Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘work and pensions

SERCO, Work Programme Providers, and Fraud.

This is the story that’s caught people’s attention – from the Independent.

In an announcement that throws the Coalition’s privatisation drive into disarray, the Serious Fraud Office was called in to investigate G4S, the world’s largest security company, over contracts dating back over a decade.

Serco, one of Britain’s largest companies, also faces an inquiry by auditors over its charges for operating tagging schemes.

The firms supply an array of services to the public sector from running courts, prisons and immigration removal centres to managing welfare-to-work schemes and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Between them the two companies receive around £1.5bn a year from the taxpayer, but their contracts are worth billions of pounds because the vast majority run for several years.

We have been waiting for more news on this.

But it’s worth noting (as Private Eye has) that SERCO, under investigation for fraud with G4s, is a leading Work Programme provider.

Serco delivers two Work Programme contracts on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions in:

  • Coventry and Warwickshire, Staffordshire and The Marches; and
  • South Yorkshire.

There is of course no need to worry about SERCO’s involvement with the Work Programme.

Lord Freud himself has said so,

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud visited the Inspire to Independence (i2i) site in Coventry in March, to find out more about Serco, our network of providers and our involvement in the Governments’ Work Programme.

The Minister conveyed how pleased he was with i2i and Serco’s Work Programme involvement and positive impact in supporting people into work.

It is well-known that not a single Work Programme provider (er hum,. except……) has ever been accused of fraudulent practices.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

Labour to Keep Benefit Cuts: Will They Keep a (renamed?) Work Programme?

This is a key part of Miliband’s speech on Welfare,

State benefits could rise by less than inflation each year under a Labour government because of the cap on welfare spending announced by Ed Miliband.

Until now, Labour has suggested it would restore the link between benefits and inflation if it regains power. It voted against  breaking the link in April, when the Coalition Government pegged the annual uprating to 1 per cent for the next three financial years up to 2015-16.

Is this clear? Well not entirely,

Labour sources told The Independent that a decision on whether to restore the link would  not be taken until much nearer the election. It would not be financed by extra borrowing. If the party were in government now, restoring it would be funded by bringing back a 50p top rate of tax on earnings over £150,000 a year, which was cut to 45p in April.

Katy Clark, a Labour MP, warned that “some of the most vulnerable,” including the disabled, would lose out if Mr Miliband’s benefit cap were not set high enough. “The devil will be in the detail,” she said.

Miliband also said this,

“Overcoming worklessness, rewarding work and tackling low pay, investing in the future and recognising contribution: these are the Labour ways to reform our social security system.

“We have always been against the denial of opportunity that comes from not having work. And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and don’t do so. This country needs to be a nation where people who can work, do. Not a country where people who can work are on benefits.”

Now what are they going to about the failing Work Programme?

To remind us all, Richard Johnson said in the Guardian that the work and pensions select committee found this.

The committee acknowledges that the WP simplified the sector. It has shifted things to payment by results, supposedly reducing risk to the public purse. The contractors are highly variable in quality. Their performance is improving, for some jobseekers anyway, but they are running the service with massive caseloads. “Creaming and parking” (helping the jobseekers that are easier to find work for and ignoring the hard ones) is endemic. Specialist services, to address complex jobseeker needs such as disability or homelessness, are underused, and specialist subcontractors get a raw deal. The WP also fails to engage adequately with employers and has a poor relationship with Jobcentre Plus.

The fundamental flaw is laid bare in the £248m that the committee says the Treasury is clawing back for underspend on the WP in 2012-13 – money that was allocated and that contractors haven’t earned.

The initial WP concept (as set out by Lord Freud, now responsible for the rollout of universal credit) was based on the simple notion that it costs a shedload of money to keep people on benefits – more than £100m a day. Surely, it is better to invest in welfare-to-work programmes to reduce the benefit bill through moving people into work. If the Treasury can’t find the additional cash for extra welfare-to-work programmes, then get private sector firms to fund it and pay them back out of the benefit savings they generate.

Some people, even after years of unemployment, find their own job. Money spent helping this “deadweight” will be wasted. Some people, however, are at risk of getting stuck on benefits and never moving off them. The higher the levels of disadvantage, the more complex their needs are likely to be, and the more expensive any solutions. But the jobseekers that cost more to help will be the ones that deliver a greater return in reduced long-term benefit liability.

It appears that this link between programme investment and savings has been forgotten. The payments made to WP contractors, as noted by the committee, are ineffectively targeted. The contractors are not incentivised to risk spending on jobseekers who appear hard to help. With limited overall funding, contractors are trying to protect themselves by disinvesting in the programme, running with caseloads of up to 180 jobseekers per adviser. This creates a vicious cycle, with high caseloads meaning low outcomes, meaning further disinvestment.

The £248m underspend gleefully recouped by the Treasury represents a massively increased risk to the public purse. It indicates lower levels of “off-flow” from benefits to employment, which will push up the benefit bill in future years. With those mostly likely to be parked on the WP representing the biggest risk. The programme is applying a sticking plaster, counting the unused splints, and leaving the patient crippled.

We would add that that

  • The Work Programme is simply not finding people jobs.
  • It offers no real training.
  • The companies that run it form a lobby to grab more public money regardless of results.
  • It creates an army of people unhappy with their treatment (sanctions, bullying, absence of courses).
  • It is bloody useless.

The worst thing that Labour could do is to offer a new version of the Work Programme.
We need work creation, not another system of outdoor relief for the unemployment business.

Sanctioning the Jobless.

The truth behind ‘sanctioning’ the jobless.

This important article is from today’s Morning Star.

Extracts.

“As a former manager in Duncan Smith’s Jobcentre Plus I have first-hand experience of seeing how easily damn lies become statistics.

The Work and Pensions Secretary is no stranger to being economical with truth. In recent weeks he has made some pretty unbelievable statements.

Like anyone who has worked for Jobcentre Plus over the last few years, I was amused, if not surprised, by the recent denials from Duncan Smith that staff had been given targets for sanctioning claimants.

“Sanctioning” is one of those popular weasel words. For the claimant it means losing your benefit.

Over the last few years I attended many meetings where instructions from above were passed on and we managers had to order staff to sanction or disallow more claimants because the office stats didn’t look good.

Managers were usually careful not to use the word “target,” especially in an email. The thesaurus must have been consulted on many occasions before they finally settled on another weasel word – “expectation.”

They do say: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck the chances are it is a duck.” It doesn’t matter what terminology was used, everyone knew what these were. They were targets.

Staff were told that there was an expectation that they would refer more cases for dismissal or disallowance. Put simply it meant more folk would lose their benefits.

No targets? Oh no. But if staff failed to achieve a required percentage, they could find themselves in line for discipline.

I worked in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the best part of 20 years and the vast majority of my colleagues were motivated by a desire to help people in the most difficult of situations.

People working in your local jobcentre will live in the same community as the claimants they try to help.

Many, like myself, would have been claiming benefit immediately prior to working for DWP and had first-hand experience of life the other side of the counter.

This government’s attempt to bully the most vulnerable in society is not confined only to those who have no job.

Jobcentre staff complete an annual anonymous survey. Over the last few years 13 per cent of them have stated that they have been subjected to bullying in the workplace.

this constant pressure on staff and claimants may be counterproductive for the government.

Nearly three-quarters of DWP staff are members of the Public and Commercial Services union and PCS members have taken more action in the last few years than almost any other group of workers.

Today they are also working alongside claimant organisations to provide a united fightback.

We all know bullies only get away with their bullying by isolating their victims.

Our present Con-Dem government knows all about bullying. They have proved themselves a gang of bullies, and none more so than Duncan Smith.

That fightback need to start on both sides of the jobcentre counter. Public servants and those on benefits have exactly the same enemy.

Only by us all working and fighting together can Cameron, Clegg and the despicable Duncan Smith be dumped on the dole queue of history where only they belong.

  • John Andrews is a pseudonym to protect the author’s identity.

Last year this appeared in May.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, is to demand why a senior official at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) denied that staff at jobcentres were being given targets to enforce sanctions on benefit claimants’ money.

This comes as the Guardian publishes another set of evidence of a targets culture; internal documents show evidence of this at more than a dozen jobcentres around the country. Civil servants had said previous cases were isolated incidents.

But the mounting documentary evidence and reports from staff suggests that across the country, on the ground these “scorecards” result in targets and pressure on staff.

By October the 22nd sanctions were toughened up,

  • Higher level sanctions (for example for leaving a job voluntarily) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure, 26 weeks for a second failure and 156 weeks for a third and subsequent failure (within a 52 week period of their last failure).
  • Intermediate level sanctions of four weeks for a first failure, rising to 13 weeks for a second or subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure) may be applied following a period of disallowance for not actively seeking employment or not being available for work.
  • Lower level sanctions (for example for failing to attend an adviser interview) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of four weeks for the first failure, followed by 13 weeks for subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure

No surprise that in March this year we learn this,
 

The government has launched an inquiry after it was forced to admit that jobcentres have been setting targets and league tables to sanction benefit claimants despite assurances to parliament this week that no such targets were being set.

A leaked email shows staff being warned by managers that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.

Ruth King, a jobcentre adviser manager, discloses in the email that she has received “the stricter benefit regime” figures for her area, adding: “As you can see Walthamstow are 95th in the league table out of only 109” – the number of jobcentres in London and the home counties. The employment minister, Mark Hoban, had assured MPs on Tuesday: “There are no league tables in place. We do not set targets for sanctions. I have made that point in previous discussions.”

The league table could only have been drawn up through information provided by senior managers in the Department for Work and Pensions.

Hoban had told MPs that decisions on sanctioning claimants “need to be based on whether people have breached the agreements they have set out with the jobcentre, and there are no targets in place”.

Faced with the email, the DWP said: “We are urgently investigating what happened in this case. If a manager has set a local target for applying sanctions this is against DWP policy and we will be taking steps to ensure these targets are removed immediately.”

Labour claim they did not vote against the Jobseeker’s Bill because an independent review of sanctions will take place,

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to reports in the Guardian of a major scandal in the DWP’s sanction’s regime, said:

“This is why we took difficult decisions on the Jobseekers’ Bill to secure an independent review of sanctions. We knew there were sanctions targets and now we’ve secured an independent report to Parliament to put right a regime in Job Centres that’s running out of control.

It cannot have escaped anybody’s notice that the idea of forcing people to use the Universal Job Match site provides an opportunity not just to snoop on the unemployed, and harass them, but to give another pretext for sanctions.

I have asked, when signing on,  what the local targets for making people penniless were.

Denial, denial and flat denial, that these exist.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm