable how people are being treated by this company.

    “People are finding themselves out of work for no fault of their own and they are being treated like criminals by a company which should be helping them.

    “The national news about A4e is that they are being investigated over allegations of fraud. But I think there is a much more urgent need for A4e to be investigated for how it conducts its business on behalf of the government.

    “There needs to be a full investigation into how the company treats people who are referred to it and what number of people have been helped back into employment by A4e.

    “This is something which I am taking up directly with the Prime Minister and I am calling for a full investigation into A4e’s practices.

    “I don’t want any more of my constituents to have to go through what Karen has been through when all they want to do is find employment and get their lives back on track.”

    Crosby woman turns to Labour MP with catalogue of complaints about government back-to-work programme A4e

    Bill Esterson MP

    May 2, 2012 at 5:45 am

    • This kind of report reflects what’s happening across the country.

      Bullying and inappropriate personal comments by ‘trainers’ are all too common.

      David Cameron said on Sunday during his interview with Andrew Marr that ‘millions’ (yes, millions) are being ‘helped’ by the Work Programme and other welfare-to-work schemes.

      Karen Turner says what they are like.

      Absolute rubbish.

      Andrew Coates

      May 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

    • Fucking hell, this is crossing into almost Pythonesque territory!

      How on earth do they think they have any legal right to monitor people’s finances? Is this document online; I should like to see what it is they want because there is no fucking way they can compel people to agree to that!

      Chlamydia tests? Get to fuck!


      May 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm

  8. when i had to go i always recorded what they said in the group meetings ect.

    they seem not to like it that you have proof of what they are doing lol.

    super ted

    May 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    • It’s a good idea.

      If they don’t like it, tough!

      Andrew Coates

      May 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

  9. Other Labour MPs could do a great deal to redeem the Party in the eyes of former Labour voters who feel let-down and disenfranchised by Blairite New-Labour, by joining forces with Bill Esterson and doing all they can to support his campaign to expose A4e for what it is. It is completely outrageous that this company continues to make vast profits at the expense of the taxpayer, by making the lives of unemployed people a misery. It HAS to stop.


    May 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

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