Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Work Programme’ Category

Strive ‘Training’ Scheme that Fines 10 for a ‘Tut’ Under Investigation but Workfare Abuse Continues.

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This story broke last week (signaled here Hat-Tip Enigma):

A NORTH Ayrshire Council scheme designed to help out people who are searching for work has been lambasted for fining people who attend it for as little as tutting or having their hands in their pockets.

And the Department of Work and Pensions has now suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme pending investigation into the workings of the fines system.

North Ayrshire Council have hit back at the claims and have backed their programme but one person who attended the course, who wishes to remain anonymous, has hit out at the fines system and explained what it is like.

Herald.

Scheme that fines jobless 10p for tuts is investigated

JOB seekers in Ayrshire are worried they might be sanctioned for tutting.

It comes as details emerge of a controversial “job readiness” programme that fines those taking part for as little as chewing gum and having their hands in their pockets.

The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme in North Ayrshire while it investigated the claims.

The Lennox Partnership, which operates the programme, also runs similar courses with similar fines for West Dunbartonshire and Renfrew councils. It has also been asked to deliver the course four times nationally for service provider Ingeus, although no fines are involved in those courses.

Fines start off as little as 10p for tutting, or having hands in pockets, but can rise up to £1 for swearing or £5 for using phones.

One job seeker told our sister paper, the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, that the fines had even left one of his fellow course mates in debt. “Now most of these fines are really cheap for things like hands in pockets etc … but checking your phone or having it go off outside of break time is an instant £5 fine and if you don’t pay it on the spot you get kicked off the course … and since the Job Centre sent me there, getting kicked off the course is an instant sanction.

“One person got fined when their phone went off but only had £3 and had to borrow the rest from other people on the course.”

The Lennox Partnership insisted that non-payment of a fine would not lead to sanctions, and said no one on the programme has been sanctioned.

A spokeswoman for the partnership said: “The fine system replicates behaviours that would not be acceptable in most workplaces and is utilised as a preventative measure to change those behaviours, which could subsequently impact on clients both securing and sustaining work.

“We have been delivering STRIVE in North Ayrshire since 2011 and the fine system has been an integral part of all delivery. Our success rates have seen 80 per cent of graduates securing employment and 84 per cent retention rates with employers across a range of industry sectors. This demonstrates the success of STRIVE and what we are trying to achieve.”

Unemployed people taking part in STRIVE must wear “business dress”, and, according to the Lennox Partnership’s website, obey: “the same rules / disciplines that would be expected during a probationary period in a new job”.

The aim of the course is to “empower participants and develop the soft skills, the attitudes and behaviours that employers in the job market are seeking”.

Kim McLauchlan, a 19-year-old from Kilwinning, who went through the programme recently and now works as a chef, told The National she had found the experience rewarding: “I was such a quiet person. I’d be the last person to speak in a group. They helped me get the confidence to do the job I’m doing today.”

STRIVE fines were all part of the “learning process”, she said.

A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council, defending the scheme, said: “The STRIVE programme has an extremely successful track record with 90 per cent of candidates on our most recent programme going on to secure employment. Most participants find the course highly beneficial and carry forward the skills learned into their working life.”

“The ‘fine’ system is used as a preventative measure to change behaviours and instil a professional attitude that employers will be impressed with.

“Any monies collected go towards a fund to provide provision for interview clothing, haircuts and interview travel expenses.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have suspended the referral of claimants to North Ayrshire Council’s STRIVE programme while we investigate these claims.”

The Void has looked at the scandal.

Even the DWP are appalled, with the Daily Record reporting they have suspended referrals to the STRIVE  programme run by the Lennox Partnership.  Those behind the schme are unrepentent, with North Ayrshire Council claiming that they are just trying to “change behaviours and instil a professional attitude”.  Participants who refuse to pay the fines are required to leave the course raising fears they may face benefit sanctions for refusing to take part in ‘work related activity’

You can tell the Lennox Partnership what you think of this vile practice on twitter @TheLennoxP.

This however is yet to face a serious investigation:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) insists it is a voluntary scheme known as a “sector-based work academy”, which offers benefit recipients a chance to gain work experience with the possibility of a job at the end.

However McGregor, who has eight years’ experience working in the care sector, said he felt he was being “railroaded” into taking part in the scheme, which is taking place at Kyle Court and Hillside View Care Homes in Paisley.

A letter sent to him states in certain circumstances benefits may be stopped if the claimant, without good reason, does not “take the opportunity of a place on an employment programme or training scheme”.

McGregor said he refused to participate in the scheme as a matter of principle and that he was only promised a “one-to-one” interview at the end of the scheme.

He said: “I went on a people handling course for one day, then I was meant to start and do a 36-hour week for six weeks without any pay, apart from my unemployment money.

“I used to earn £110 a night for a 12-hour shift, but they are expecting me to do 36 hours for £73.10, it is absolutely shocking.

“You are looking after people who are vulnerable – such as taking them to the toilet.

“I have no qualms about the job, I did that job for years, but I want to be paid for it.

“They are saying it is six weeks probationary, but they could pay me – and at the end of that time if they don’t think I am fit to work there they can tell me to go somewhere else.”

He added: “They didn’t ask what days would suit you, it was basically you were to work to their rota.

“I don’t know how they can turn round and say it is completely voluntary.”

Sarah Glynn, of the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, said they were against the principle of anyone being made to work for their benefits.

“A lot of things are branded as work experience and they are not, they are free labour,” she said. “Do you need work experience stacking shelves? That is not work experience, that is exploitation.

“It is affecting the whole labour market as these are jobs that people should be paid for.

“Even if people have no qualifications and they have come straight from school, they shouldn’t be asked to work for nothing – if they are working they should be paid for it, it should just be a basic principle.”

Glynn said she had made a complaint to the Care Inspectorate over the scheme, which confirmed the issue had been raised and information was being carefully assessed.

The DWP said all participating claimants had to meet eligibility criteria including identification and disclosure checks, references and a successful application form and interview to ensure they were suitable for working with elderly and vulnerable people.

It confirmed that once participants agreed to take place in a DWP “sector-based work academy” they could risk being sanctioned if they failed to meet conditions. These can include a failure to meet “basic standards of good behaviour”, according to the letter sent to McGregor.

The Herald.

Is it just because my dad was Scottish but is it true that because the Scots are pretty stroppy and likely to complain that these scandals come out so quickly?

I would bet there’s plenty going on in the rest of the country.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

Unemployment Business Prospering as Seetec Boss Rakes it in and Expands Empire

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SEETEC has offices in Ipswich, running the Work programme, and (until George Osborne pulled the plug on that nice little earner) and the Help to Work Workfare programme.  Many of our readers are all too familiar with this company which lives off public money.

It now runs one of the newly privatised probation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Private Eye this week (No 1411)  reports that this arm of Seetec  is already in  “trouble”. An audit completed before Christmas found “problems” with Seetc and South Yorkshire CRC, run – no you could not make this up – by French catering and cleaning firm, Sodexo.

Private Eye notes that this bunch of chancers had a turnover of £1.4 million; today this stands at more than £80 million, largely by profiteering from state money.

The report states that Seetec was part the national Help to Work – that is Workfare schemes, work for no pay –  only got 4.7% of participants into work.

Seetec, the articles notes, had a “mixed” performance. People round here know just how “mixed up” this scheme was.

Private Eye says that Seetec’s owner-boss Peter Cooper got £1.6 million in dividends alone last year.

Here is their latest scheme to expand their empire and rake in more income from the public purse:

Seetec launches new Skills Academies

Over 40 guests attended the launch of the Seetec Skills Academies at Essex County Cricket Club on Wednesday 25th November with guest of honour Graham Gooch OBE.

Seetec, an Essex based skills and employment specialist which has been supporting people back to work and improving their skills for over 30 years, was delighted Graham Gooch could attend the launch of its exciting new skills provision and celebrate the new partnership with Essex County Cricket Club.

This is their own puff:

Seetec has over 29 years experience as one of the UK’s leading employment and skills training providers, supporting over 100,000 customers per annum to move into sustained employment.   Seetec delivers large scale national contracts such as the Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme across 3 regions as well as various ESF programmes through the Skills Funding Agency and Apprenticeships.

Seetec also delivers a range of contracts designed for specific customer groups such as our Work Choice contract for disabled customers and local programmes for lone parents, young people and NEETs, ex-offenders and graduates.

Seetec.

Last we forget another gang running the Unemployment Business here is a report from earlier this month.

Scandal-hit welfare-to-work agency A4E sees its profits quadruple

A4E, the welfare-to-work agency rocked by fraud allegations which led to the resignation of its founder and chairwoman Emma Harrison in 2012, saw turnover fall but profits quadruple last year.

The firm, which is a key partner to government schemes, said the number of UK jobseekers referred to it was falling due to the economic recovery, but that it was seeing an increase in its Australian operation.

In the last set of accounts before it was bought by rival Staffline Group, A4E recorded turnover of £166million in the year to March 2015, down from £189million, and profits of £9.2million, up from £2.3million, due mainly to a fall in operating expenses.

Harrison, who has appeared in TV’s Secret Millionaire, set up A4E in 1991 but resigned after six staff were jailed and four received suspended sentences for falsifying the number of people helped back into work.

Harrison, who stepped down as David Cameron’s families tsar, was also criticised for taking an £8.6million dividend from A4E on top of her £365,000-a-year salary.

Staffline has said that after a full audit by the Department for Work and Pensions, systems were now in place to prevent any recurrence at the Sheffield-based company.

Sure…..

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

Provider Forms: “Not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.” Freedom of Information response from the DWP.

This is important: Hat-Tip:  jj.joop.

We signal that we are only publishing the response, and this cannot be taken as in itself guidance for any form of action by claimants whatsoever.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Central Freedom of Information Team

[DWP request email]

Our reference: VTR FOI 152

Date:
 28 January 2015

HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request ‘Signing Provider Documentation‘ (see Here)

Dear Mr Allen 
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 14 January 2016. You asked

Please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP stating it is a  mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Also please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP detailing exactly what action the DWP or a provider can take against a claimant who has agreed to participate in a provider led mandatory activity or programme but who has also declined to fill or sign any provider forms or documents. By forms and documents, I mean: Health and safety checklist, claimant code
of practice, action plans, timesheets, induction checklist sheets, data protection waivers, and so on.

It is not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider  forms or    documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Because it is not mandatory, there is no recorded data held detailing any action DWP or a provider can take against those who have declined to sign
said forms or documents.

Participants are required to do all they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work.

Should a participant decline to sign the provider’s forms, this does not mean that they do not have to participate in the programme.

The referral letter given to a participant by Jobcentre Plus details the potential consequences for failing to participate as required.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Charges for Freedom of Information requests are being considered b.y commission reviewing laws

Body tasked with proposing changes to FoI laws could propose people pay a fee for requests, it has emerged as call for evidence issued.

Telegraph. October 2015. 

stop-foia-restrictionsThe government has set up a Commission to examine the Freedom of Information Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

In a letter co-ordinated by the Campaign, over 140 media bodies, campaign groups and others wrote to the Prime Minister in September 2015, expressing concern about the Commission’s composition and terms of reference.

Belatedly, the Commission issued a consultation paper which suggested it is considering sweeping restrictions to the legislation, including:

  • imposing charges for requests
  • making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds
  • making it more difficult to obtain public authorities’ internal discussions, or excluding some from access altogether
  • strengthening ministers’ powers to veto disclosures
  • changing the way the Act is enforced.

The Campaign together with ARTICLE 19 held a briefing meeting on October 21 2015 for organisations proposing to respond to the consultation. The meeting was attended by nearly 60 organisations. The slides from the meeting are available here.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

I Million Hits for Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Tossed by the Waves We Will Not Sink: We Stand Together By Our Banner.

I Million Hits for Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Today we have reached a watershed: 1,000,097 hits (16.15 Tuesday).

Ipswich Unemployed Action was founded in 2009.

The Site was created by two people, myself, and a young chap from Ipswich.

The intention was to describe what it’s like being unemployed, and to criticise the various “schemes” put in place to to deal with us.

The aim was to let out of work people say what they think about the way officials and the ‘unemployment business’ treat us – not what we’re told to say.

A bit like the alternative community newspapers of the 1970s,

We have always considered the comments to be the most important part of the Ipswich Unemployed Action site.

We also link to numerous Blogs, notably the always essential reading, the Void.

And a range of people on Twitter, such as I’m a JSA claimant @imajsaclaimant

Welfare Weekly has become important as well.

Apart from the fact that many posts come from people writing here – as well as from people I know in Ipswich – it’s the kind of open and up front things people come out with, the information we exchange with each other, that have given this site its special flavour.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has featured in Private Eye, the Sunday Times, and on Radio Suffolk.

We  have been asked by countless other news organisations for information.

My mate from one of the Ipswich estates – produced some of the best posts ever.

But we think that it’s our readers and commentators who matter most.

We have participated in the protests organised by groups such as the  DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), and more recently UNITE Community.

I urge everybody to join UNITE Community – it’s there for the unemployed, for all of us.

This was an important one (2014): Iain Duncan Smith Greeted with Shouts of ‘Murderer’ as he visits Ipswich.

We support the great Boycott Workfare campaign.

Always with strong links to the Unemployed Workers’ Centres we have attended national meetings at the TUC – the most recent being in 2015, the TUC Welfare Conference: Action on Sanctions and Workfare!

We back this:

The Charter promotes:

  • A Political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs..
  • A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty.
  • No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary.
  • Representation for unemployed workers.
  • Appoint an Ombudsman for claimants.
  • Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits.
  • And end to the sanctions regime and current Work Capability Assessment – full maintenance for the unemployment and underemployed.
  • State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers.

This what we said on our founding (May 2009)

Who is sticking up for the Unemployed? Not many. Who is the best placed to do so? Those out of work.  Ipswich Unemployed Action is a group of out-of-work local people determined to stand up for our rights.

What are we up against?

  • The abuses of the ‘New Deal’ scheme. Those who sign-on here know that the YMCA is getting paid to lock up over 150  people in a shed – ‘Dencora House’, doing ‘job search’ all day. They know the conditions they have to endure – treated like children, no proper facilities (computers, even enough toilets).  There are no placements. If they complain they are threatened with being ‘exited’ – losing all benefits.
  • The coming ‘Flexible New Deal’ will be even worse. We intended to expose the company who’s won the local contract A4e – its links with shady senior politicians (step forward David Blunkett), and its record of abusing New Deal participants.
  • Workfare will be a con – forced labour for our dole with private contractors coining it in.

What do we want?

  • We want the minimum wage for any ‘voluntary’ work they make us do.
  • There should be an independent appeal and monitoring system – open to all – for anyone on the ‘New Deal’. Not the present shambles,
  • We want real training, not the YMCA etc sham.
  • Above all we want to be treated as human beings – not things the DWP and Government Ministers can claim rights over. We should have rights, and we want them now!
  • And now, we want the Dencora House  detention centre closed down!

Any suggestions? Join us. All welcome.

This what happened in June 2009: Banned For Blog: YMCA Suppresses Dissent.

WARNING: THIS BLOG IS DANGEROUS!

This morning I went to Dencora House, Ipswich. For my ‘New Deal’ induction at YMCA Training. A little while in and I was summoned. YMCA manager and colleague. Copies of this Blog, and the Ipswich Unemployed Action’s, on the table. Nervous type. Points to print-out. Picture of medieval Bastille. Legend, “Storm Dencora House“. Liked he it not. Or calling it a “detention centre”. Oh dear. Next, famous (hundreds of viewings), New Deal: YMCA Training, A Major Scandal.

Finally, their account of  this,

“I have placed this website as the Home Page on all computers at Dencora House today. Hopefully some of my fellow detainees here will read it. There has also been print outs of your articles left around the centre. The staff have been going round ripping them off the walls. They then get put up again.

People who merely found this site as the home page have been undertaking these actions on their own. Hopefully more people will involve themselves in such sabotage. If we make it too much hassle for them to treat us like this then they will be forced to stop!”

The upshot is I face being suspended from all benefits for exercising my (see YMCA Induction Pack), “freedom of conscience”. Apparently human rights do not apply to the out-of-work on the New Deal. Still no doubt they’ll find some way of justifying themselves. YMCA Mission Statement, “Motivated by its Christian faith, YMCA Training’s mission is to inspire individuals to develop their talents and potential and so transform the communities in which they live and work.” Needs some creative re-writing.

Oh yes, one of our many invisible supporters  tells us that they’ve blocked their computers’ access to our Blog.

I was reinstated pretty quickly and the YMCA ended up treating me decently.

You wonder what would happen today with the rules they have brought in.

Indeed little did I realise that the YMCA turned out to be sweeties compared to what has happened since.

Particularly after the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Iain Duncan Smith has stalked the land seeking out poor people to oppress, unelashing the DWP ‘sanction regime’.

The Cameron government has lost no opportunity to let their mates in the ‘unemployment business’  pick the pockets of the state and make the lives of the unemployed a misery.

These are some of more recent best viewed posts:

Is it Compulsory to Register with Universal Jobmatch? What Evidence of Jobsearch do we have to provide? 2015.

35 Hours JobSearch: We Publish the Mad DWP Guidelines. 2014.

Universal Jobmatch – List of fake ’employers’ (Part 1)  2014.

This video shows what we stand for:  we stand together, we never give up!

 

Funding Cut for Providers Of Work Programme – Despite Having “Done Fantastically”.

Kirsty McHugh: Work Programme Providers have done “Fantastically”.

Last Week Boycott Workfare stated,

What might come next in relation to the Work and Health Programme?  Whatever form the scheme takes,it’s likely to ‘segment jobseekers by their characteristics, not by the benefits which they receive’. It can’t be coincidental that in a recent report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Matthew Oakley suggested: ‘a segmentation tool should be introduced to identify the relative difficulty a given individual might have in finding work because of the barriers they face’. DWP pilots involved telephoning claimants and combining that information with data already held by the department. And lengthy interviews with claimants to determine their attitudes to work. The DWP have tried this kind of thing before. It’s always invasive and it can lead to people with the ‘wrong’ attitude to work being penalised.

Signs of restructuring are coming in.

This was published yesterday.

Providers have been warned that government funding to help long-term unemployed people back into work was likely to be dramatically cut by 2020, FE Week can reveal.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) director for contracted employment provision Matt Thurstan last month sent a letter, seen by FE Week, to providers advising on what will happen after current Work Programme contracts end in April 2017.

The scheme, launched in June 2011, involves private, public and voluntary organisations helping to find jobs for people who have normally been unemployed for at least 12 months, although shorter-term unemployed people can also be referred by local Job Centres.

Total funding to providers through the payment-by-results scheme was around £2,001m up to June — which worked out at just over £500m a-year.

But Mr Thurstan said in the letter that the department now recognised “the number of those requiring this support is reducing” — so “core funding” could be cut to just £130m-a-year by 2020/21 for a replacement scheme expected to be launched from May 2017.

“Our new provision will support long-term unemployed claimants reaching the 24-month point in their claim, as well as targeted referrals of claimants with health and disabilities issues,” he added.

Funding cut for back-to-work support The DWP currently has contracts with 15 providers for 18 regions across the country.

The only FE college group contractor is NCG, which currently covers Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

The DWP terminated NCG’s contract for the North East Yorkshire and the Humber last March, replacing it with Devon-based Maximus.

The DWP told FE Week at the time that this was because it was the “lowest performing [contract] assessed against a range of measures”.

No-one from NCG was available to comment, but Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) chief executive Kirsty McHugh (pictured above), which represents employment support providers, said: “The programme has done fantastically at moving the long term unemployed into work, but it’s no surprise that the new contracts from April 2017 will focus far more strongly on jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions.

“Our understanding is that the funding mentioned in the letter is the minimum available for the new work and health programme.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “The number of people who have been out of work for over a year has fallen by a quarter in the last 12 months, so providers had anticipated that a replacement programme would be on a smaller scale.”

Our hearts bleed over the fate of the poor “providers” who’ve “done fantastically”.

This choice of words that suggests an “informal” use of the word “fantastically”.

The 6 other, principal meanings are: 1 conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque: 2. fanciful or capricious, as persons or their ideas or actions: 3.imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality; foolish or irrational: 4 extravagantly fanciful; marvellous.5. incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant: and 6.highly unrealistic or impractical; outlandish.

But what is being cooked up in the DWP and Iain Duncan Smith’s minds?

We have yet to know.

Meanwhile remember this, as Boycott Workfare points out,

….as @refuted has pointed out, the 35 hours per week of ‘work preparation activity’ that claimants have to do under Universal Credit can include workfare. It means, potentially, that workfare can continue without the need for a named scheme.