Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Posts Tagged ‘Work programme

Government shakeout of welfare to work: what will it mean for benefit claimants?

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Image result for work and health programme

What they didn’t mention on above…

Thousands of jobs to go in government shakeout of welfare to work sector The Guardian (just now).

“The sector is said to be preparing for a ‘bloodbath’.”

Funding to shrink by 75% from March when work programme is replaced by much smaller work and health programme.

Thousands of experienced employment coaches are expected to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as ministers trigger the first stage of a massive shakeout of the government-funded welfare to work sector that will see it shrink by 75%.

The employment services industry is preparing for what one insider called “a bloodbath” as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moves to replace the work programme with the much smaller work and health programme.

Background (from here).

In the November 2015 spending review the government announced that the current work programme, due to end in March 2017, will be replaced by a ‘work and health’ programme.

Currently central government, through the Department for Work & Pensions, delivers the current work programme, which is a universal programme for the long-term unemployed. That has run for nearly five years and it will continue to run now until 31 March 2017.

The aim of the new Work and Health programme is to shift the focus from what might be termed “orthodox unemployment” to people with physical and psychological barriers to employment.  The work and health programme therefore will focus on the very long-term unemployed – two years-plus of unemployment – as one element of the client group and then another element, the health element, will be those citizens that have health barriers.

Localism, integration and devolution are significant factors in the development of the new Work & Health Programme. The government is specifically talking about co-design and co-commissioning with certain authorities: Manchester, London, Sheffield, Tees Valley, the North East, Liverpool and the West Midlands, relating to devolution deals.

Then (October)

DWP have today published more details about its commissioning model for its new Umbrella Agreement for the provision of Employment & Health Related Services (UAEHRS), the framework through which it will appoint providers for the new Work & Health Programme, as well as other potential DWP contracts.

The UAEHRS will account for £1.77 billion of DWP spend on contracted provision over 4 years, although it is not clear how much of this will be allocated to the Work & Health Programme. The UAEHRS will be divided into 7 Lot areas, based on Jobcentre Plus operational boundaries, namely: Central England, North East England, North West England, Southern England, Home Counties England, Wales, and a national England & Wales Lot. It is not clear from this whether or not the two co-commissioned Work & Health Programme areas, London and Manchester, are included under the UAERS arrangement. It is equally unclear whether or not the proposed Lot areas will also be applied as the final Contract Package Areas for the Work & Health Programme.

Only 5 providers will be accepted onto each regional UAEHRS Lot, although this may be extended if there is a tie-break for fifth place. Providers securing a place on two or more Lots will automatically be included within the national England & Wales Lot. The competition to select providers onto the UAEHRS will test providers against a number of criteria, including economic and financial standing, previous contract performance, supply chain management, service integration, implementation, delivery challenges, and stakeholder engagement. At the time of writing, the UAEHRS competition documents have not yet been released. This is, however, expected imminently, with a response deadline of the 9th November. Full details can be accessed at dwp.bravosolution.co.uk.

More details:

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal that seven of the 15 work programme prime contractors, including big private sector names such as Serco and Maximus, have not made it on to the initial shortlist for the new scheme.

The work and health programme shortlist, which is to be officially announced next week, begins a process in which the remaining eight work programme firms will compete with three new entrants for just six new regional contracts.

The final outcome, expected when contracts are awarded in late spring, could result in some firms being forced to abandon the market, or diversify into other contracted out public service areas, such as criminal justice or apprenticeships.

“This decimates the welfare to work industry. It represents the unravelling of nearly 20 years of unemployment support experience,” one industry insider told the Guardian.

Work coaches provide long-term unemployed clients with help to acquire a range of employment and life skills designed to increase their chances of finding work, such as CV writing, IT skills and literacy, as well as liaising with potential employers.

Thousands of work coach jobs are expected to be lost. “This means large job losses among really experienced frontline advisers, the majority of which are in charities,” said Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association.

The work and health programme is expected to start in the autumn and aims to provide specialist support for long-term unemployed people, especially those with health conditions or a disability.

Funding will be about £100m a year over four years. This is about a quarter of the current annual spending on the work programme, which closes at the end of March, and work choice, which will continue for a few months longer.

This is the bit which we’re particularly interested in.

The work programme – which was launched in 2011 by the then secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith – achieved mixed results and was fiercely criticised for the low numbers of disabled and chronically ill people it succeeded in supporting into work.

It was also dogged by controversy over alleged misconduct by work coaches, and the high salaries earned by top executives. Emma Harrison, the founder of A4E, was criticised for paying herself dividends of £8.6m in 2011, on top of a £365,000 annual salary.

Harrison, who had a brief spell as former prime minister David Cameron’s “families tsar” sold her personal stake in A4E to Staffline group in 2015 for a reported £20m. The relaunched company, PeoplePlus, is shortlisted in all six work and health programme areas.

Industry insiders expressed surprise that Maximus – which has gained notoriety as the provider of the DWP’s controversial “fit for work” tests – failed to make the shortlist as it had been seen as one of the best performing work programme providers in terms of getting long-term jobless people into sustainable jobs.

Much as we may weep at the fate of coachies and ‘providers’ we note an absence of information on what this latest scheme will mean for people who’ll be obliged to be on it.

Will there still be obligatory  ‘volunteering’, work ‘placements’ (free labour for  employers and the ‘voluntary sector’) and the rest of the rigmarole?

Will the usual ‘courses’ be on?

We have no idea whatsoever.

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

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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.

Work and Health Programme: Will it Treat the Unemployed as “ill”?

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Is this what the DWP Plans? 

The Mirror raises issues about the new scheme that is to replace the failed Work Programme, notably Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements.

The new one is called, The Work and Health Programme.

Its aim is to help long-term sick people find a job, but a DWP spokesman could not confirm whether it will involve forced labour because the details have not yet been drawn up.

Ms Long (of Boycott Workfare)  said: “We’re concerned about any trend towards making unemployment look as if it is a symptom of mental illness rather than a symptom of the economy.

“It does seem quite sinister that they’re shifting towards health interventions.”

Iain Duncan Smith said in a statement: “Our welfare reforms are fundamentally about delivering greater opportunity through life change: supporting everyone who is able to work to do so, while at the same time maintaining the valuable safety net for those that need it.

“This government has made remarkable progress but there’s more to do.”

Now we are well aware of schemes to treat the unemployed as “ill”.

The Mirror report indicates that the long-term sick will be on the same programme as everybody else.

What exactly is the ‘Health’ part of the scheme for those who are healthy?

What is this “life change” Iain Duncan Smith mentions?

Boycott Workfare raises a good point which refers, without doubt, to this:

June 26th this year:  Mental health workers protest at move to integrate clinic with jobcentre.

Mental health workers and their clients marched on a jobcentre in south-west London in protest at a scheme they say frames unemployment as a psychological disorder.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced in March that Streatham’s jobcentre would be the first to have therapists giving mental health support to help unemployed people back into work.

The DWP has now said that announcement was a mistake. But by coincidence, next week Lambeth council will open a £1.9m mental health clinic in the same building.

Mental health workers and service users, furious at what they see as an attempt to embed psychological treatment in a back-to-work agenda, were to go ahead with their demonstration anyway.

This is the crucial bit,

Anger has been growing since the March budget announced a scheme to bring counsellors into jobcentres to offer “integrated employment and mental health support to claimants with common mental health conditions”.

Under the plan, therapists from the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme would support jobcentre staff to assess and treat claimants, who may be referred to online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) courses.

According to a recent DWP reply to a Freedom of Information request, the therapists would provide “Nice [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence]-approved and evidence-based psychological therapies to treat people with depression and anxiety disorders”.

And more here:  Counsellors in Jobcentres or Agents of Social Control ?

It’s time to make a stand, I am not the only therapist who is concerned that individuals who are claiming benefits may be forced to undergo therapy or be sanctioned.

The government announced in March’s budget an, “Integrated employment and mental health support to claimants with common mental health conditions”.

This “initiative” will see therapists from the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT),) “co-locate” to more than 350 jobcentres.

As anxiety about the Work and Health Programme grows (no doubt abated by the Little Book of Calm and aromatherapy), we need to know the details.

Now.

Workfare Abandoned: Even the Cats and Mice of Ipswich Jump for Joy!

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Even the cats and mice of Ipswich are jumping for joy!

In a major victory for campaigners, two of the main workfare programmes are to be abandoned the DWP has quietly announced today.  Private sector contracts to run Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Activity will not be renewed says the department in their response to George Osborne’s spending review.

Reports the Void – amongst jubilation from the masses.

“The Spending Review and Autumn Statement delivers on the government’s priority to provide security to working people at every stage of their lives. It sets out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the debt. By ensuring Britain’s long term economic security, the government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years.

 

For the Department for Work and Pensions this means:

  • continued roll-out of Universal Credit, extending job search conditionality to a further 1.3 million claimants per year by 2020-21
  • a real terms increase in funding to help those with disabilities and health conditions return to, and remain in, work
  • a new Work and Health Programme replacing the Work Programme and Work Choice which will provide specialist support for the long-term unemployed and claimants with health conditions and disabilities
  • investment to enable DWP to become a smaller, more efficient department spending 22% less on administration in real terms, 34% less in real terms on technology and occupying 20% less estate.

DWP

But our friends point out:

This is not the complete end of workfare, with some claimants still facing forced work on the Work Programme, at least for now.  The ever growing number of  unpaid work experience schemes such as Traineeships – which are officially voluntary but often coerced in practice – are also not likely to be abandoned yet.  And of course we may yet see mandatory unpaid work return under another name, whilst this news doesn’t help those currently serving workfare sentences or those who may be referred before the schemes are wound down.

And,

Ominously the DWP are also announcing a new Work and Health Programme aimed at the long term unemployed along with sick and disabled people.  The fight is far from over, but the scrapping of the two key workfare programmes shows the power of collective action to frustrate and even destroy the Government’s mass workfare ambitions.

Indications from our own experience may indicate that this will mean schemes that are “in house” from the DWP.

The chancers or “providers” (companies offering the present programmes) milking the present system for their own profit may become the victims of ….cuts.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Work Programme a Resounding Failure for 70% of Claimants, Work and Pensions Select Committee Reports.

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Work Programme ‘fails to find work for 70% of claimants’.

Reports the BBC

Nearly 70% of people who go through the government’s main welfare-to-work scheme fail to find sustained employment, a committee of MPs says.

The Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee said the £5bn Work Programme – launched in 2011 – was “not working well” for people with complex problems.

But the MPs also said the programme was “at least as good” as its predecessors, at a much lower cost to the taxpayer.

The government said the Work Programme was “a real success”.

  • Follow the latest updates on the day’s political developments on Politics Live

The programme, which replaced a number of different schemes in operation under the last Labour government, is aimed at helping the long-term unemployed find a job.

It is run by providers who offer support and training to people on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA). The providers are paid on the basis of the number of people finding and staying in work.

‘Deserves credit’ (er……)

The committee said nearly 70% of people who had completed their two-year attachment to the scheme, which applies in England, Scotland and Wales, had failed to find sustained employment.

The MPs recommended a series of changes to the “complicated and less than effective” payments model when the current contracts expire in April 2017.

People with drug and alcohol addiction, illiteracy and innumeracy and the homeless should be better served, the committee said.

A separate, specialist scheme for people with “substantial disabilities” would also help the government meet its goal to halve the employment rate gap between disabled people and non-disabled people, the MPs added.

Committee chairman Frank Field said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as before, for a greatly reduced cost per participant”.

But the Labour MP added: “We must not forget that nearly 70% of participants are completing the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. We must do much better.”

‘Value for money’ (more ers….)

The Employment Related Services Association, which represents the programme’s contractors, welcomed the “hugely positive” report and said the next round of contracts had to “build on success“.

(Note: they would wouldn’t they..)

“However, the sector is working with jobseekers with ever greater barriers to work and thus the government has to ensure the next round of programmes also has the right financing in place,” said its chief executive Kirsty McHugh.

The body called for earlier referral of jobseekers, rather than allowing them to stay on benefits without specialist support, and moving to an assessment process based on the needs of jobseekers rather than the benefits they received.

A DWP spokesman said it would respond to the committee’s recommendations “in due course” but pointed out that almost half a million of the hardest-to-help claimants have been supported into employment through the Work Programme.

“That’s a real success, and we welcome the committee’s finding that the programme is better value for money to the taxpayer than any previous scheme.

“The programme helps people to overcome barriers to finding a job, including those with drug and alcohol problems and the long-term unemployed, and further intensive support is offered through Help to Work for those who complete the Work Programme without finding a job.”

This is what the parasites and chancers of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) said in detail.

ERSA has today welcomed the latest Work and Pensions Committee report on back to work programmes, which has for the first time recognised that the Work Programme has produced results at least as good as previous programmes, but at greatly reduced cost. However, it has called on Government to make sure that future provision builds on this success and that the future financial settlement recognises the costs of supporting jobseekers with ever more complex needs.

The report, the second under the leadership of Committee Chair, Frank Field, comes at a critical time for the sector, with decision making about the shape and financing of future back to work programmes expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The report echoes many of the points within ERSA’s own blueprint for future services, Evolution not Revolution’including the need for additional government expenditure on jobseekers who are furthest from the labour market. In addition, ERSA backs calls from the Committee for earlier referral of jobseekers, rather than allowing them to stay on benefits without specialist support, and moving to an assessment process based on real jobseeker need rather than benefit type.

Other points supported by ERSA include:

  • The need to integrate employment services with wider services, including health and skills, required by jobseekers
  • Enabling more specialist providers, particularly of disability services, to play their part
  • The introduction of an ‘innovation fund’ used to test and develop new approach to supporting jobseekers

Speaking in response to the report, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA, said:

“This report comes at a critical time.  It’s hugely positive that the Committee has recognised the great work of the sector in helping the long term unemployed into work. However, the sector is working with jobseekers with ever greater barriers to work and thus the government has to ensure the next round of programmes not only builds on success, but also has the right financing in place.’

The Report is here:

This is the summary,

The Work Programme has streamlined the procurement of welfare-to-work, created a stable, GB-wide welfare-to-work infrastructure, and now produces a similar level of job outcomes for mainstream participants as previous programmes. DWP deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as before for a greatly reduced cost per participant.

Yet too many long-term unemployed people remain out of work after two years on the programme. It must not be forgotten that nearly 70% of participants are completing the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. In particular, the Work Programme is not working well for people with more complex or multiple barriers to employment who need more intensive help. We have a duty to the 70% to do much better.

The focus for the next set of contracts must be to identify claimants who require more personalised and intensive support to address complex barriers to working, and refer them to appropriate help more quickly. To achieve this DWP needs to:

  • Develop and introduce a new, standardised, characteristic-based assessment of claimants’ barriers to work, for use across the employment support sector;
  • Replace the Work Programme’s complicated and less than effective differential payment model with a much simpler payment model with clearer (and generally earlier) referral points, and which more directly incentivises providers to invest resources in supporting people with complex needs;
  • Ensure that all participants receive an acceptable level of service, by introducing a single set of measurable minimum standards; and
  • Maintain, and ideally expand, a separate employment programme for disabled people, while also addressing key flaws in the current Work Choice programme.

Improved assessment and triage, alterations to contracts and more effective payment models will help, but are only part of the answer. The Government will also need to encourage, facilitate and invest in:

  • More effective integration of employment support with related, locally-run services, including health, education and skills, and housing; and
  • Creating the conditions for genuine innovation, learning and dissemination of best practice across the employment support sector.

DWP should establish an Employment Support Innovation Fund, set at 2–3% of the total budget for the next mainstream programme, which should be used to test and develop innovative and effective approaches to employment support for groups which have been poorly served to date. The Cabinet Office should bring labour market policy into the remit of a What Works Centre, so that employment programmes can continue to evolve based on robust evidence of what is most likely to be effective for different types of people in different localities.

These changes would create an employment support system which is set up better to address the challenges of the contemporary labour market, and equipped to help into work people who have been distant from the labour market, and inadequately supported, for far too long.

This is straw that the welfare-business chancers clutch at,

8.DWP deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as previous programmes for a greatly reduced cost per participant. It has also established a stable GB-wide welfare-to-work infrastructure and brought about efficiencies in DWP’s procurement and contract-management. It is vital that the Government continues to encourage, facilitate and invest in new and more effective approaches; it must not be forgotten that, notwithstanding the relative successes, nearly 70% of Work Programme participants are still not achieving the desired outcome of sustained employment. We owe it to the 70% to do much better. We intend to keep a watching brief on DWP’s efforts to support this group and we may return to this issue later in this Parliament. (Paragraph 87).

We note that no organisation campaigning for the unemployed gave evidence. These are the people who did.

Sam Hanes, Principal Adviser and Head, Labour Market and Economic Growth, The Behavioural Insights Team, Tom Gash, Director of Research, Institute for Government, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Employment Related Services Association, and Dave Simmonds, Chief Executive, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion

Q1-57

Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive, Pluss, Liz Armstrong, Director of Health and Wellbeing & Integrated Services, APM UK, Dan Jones, Director of Innovation Lab, Nesta, and Christine Chang, Investment Director, Big Society Capital

Q58-98

Monday 14 September 2015

Robyn Fairman, Strategic Lead, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark Pathways to Employment Programme, Mat Ainsworth, Greater Manchester Lead for Employment Initiatives, Public Service Reform Team, New Economy, Dr David Halpern, What Works National Adviser, Cabinet Office, Kris Krasnowski, Director, Central London Forward, and Theresa Grant, Greater Manchester Chief Executive Lead for Employment and Skills.

Q99-135

Rt Hon Priti Patel, Minister for Employment, Matt Thurstan, Director, Senior Management and Business Management Team, Contracted Employment Provision Directorate, and Iain Walsh, Director, Labour Market and international Affairs, Department for Work and Pensions.

There is nothing about how claimants feel about the Work Programme, or  about workfare, and the effects of sanctions.

Nothing about the abuses of the system by the ‘contractors’, and the exploitation of claimants on Mandatory Work Activity and other scams.

Meanwhile in the real world we learn that all long-term unemployed will now attend an hour’s special courses every time they sign on – delivered by the Job Centres. 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2015 at 10:04 am

You are One and Half Times more likely to be Sanctioned on Work Programme than find a Job – BBC.

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Radio Four last night (you can listen to it via link).

Benefit sanctions are supposed to be part of a system helping people back to work. But critics say they penalise the vulnerable and are among the reasons for the growing use of food banks. So how fair is the Government’s system of withholding state payments for those who don’t comply with welfare rules? Allan Urry hears from whistleblowers who allege some JobCentrePlus staff are setting claimants up to fail in order to meet internal performance targets. Why did a recovering amputee lose his benefits because he didn’t answer the phone?

Reporter: Allan Urry Producer: Nicola Dowling.

 

The Radio Four programme began with the government’s claim that sanctions are part of a wider system of “support” for people on JSA and other benefits. But the report focused on a very different set of claims: that the Jobcentres were “setting claimants up to fail”. “Over-zealous staff” was, it is alleged, set targets by their line-managers, themselves under pressure to meet targets – of people sanctioned.

The broadcast began with the case of Danielle, a woman with dyslexia and learning difficulties. She had been instructed to complete 48 ‘actions’ to get work a fortnight. With her problems this was not easy. When once she had only done 47 acts she was sanctioned. She ended up dependent on food charities.

This, the BBC reporter noted, should be linked to a wider pattern of harsh treatment for those with a range of problems. It particularly affects those with mental health issues. The position has got so severe that on one estimate 100 people a day in this category are being punished.

The case of the amputee was equally tragic.

SEETEC (which has an Ipswich branch) has been implicated in the case of one woman, Sheila Holt, who was bipolar. They had sent her threatening letters even after a doctor had signed her off as ill. Her family attributed her death – after a major relapse – to this hounding. SETEEC washed their hands of any responsibility.

These punishments have led to a huge growth in the number of people using food banks. Perhaps as many as half those using them do so because of benefit withdrawal. Loss of full benefit, or any benefit at all, leaves people without resources. Appeals, such as they are, rarely take place in a proper independent tribunal. People rely on the DWP’s own internal system – which, it is estimated, is paralysingly slow.

With the evidence of a whistleblower the way DWP staff dealt with claimants was explored. It was said that “unreasonable requirements” were not the work of one or two individuals. They came from a culture in which advisers were encouraged to see the people singing-on as an “obstacle to performance”. They were deliberately given too many hurdles to jump through. It was claimed that one manager (and no doubt others) deliberately “made up appointments”, which they could not attend, with the intention of sanctioning them. The former DWP employee said that his complaints about the practice had been dismissed. Investigations continued.

It was noted that those on the Work Programme were one and a half times more likely to be sanctioned than to find a job.

In the concluding section the reporter tried to find out the levels of money saved by the DWP through sanctioning claimants. While the figures had been available in the past they were mysteriously unavailable for the last couple of years.

The government and the DWP deny all the charges, above all setting targets for sanctions. But they were unwilling to speak directly to the BBC.

The programme was an excellent example of real investigative journalism.

Hats off to those who made it.

It confirms what many of us know only all too well.

The Guardian adds,

Jobcentre ‘hit squads’ set up benefit claimants to fail, says former official

Bosses accused of setting targets for sanctions, while unscrupulous staff targeted weak and vulnerable customer
 Jobcentre staff were threatened with disciplinary action for missing sanctions targets, according to former official John Longden. 

Jobcentre bosses set up “hit squads” to target benefit claimants for sanctions and put pressure on them to sign off the dole, according to evidence presented to an inquiry by MPs.

The written statement, by a former jobcentre official, John Longden, says frontline staff were ordered to “agitate and inconvenience” customers so they fell foul of the rules, enabling staff to stop their benefits payments.

Staff who failed to meet sanctions targets each month were threatened with disciplinary action, he claims.

Longden says he was told by a manager that the message with regard to customers was: “Let’s set them up from day one.”

He adds: “Customers were being deliberately treated inappropriately in order to achieve [staff] performance [targets] without regard for natural justice and their welfare.”

Longden’s evidence covers events he says he witnessed at Salford and Rochdale jobcentres between 2011 and 2013. It has been lodged with the Commons work and pensions select committee, which is investigating benefit sanctions policy.

A sanction involves the stopping of claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks – equivalent to almost £300 – as a penalty for breach of benefit rules and conditions, typically failure to look for work or attend jobcentre appointments.

Ministers introduced tighter rules for claiming benefits in October 2012, saying sanctions were a “last resort” that would encourage claimants to “engage” with jobcentres. However, critics say jobcentres are increasingly neglecting to help claimants find jobs and are instead focusing on finding ways to impose financial penalties on them.

In further written evidence to the committee, another former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) official accuses jobcentres of “bullying people off the [unemployment] register”.

Ian Wright, a former personal adviser at a Leicester jobcentre, says he was ordered by managers to send more claimants for sanction, and was threatened with disciplinary action when he questioned the policy.

Unscrupulous staff would target weak and vulnerable claimants for sanctions, he states. In one case a customer who could neither read nor write was formally directed to put their CV on a job match website. “Unsurprisingly they did not manage this task and were sanctioned.”

The PCS union, which represents jobcentre staff, said the evidence chimed with its own straw poll of members, which found almost two-thirds had experienced pressure to refer claimants for a sanction inappropriately, while more than a third had been placed on a formal performance improvement plan for not making enough referrals.

PCS is one of a number of witnesses giving evidence to the committee on Wednesday morning.

Longden claims that staff used several tricks to set up claimants. On several occasions jobcentre advisers purposefully booked job appointments without informing the claimant, ensuring they could be sanctioned when they failed to attend.

Claimants would be set unreasonable job search targets, referred for jobs for which they were clearly unsuited, or ordered to sign on every day in the hope they would fail in a task, miss an appointment or be late.

“The aim was to find an opportunity to make a referral to the decision maker [an official who decides whether to sanction a claimant] with the possibility of getting the customer sanctioned.

“It was distressing to see so many customers treated in such a way,” states Longden.

“One customer was made to attend daily for two months and eventually broke down and wept in the office.”

He adds: “Staff were threatened by the cluster manager that their jobs would be taken by other people if they didn’t do what they were told.”

Longden says he raised objections with his line manager more than once after witnessing staff take inappropriate action, but no action was taken.

He says staff “were being asked to behave in a manner that was against the [DWP’s] values of integrity and honesty”. The confrontational approach caused arguments with customers and sometimes police would have to be called to restore order.

Longden, who says he spent 23 years as a jobcentre adviser, states: “Sanctions of customers were encouraged by managers daily, with staff being told to look at every engagement with the customer as an opportunity to take sanction action.

“I was personally told by a manager to ‘agitate’ and ‘inconvenience’ customers in order to get them to leave the register.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Mr Longden’s allegations were thoroughly investigated and no evidence was found to substantiate them. Furthermore, the people named in the allegations strongly refute them.

“The reality is, sanctions are a necessary part of the benefits system but they are used as a last resort in a tiny minority of cases where people don’t play by the rules. Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard every day to help people into work. There are no targets for sanctions.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

A4E are Back – to Face New Allegations of “Incredibly Dangerous” cuts.

with 10 comments

Just when you thought they’d gone away…..

Hat-Tip Tobanem

One of the companies at the heart of the government’s welfare-to-work programme is facing allegations that it introduced an “incredibly dangerous” cost-cutting move that could put the lives of many disabled benefit claimants at risk.

Earlier this year, A4E allegedly introduced a new policy that forced advisers with no specialist training or experience to start working with “vulnerable” claimants with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol problems on the government’s Work Programme.

The company had previously only allowed advisers with “in-depth knowledge of the barriers faced by our hardest to help customers” and “experience of working with disadvantaged, disengaged and/or disaffected people” to work with this group, many of whom were claiming the out-of-work disability benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA).

The claims – which are strongly refuted by the company – raise new questions about the government’s much-criticised efforts to support disabled people into work, with new figures released this week showing that only 1.6 per cent of former incapacity benefit (IB) claimants who were now claiming ESA had secured at least three months’ work within their first year on the Work Programme.

The allegations emerged during a case for constructive dismissal taken by whistle-blower Chris Loder, a former A4E adviser, from Fleetwood in Lancashire.

Disability News.

The word “refuted” is incorrect.

Rebutted or denied are the correct words.

The article continues.

Loder was lauded as a “high performer” by his bosses, achieving nearly 200 per cent of his target for finding jobs for claimants, and was the top-performing sales adviser in the north-west and Cumbria region.

He worked for A4E for nearly 18 months, but was recruited to work only with those claimants of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) who were closest to the jobs market, finding job vacancies among local employers and securing job interviews for A4E customers.

But after A4E introduced its new policy, Loder was told that all advisers in his office would have to work both with clients in his group and with those who faced more complex barriers, including people with mental health conditions, learning difficulties, and other impairments.

The new policy had already been introduced in two other local offices, and was later rolled out across the company.

In a statement seen by Disability News Service (DNS), Loder says the measures were introduced by A4E in his office in February this year.

After they were introduced, about two-thirds of his new caseload of customers had complex barriers.

Loder, who came from a sales background and had no experience of working with disabled people, warned his manager in Blackpool repeatedly that the new policy was not safe and would put the health of vulnerable benefit claimants at risk.

He says he told his manager that he was worried about the effect his “demanding” way of working with clients would have on vulnerable customers, “in particular people with mental health conditions”, because he “wouldn’t be able to see the signs of the conditions deteriorating”.

He also said he was concerned that his actions “may wrongly result in their benefits being sanctioned”, which could also affect their health.

He was refused extra training that would give him the skills to work with these client groups, and eventually resigned on 20 March, claiming constructive dismissal.

He told DNS that the company’s new policy could lead to the deaths of vulnerable claimants.

So, no training, work for A4E and bingo!

You have super-powers!

We’ve had the DWP playing at psychology. They’ve dabbled in psychometric tests, Online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy  and all the rest.

Now A4E have gone better: their employees are all  full blown psychiatrists, social workers, and special needs teachers.

Respect!

Here’s a timely reminder of what’s happening across the system:

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 20, 2014 at 11:25 am