Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cash In Hand Payments Will Soar Under Universal Credit

Cash in hand payments are set to soar when Universal Credit, the Government’s flagship new benefits regime, is finally introduced.

Universal Credit is intended to simplify the benefits system and make work pay, but in reality looks likely to be an expensive and bureaucratic shambles.  Far from revolutionising the benefits system, Universal Credit will achieve little more than changing a few names and moving around responsibilities.  So Housing Benefit is to be renamed ‘Housing Element of Universal Credit’ and will be processed centrally, whilst Council Tax Benefit will be placed in the hands of Local Authorities giving council busy-bodies unprecedented powers to make savage cuts.

This is all to be done the most expensive way possible, as the DWP abandons everything which has gone before and starts from scratch.  Yet perversely the new legislation is littered with real cuts to the incomes of those with least, perhaps suggesting the true direction of the policy.

Tax Credits, currently paid to those with children, or who are self employed, will now be processed on a monthly basis.  This will create an administration nightmare for both self employed people and small businesses alike.  And all benefits will be delivered digitally by default, a move which is set to see Jobcentres closing their door around the UK.

Under this regime a cash in hand economy will thrive as casual workers, and those that employ them, will both have a huge incentives to keep everything off the books.

With no more Jobcentres, the DWP’s key weapon in preventing fraud will be lost.  Jobcentres have been known to force people to attend daily to sign on should they have fallen under suspicion of fraud (or even of not trying hard enough).  Signing on by smartphone or internet will see the end of Jobcentre’s over-used powers in this area.

What is unknown is what factor human contact plays in whether people accurately report financial circumstances to the DWP.  It is far easier to lie to a machine after all.  For those who aren’t online at home, it may soon prove too much of a temptation to not declare a couple of days work, something which now is easily accommodated under Working or Child Tax Credits.  Accurately reporting small earnings will now mean not only losing some benefit, but also having to trek to an internet cafe and navigate what is set to be the most complex database monitoring citizens ever introduced.

Some employers will no doubt feel the same way and offer cash in hand work to bypass their monthly commitment to report all earnings back to the DWP.

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed Universal Credit will reduce fraud.  For those with a criminal mind, a quick glance over the proposed new rules will reveal them to be full of lucrative holes.  A benefit fraudster’s charter perhaps.  And I’m not going to spoil anyone’s fun by pointing them out.  But this only highlights just how much Iain Duncan Smith has overlooked what has gone before with his arrogant zeal to return to year zero.

The benefits system as it currently stands is indeed complex.  So complex that Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t understand it (although benefit claimants themselves usually manage to suss it out).  One of the reasons for the complexity is because, over the years, it has been butchered to either strip away benefits, or to prevent fraud.  As new loopholes have emerged, new sticking plasters have been put in their place.  It has been crude, but fraud and error levels have remained surprisingly low at just 2% of expenditure.

Iain Duncan Smith is about to rip up over fifty years of anti-fraud development within the welfare system which is to be replaced with his own crackpot schemes that he came up with after skim reading the Daily Mail.  Meanwhile the monstrous snooping IT database which underpins the plans appears to be developing cracks before even getting started. 

Chaos will reign and it will be the poorest who suffer as benefits go unpaid, IT systems don’t work and staff are unprepared.  Fraud will soar as Universal Credit is bombarded with challenges already beaten under the old system and those yet to be discovered under the new.

That no-one has put the brakes on IDS reveals Cameron’s terror at the prospect of civil war within his own party.  Universal Credit couldn’t be better timed for the upcoming shambles to dominate the headlines in the run up to the next election.  That a fucking moron like Iain Duncan Smith can be allowed to play havoc with millions of lives may yet prove to be the final undoing of this toff Government.

How Universal Credit Will Create A Latchkey Generation Of Hungry Children

Universal Credit, Self Employment and the Minimum Wage

Universal Credit’s Attack on Householders (and who really benefits)

How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit’s Attack On Volunteers

How Universal Credit Will Split Up Families

Cameron Will Allow Disabled Squaddies To Fester

David Cameron has announced that former service men and women who are injured on duty are to be left to fester on disability benefits, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Soldiers with disabilities are to be denied all the benefits of the upcoming Personal Independence Payment assessments and may not even qualify for the mandatory Work Programme.  It is believed that squaddies injured in battle will now be simply waved through conditionality for disability benefits, condemning them to wasted lives of fecklessness.

Astonishingly soldiers are set to be abandoned to payments for life, with no continuous testing to check whether conditions have cleared up, or disabilities disappeared.

Soldiers will be judged workshy by default, by a perverse system that is set to punish hard work and reward idleness.  In a tragic waste of human life it is believed that former soldiers may not even qualify for workfare.

This must surely be Iain Duncan Smith’s reaction on hearing that Cameron has pledged sick or disabled soldiers will not face the upcoming brutal assessment regime in order to qualify for sickness or disability benefits.

After all, this is the Government that have told us benefit cuts are good for our health, and that the short computer based assessments are helping people to ensure they are on the correct benefit.

The truth is that Cameron’s announcement is an admission that the upcoming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit for sick and disabled people is unfit for purpose.  Of course it is right that soldiers who have lost limbs or suffered other injuries in battle should be supported without constant brutal and humiliating tests – but so should fucking everyone else.

Are only those prepared to go and kill and die in rich men’s wars the only people who deserve a humane welfare state?  What about nurses, teachers, firemen, or the thousands of people injured in industrial accidents?

The new tests for PIP will see everyone on Disability Living Allowance forced into a regime of continuous health and disability assessments by private companies regardless of claimant’s conditions.  This is the same process currently endured by those claiming the out of work sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance.

Yet the Prime Minister himself judges this process so toxic he has moved the goalposts for disabled squaddies in the hope of pacifying a few Sun readers.

In others words if you haven’t got a gun and are sick or disabled this Government doesn’t give a fuck and won’t listen.

Sickness Benefit Claimants Remarkably Law Abiding Research Finds

Today’s Daily Mail attempt to smear sickness benefit claimants as criminals shows just how desperate ministers are becoming as welfare reform turns into on ongoing farce.

According to the Mail, 23% of all sickness benefit claimants have a criminal record of some form, including a police caution.  According to the Chris Grayling comedy show this is ‘truly alarming’.  What’s alarming in fact is how law abiding sickness benefit claimants appear to be.

According to this Chartered Institute of Professional Development report (PDF)  aimed at encouraging employers to hire people with criminals records, as many as 25% of the general population has a criminal record. As those in receipt of sickness benefit are likely to be poorer than the general population, it might have been reasonable to assume a higher percentage of claimants may have been convicted of a crime.

Many people on sickness benefits have a mental health condition.  It is a sad truth that people with mental health conditions are over -represented in the criminal justice system.  An increasingly few people on sickness benefits may also have a history of illegal substance misuse, once again suggesting that these would skew the figures above the general population’s level of criminality.

So in fact we should all give a big cheer to sickness benefit claimants, who despite ill health and poverty seem to be less inclined to criminality than the population as a whole.

Of course the Daily Mail don’t see it this way.  If you can commit crimes you can work seems to be the spin.  Researcher Patricia Morgan – who presumably gets a quote because she had something to do with the research – makes the astonishing claim that:

“There are people who claim incapacity benefit because they are alcoholics or use drugs. They shouldn’t be allowed to, but they do.

“They do not need to work and often they steal to maintain their drinking or addiction. Generally people who work do not commit crime.”

At a time when bankers, coppers, MPs and newspaper editors have all faced unprecedented investigation into their own illegal activities, this statement  may even be a bit much for Daily Mail readers to take.  Perhaps this is why comments don’t seem to be being accepted on the piece.

The three most senior tories, David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, have all been involved in illegal drugs, along with Louise Mensch, Nick Clegg and a host of other government figures.  The only reason they don’t have criminal records in because they didn’t get caught.  Cameron has claimed his history of Class A drug use is part of his ‘personal life’ and refuses to speak about it.

Yet the DWP is quite happy to delve into the personal details of sickness benefit claimants and splash them across the front pages in little more than a crude publicity stunt.

This non-story reveals two things.  It’s ‘silly season’ meaning that MPs have swanned off on holiday and there’s not much for hacks to write about.  Secondly it shows that, slowly but surely, public opinion is changing towards claimants as Government smears become ever more ludicrous.

People are waking up to the reality of losing a welfare state that benefits everybody but the rich.   And this Government, steeped as they are in contempt for the poor and benefit bashing, will not know how to cope with that.

Most Work Programme Jobseekers Unemployable Claim G4S

In an astonishing slur on hundreds of thousands of unemployed, sick or disabled benefit claimants, welfare to work company G4S have claimed that most people on the Work Programme are not worth employing despite the huge subsidies on offer.

G4S are one of the biggest employers in the world with over 630,000 employees.  As one of the UK’s largest Work Programme providers they are paid up to £13,000 for every benefit claimant they manage to find long term work.

Speaking to Channel 4’s Fact Check blog, Sean Williams, Managing Director of G4S Welfare to Work was questioned about whether the company employs Work Programme participants themselves, picking up a fat ‘job outcome’ fee in the process.  The leading poverty pimp responded:

“I would be delighted if we managed to get a lot of job seekers into our own vacancies.”

He then conceded however that it was unlikely that G4S would offer anyone on the Work Programnme a job saying:  “I would challenge the assumption that there are a lot of job seekers who are easy to help in this group that can just be creamed off.”

Channel 4 also questioned the company on whether Work Programme participants were likely to be given jobs on the bungled Olympics Security contract, something the company hotly denies.

According to G4S, just 35 people on the Work Programme have made it through the training to work on the Olympics.  This is despite the thousands of jobs on offer and the apparent desperate shortage of security guards for the Olympics.

If G4S are not prepared to give people on the Work Programme a job, despite the potential tax payer funded £13,ooo incentive, then the question has to be asked why they expect anyone else to?

It is true as Channel 4 says that some people on the Work Programme have “complex problems”.  Many in the Work Related Activity Group have physical disabilities or mental health conditions.  G4S’s tacit admission that this group are unemployable merely reflects the startling prejudice amongst major employers towards people who are disabled or unwell.

Many more on the Work Programme have simply been unemployed for over 12 months, but it appears there is no room for this group in the company either.   Once again this is hardly surprising.  With competition for jobs at possibly an all time high, it is simply common sense that employers will seek to employ people with recent experience.  That is the unfortunate nature of capitalism.

This flies in the face of bungling Employment Minister Chris Grayling and his inept boss Iain Duncan Smith repeated claims that unemployment is caused by the unemployed.  The multi-billion pound Work Programme is based on the assumption that companies like G4S can ‘fix’ unemployment by ‘fixing’ unemployed people.  It is now abundantly clear that one of the biggest contractors on the scheme does not share that view.

G4S also deny that anyone employed at the Olympics will be on workfare.  Channel 4 fairly point out that, so far, there is no clear evidence that the company were ever planning to use workfare at the olympics.  Once again however this begs the question why not?  If workfare staff are good enough to protect the Queen and work in hospitals then why not at the Olympics?

Surely it’s not the fact that this toff Government are so embarrassed about mass forced labour that they are shy of any publicity that may come from workfare being used at the Olympics?

When the workfare row blew up earlier in the year Chris Grayling was gushing in his support for unpaid work, calling anyone opposed to the scheme ‘job snobs’.  Now, with the eyes of the world on the UK, workfare appears to be a dirty little secret that must never be allowed to sully the sacred Olympics.  It seems the real job snobs are those in charge of the whole shoddy workfare racket after all.

Above pic from: http://a4eprotest.blogspot.co.uk/

Disaster For Work Programme As Long Term Unemployment Continues To Rise

The Government’s multi-billion pound scheme aimed at helping the long term unemployed back into work has taken yet another blow as long term unemployment continues to rise.

Despite overall unemployment suspiciously falling, the number of people out of work for over 12 months has risen by 3000.  This continues a three month trend which has seen overall unemployment going down but long term unemployment rising.  The number of people out of work for over two years rose by 18,000 in the last three months.

Over half a billion pounds has been handed out to private sector companies such as G4S and A4e as part of the Work Programme, the Government’s flagship scheme aimed at finding jobs for those out of work for over 12 months.   Today’s figures conclusively dispel any claims from the lying Employment Minister Chris Grayling that the Work Programme can be considered a success.

Whilst the scheme has seen claimants forced to sleep under bridges and welfare to work contractors mired in fraud allegations, it appears to be having no impact whatsoever on long term unemployment and may even be making the situation even worse.  Meanwhile social enterprises are going bust due to the bungled payment structure, whilst the DWP has indulged in endless chaotic wriggling about the exact nature of workfare on the Work Programme.

Early performance figures have shown less long term unemployed people are finding jobs than if the Government had done nothing at all.  Even the recent G4S Olympics farce may yet turn out to have the Work Programme as a contributing factor.

The Work Programme is doing nothing more than lining the pockets of inept welfare to work firms whilst the DWP bury their collective heads in the sand.  The Work Programme is not working.  No-one is getting job.  Charities are being financially strangled.  Long term unemployment is rising.  Workfare has been rejected by both the business community and the public alike.  And yet still Chris Grayling is throwing tax payer’s money round like confetti seemingly oblivious to the desperate mess he is making.

He won’t be happy until the full £5 billion, the total budgeted cost of the shambles, has all been squandered.  Rarely has there been an example of a Government so desperate to give away billions of pounds and quite happy to receive nothing in return.

Whilst benefit cuts and austerity are plunging millions into poverty, insecurity and even homelessness, Work Programme contracters like G4S are handed endless cash to prop up the failing scheme.  Even if the joke security company don’t take the money they were promised for fucking up the Olympics they will take millions more for fucking up the Work Programme.  And Chris Grayling will no doubt cheer them along as the thieving corporate bastards make off with yet more of our money.

In other news Pizza Hut are the latest company to deliver a humiliating snub to Chris Grayling after announcing they will no longer be involved in workfare schemes.  More details from Solidarity Federation.

How Welfare to Work Companies Cook the Books – and why this Government will let them

Bungling Employment Minister Chris Grayling was quick to tell us that last week’s appalling Work Programme performance figures were not to be taken too seriously as ‘revised’ figures will be released in Autumn.

This will give Welfare to Work companies more time to pick up some ‘job outcomes’ from people who have got jobs under their own steam. With claimants sentenced to two years on the Work Programme, the odds are that eventually many people will find work despite the scant help offered by welfare to work training companies.

This is just one of the perfectly legal ways that Welfare to Work companies can cook the books.  Below is a handy guide to what these shysters are really up to behind the scenes.

Rorting

The Australian Government recently announced an investigation into their own Welfare to Work sector after it was revealed that many companies were picking up lucrative Government fees for placing people in jobs that individuals had actually found themselves.  This is known as ‘rorting’.  In the UK this practice is entirely legal and even encouraged.

Recent leaked documents revealed how the fraud ridden A4e were instructing staff on how to claim a job outcome fee, which could be worth up to £13,000, even when someone has found themselves a job before formally joining the Work Programme.  More often claimants are harassed, sometimes for months,  into providing details of any employment they may have found during or after leaving welfare to work provision.  Welfare to work companies have hoodwinked this and previous governments into believing that no-one is capable of getting a job without first attending a motivational training session or having an A4e advisor massacre their CV.  The truth is that people find themselves jobs everyday with no help at all from welfare to work vultures.  There is no obligation to tell Work Programme providers where you are working should you find a job.

Double Funds

Many Welfare to Work companies, and larger charities who may have Work Programme sub-contracts, often have other funding in place aimed at helping people find work or gain qualifications.  These could be European Social Fund (ESF) contracts, lottery money or even sub-contracts to deliver training for local colleges.  Despite the Tory lie that they invented payment by results, these contracts will usually be ‘output based’.  This has been the standard arrangement across the sector for 20 years, and means payment is dependent on securing a certain number of job outcomes or qualifications.

As an example, a charity may have an ESF contract to work with long term unemployed people.  They are paid depending on how many people they place into work.  Should they also have a Work Programme sub-contract then they can sign participants up to the Work Programme as well, meaning they get paid twice when anyone finds a job.

It is not unheard of for providers to buy job outcomes from other providers who are operating different contracts.  This can be done simply by using a combination of threats and bribes to encourage claimants to fill in paperwork to sign them up to the Work Programme.  A4e are notorious for using vouchers to encourage certain behavior,  such as forcing people to just sign the damn paperwork and then they can leave.

Another form of double fund is when a provider has a contract to carry out some form of public services, for example providing security for a major international sporting event.  This leaves Welfare to Work companies like Serco and G4S with two lucrative opportunities.  Firstly they can mandate people on welfare to work schemes to workfare to carry out the public service contract, saving a fortune in wages.  Secondly they can cherry pick their Welfare to Work participants and employ them on the public service contract picking up fat job outcome fees in the process.  A4e are notorious for staffing their own company with participants from their welfare to work provision and claiming job outcome payments.  This is entirely legal.

Friends and Family

Like all of us,when in trouble the Welfare to Work industry calls on friends and family for support.  Staff will be encouraged to hunt down unemployed acquaintances and family members.  Participants in welfare to work schemes may well be asked to do the same, with promises of bribes in the form of bonus payments or vouchers if they can track down an elusive ‘job ready’ candidate.  Job Ready candidates are the Holy Grail of the welfare to work industry – representing as they do free money.  These are people quite capable of, and quite likely to find a job under their own steam.  When they do the provider picks up a payment just as long as they’ve managed to convince them to sign the right paperwork.

Mass Outreach

A variation on this theme is using a form of mass outreach to gather multiple sign ups to welfare to work provision.  This could involve a bunch of A4e spivs descending on an independent living centre, homelessness project or anywhere else they know they will find lots of benefit claimants.  The company can then sign up claimants en masse, no doubt after giving some gushing presentation about how wonderful their provision is.

The company knows that some of these people will get jobs under their own steam.  Even if they don’t they will still pick up between £400 and £500 pounds as an ‘attachment fee’ on the Work Programme.  So should a welfare to work company manage to sign up five claimants on sickness benefits they will receive two and a half grand, just for an afternoons work.  If just one of those people happens to find a long term job, then the company can claim up to a staggering £13,000.

The company doesn’t even have to do anything but sit back and watch the money roll in. This leads nicely onto …

Creaming and Parking

This is the practice under which the easiest to help are creamed off and given  intensive support (or harassment, often in the form of pr0longued workfare) to get them off benefits and into a job – any job.  These are people who would have got jobs themselves, often skilled workers or graduates.  As to everyone else, well they can be left to rot, or parked as it is known.

Under the ‘black box’ style of provision on the Work Programme, welfare to work companies are able to almost anything they like to ‘help’ someone back into work.  This can include doing nothing at all and in fact that makes good business sense.  It’s a numbers game.  Some of even the hardest to help will find work on their own, meaning yet more money for providers.  As to the rest, well the company already have the attachment fee in the bank.

The most lucrative way to manage the hardest to help is to not spend a penny on them.  This is far more profitable than throwing endless resources at people who the welfare to work companies know are unlikely to find work.

Working Tax Credit

Working Tax Credit is payable to people in self-employment who work for 30 hours a week.  It is paid at a rate of £20 a week less than the dole, but claimants no longer have to sign on.  Claimants do not have to be earning any money from their self-employment to claim Working Tax Credit, although in the long term this will raise alarm bells with HMRC.

Last months unemployment figures revealed that a huge rise in the number of  people becoming self-employed.  There is some anecdotal evidence that welfare to work companies are ‘encouraging’ people to sign off and become self-employed.  Companies can claim outcome fees should this happen.

Working Tax Credit for self employed people meets many of the aims of Universal Credit, the new benefits system being introduced in 2056.  Claimants can easily take up short periods of part time work, casual work or self employed work and declare it quite legally without losing benefits.  With the payments set at just over two thirds of dole payments and far less administration, it also saves the tax money as well.  Unfortunately Universal Credit will end all this for anyone who can’t prove they are earning the equivalent of minimum wage for 35 hours a week.

If welfare to work firms are bullying people into self-employment the claimants will have their lives devastated when the new regime comes in if they have not sustained the necessary income.  Even before then, HMRC regularly make checks to determine whether someone is genuinely working 30 hours a week on their business.  Should the HMRC decide they aren’t, then claimants can find themselves not just back on the dole, but in debt for the tax credits they have already been claimed.  Not that welfare to work company bosses will care.  They’ll be off mansion hunting with the money like Emma Harrison by then.

Workfare

Workfare is slightly different, but once again it is a mechanism which helps welfare to work companies gain tax payer’s cash rather than actually reducing unemployment.  Sending people on workfare is cheaper than having them sitting on job search training courses for starters.  More importantly it is a way for welfare to work companies to mop up any jobs that may have otherwise gone to unemployed people who aren’t on their provision.

It is noticeable that many workfare schemes have involved large employers like Tesco or Holland & Barrett.  If a welfare to work company can get their foot in the door with a big company they can effectively take over their recruitment.  Where Tesco might have once approached the Jobcentre with 100 jobs on offer, A4e can step in and promise them fives times as many workers for the same dosh.  The pay off is that Tesco take on the number of paid staff they were planning to recruit anyway and the welfare to work companies can claim an outcome fee for every job.  No jobs are created by doing this, and indeed they may even be lost as Tesco now have a glut of unpaid labour.  So even when Welfare to Work companies are at what they pretend is their best, they are simply moving unemployment around.  As usual it’s claimants who lose out as the job market shrinks and unemployed people are forced to work without pay.

These are just some of the scams that enable welfare to work companies to pick up huge wads of tax payers cash for doing basically nothing.  They are all more or less legal, and no-one’s paying that much attention anyway.  Employment Minister Chris Grayling, like ministers before him, needs his welfare to work provision to be a success.  Scams like these help boost the dire performance figures that the welfare to work sector achieves.

The welfare to work sector is one big scam and always has been.  It began under Labour and now a Tory Government is throwing £5 billion at these crooks.

This doesn’t mean unemployed people don’t need and deserve support.  Decent IT provision, internet access, quality advice on producing CVs, help with fares to interviews – all of these things can be vital for people trying to get back into work.  Unfortunately there is a scant supply of such services on the Work Programme.

Even better would be high quality acredited training, that leads to real skills and real qualifications.  NVQs were once available as part of welfare to work provision.  But that’s seen as old fashioned by welfare to work companies these days.  NVQ assessors are expensive after all.

The new style of black box welfare to work provision ranges from endless workfare to abandoning people to their own devices.  Anything that’s cheap will do.  And still the cost to the tax payer rises.  Welfare to work companies are laughing at us all the way to the bank.  And Chris Grayling’s career depends on the racket continuing.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Yet More Jobs Lost Due To Work Programme as Welfare to Work Firm Goes Bust

14 people have lost their jobs after a sub-contracter involved with the Government’s shambolic Work Programme closed their doors this week.

Eco-Actif services went into receivership after banks refused to provide loans on the basis of the Work Programme contract as it was seen to be too high risk.  According to The Guardian, their involvement with fraud ridden A4e was also “a matter of great concern to potential investors”.

Eco-Actif were a community interest company established to work with ex-offenders, single parents and those with drug or alcohol problems.  In a major embarrassment for Employment Minister Chris Grayling they were based in Sutton, just next door from the Minister’s own constituency, leafy Epsom and Ewell.

The company had a contract with beleaguered Welfare to Work company A4e, with around 500 claimants attending as part of their Work Programme provision.  Whilst the firm claim to have had good results getting people into work, under new rules companies don’t receive pay outs until 18 months after delivering the service.

Homelessness charity St Mungos recently left the Work Programme for the same reason, leaving a major gap in provision for homeless people on the flagship and flagging Government scheme.   A spokesperson for 3SC who work in partnership with A4e claimed that alternative provision was being arranged for the 500 people who’ve received an unexpected temporary reprieve from the workfare and sanction ridden Work Programme.

It is unclear however where these people will end up.  Representing as they do some of the hardest people to place into employment, they are of little interest to Welfare to Work giants like A4e.  Ex-offenders, or people misusing substances, require staff trained in risk-assessments and other expensive stuff.  A4e have no intention of paying for anything like that.  If people, who let’s be frank may have a history of violence or chaotic substance misuse, are placed into mainstream provision without adequately trained staff then the next Work Programme farce to hit the headlines may be the most tragic yet.

We should be wary of cheering any job losses due to the Government’s bungling of Welfare to Work provision.  But Eco Actif –  like so many other charities who’ve happily inflicted sanctions and workfare on vulnerable people in the hope of wads of Government cash – only have themselves to blame.

Chief executive of the company, Amanda Palmer-Roye, had previously been a cheer leader of welfare reform.  Quoted in The Guardian today it appears the scale have fallen from her eyes: “I believed it when Cameron said all that ‘the third sector should be the first sector’ stuff. I really did believe all that crap.”

It is to the ‘third sector’s’ shame that they have allowed themselves to become involved with a scheme which can see unemployed people sent on six months workfare or disabled people having benefits sanctioned for missing a meeting.  They are now learning to their cost what most people know instinctively – you can’t trust a fucking Tory.

Paupers’ Picnic at House of Commons – July 17th

From Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS, ARE HOLDING THEIR LATEST DIRECT PROTEST ACTION OF DELICATE DISRUPTION ON 17th JULY ON COLLEGE GREEN AND IN THE CENTRAL LOBBY OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

There will be an alternative Picnic On The Commons on Tuesday 17th July 2012. The aim is to Lobby MP’s in the Central Lobby and then go onto a Paupers Picnic consisting of Bread and Water as a symbolic gesture.

The time to start going into the Central Lobby to see your MP is 2pm onwards, so please give yourselves enough time to go through Security and be guided by House Of Commons Guides to walk you to the Central Lobby. Meet for 1.45pm on College Green opposite Parliament if you want to go in a group.

As Tuesday 17th July is the day that Parliament goes in Recess and all the MP’s rush off for their 2 month paid holidays, by lobbying them we will be keeping them back a bit and maybe  inconvenience them as they must see their constituents if a signed Green Slip is submitted.

Everyone attending will be wanting to lobby their MP on their local disability issues in their constituency or they will be lobbying them in supporting DPAC in their aims of direct action to raise the harm that the Welfare Reform Act has caused many of us in the UK Disabled Community.

After we have seen our MPs, we will invite them to join in with our alternative picnic, so bring along a blanket, food & drink.

Scoping Out The Workfare Exploiters

Yesterday Boycott Workfare called for people to contact the charity Scope as part of the week of action against workfare.

Once more people picked up the phones, or took to social networking sites, to demand that Scope refuse to have any more to do with forced, unpaid labour.

This led to Scope issuing a furious denial, claiming that Boycott Workfare were attacking Scope’s use of volunteers.  This was far from the case.  Scope are involved in providing Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placements in their shops.  These are four week full time workfare placements which are inflicted on unemployed people deemed by the Jobcentre to not be trying hard enough to find work.  There is anecdotal evidence of Mandatory Work Activity being used as a punishment should someone fail to ‘volunteer’ for other workfare schemes such as Work Experience.

Whilst Scope claim all their workfare workers are ‘volunteers’ the evidence suggests this is far from the case.  A recent press release from the DWP hailed a Scope charity shop which had conscripted a ‘reluctant’ workfare worker:

“A claimant with a poor work record appeared to be doing little to find work. The Jobcentre Plus adviser thought that Mandatory Work Activity could give them valuable up to date work experience and improve their work ethic. The claimant was subsequently referred to a Mandatory Work Activity placement in a Scope charity shop – a referral that the claimant was reluctant to accept.”

More evidence of Scope’s involvement with forced labour emerged on twitter when @awesomesauceuk tweeted:  “Being sent on Mandatory Work Activity. Was supposed to be interviewed but wasn’t. Will “work” in Scope for 4 weeks from Fri 13th. #MWA

When Mandatory Work Activity was first proposed, the Social Services Advisory Committee (who advise Government on welfare) warned that the scheme was likely to target the most vulnerable and strongly recommended it should not go ahead.  They also noted, that despite Scope’s statement, claimants cannot volunteer for MWA, noting that this rendered the scheme punitive rather than a measure to help claimants back into work.  Predictably the Government ignored the Committee’s recommendations.

Sadly Scope’s involvement with mandatory Government schemes doesn’t end there.  Scope are a member of Disability Works, a consortium of charities formed to maximise income from the Work Programme.

Claimants of sickness and disability as well as unemployment benefits are placed on the Work Programme for a period of two years.  During that time charities such as Scope have unprecedented control over claimant’s lives, with the power to mandate participants to almost any activity they wish.

Currently people on sickness or disability benefits cannot be mandated to workfare, although the Government have floated plans to change this.  Claimants can however be subject to sanctions for missing a meeting, failing to attend a training course or any other ‘Work Related Activity’ that providers like Scope may dictate.

Whilst the Disability Works charities have claimed they are not involved with the sanctions process, this argument has been shown to be disengenuous, if not downright dishonest.  Work Programme charities are required to raise a Compliance Doubt should a participant fail to carry out mandated activity.  A Compliance Doubt is a referral to the DWP to sanction a claimant’s benefit.  Whilst the DWP have the final say on whether a sanction is applied, it is the Work Programme charities, like Scope, who are responsible for setting the process in motion.  Basically the DWP are the judges and Scope are the coppers, quite happy to make money from policing sick and disabled claimants.

The homelessness charity SHP (formerly the The Single Homeless Project) has already handed back their Work Programme contract after claiming the brutal sanctions regime may cause vulnerable people to have to ‘beg and steal’.  Sadly the big disability charities, which along with Scope include Mind, Mencap and Leonard Chesire Disability have no such scruples.

10,000 sanctions were applied to claimants on sickness  and disability benefits last year.  Many of these were due to Compliance Doubts raised by the charities involved in delivering Work Programme.  Sanctions are devastating for all claimants, leading to abject poverty as well as the risk of Housing Benefit payments being stopped endangering people’s homes.  To apply sanctions to claimants who are sick or disabled however is a new level of brutality.  Sick or disabled claimants may have special diets as part of their treatment, pay more in heating costs or have other costs such as fares to hospitals and GPs to manage.  To callously strip vital benefits away from this group, many of whom have life-threatening conditions, is unprecedented on the history of the Welfare State.

That charities like Scope should be part of this attack on the very people they claim to be established to help is beyond belief.   Work Programme, workfare and connivance in sanctions is fast bringing the entire charitable sector into disrepute.  It’s time that so called charities like Scope say enough is enough and hand back these savage contracts that have caused so much damage to sick and disabled benefit claimant’s live.

Boycott Workfare have re-issued their call to complain to Scope along with a response to yesterday’s statement. Scope are on twitter @scope.

Also taking place today is a communication blockade of poverty pimps A4e called by Liverpool Combat Workfare. 

Is Workfare Behind the G4S Olympics Farce?

G4S are one of the largest companies involved in the Government’s flagship Work Programme, the scheme currently failing miserably at helping long term unemployed people find work.

Participants on the Work Programme can be sent on unpaid work for a period of up to six months.  It is unclear whether those who refuse still face benefit sanctions as the Government have repeatedly changed the rules, plunging the scheme into confusion.  It is also not possible to find out where people are being sent on workfare as part of the Work Programme as the Government is refuses to answer Freedom of Information requests on the subject.

What is abundantly clear is that G4S have access to thousands of unemployed people, and the power to mandate them to do almost anything they choose.  Alongside this G4S had a separate contract to recruit and train thousands of Olympics Security Guards.

Now it’s clear that G4S had a business  opportunity here.  G4S can use the funding they receive on the Olympics contract to train people on the Work Programme.  Should any of the people on the Olympic contract get jobs, then G4S get to claim Job Outcome fees on their Work Programme contract.  This is known as a double fund.  Two contracts to do what appear to be different things, merged into one with huge savings for the company involved.

The other lucrative opportunity for G4S is to use unpaid workers as Olympic Security Guards, much in the way Close Protection did recently at the Queen’s Jubilee.

Is it possible that G4S panicked after the Jubilee story broke plunging their plans for an unpaid Olympics workforce into chaos?

We may never find out.  Chris Grayling, the minister in charge of the Work Programme, is unfortunately prone to lying through his teeth.  But it reveals the dangers of private sector companies handed huge and diverse contracts to carry out public services, whether they be for  stewarding and securing the Olympics or helping people get jobs.

Profit hungry sharks like G4S will cut every corner they can in the search for a quick buck.  With their operations shrouded in secrecy it is near impossible to find out exactly what’s going on.  All we know is that this represents a yet another disaster for the company who began life under the last Tory Government as Group 4 Security and quickly established themselves as a national joke.

The joke stopped being funny when G4S immigration staff killed Jimmy Mubenga whilst he was being deported.  This hasn’t stopped G4S being handed endless Government contracts to carry out everything from running prisons to harassing benefit claimants.

Once again a private company is running rampant with public services and all the Tory Party can do is wring their hands and then slip them another billion.

There is no clear evidence yet that G4S were planning on using mass workare as part of their Olympic Security provision.  But there is some.  This website mirrors the job vacancies available through JobCentre Plus.  Whilst the vacancy in no longer on the Government site the details appear legitimate.  The Job Description states: G4S OLYMPIC RECRUITMENT- G4S will be here on the 22nd February as part of Security Month to recruit for the Olympics jOBS ALL They will be interviewing in the 2nd Floor Interview Room.

Under the section indicated salary is says: Wage/salary unknownMore tellingly it points out: This is not a job vacancy but you might find it interesting to read.

There’s also this youtube video featuring an undercover reporter, of admittedly unknown providence, who claims to have blagged his way into a job training as an Olympics Security Guard.  Unfortunately he is being interviewed for the inane conspiracy site infowars and therefore should be treated with caution.  Alongside wild speculation of a planned mass evacuation of London, he mentions that many of the people he was being trained with were unemployed and on some form of training scheme with G4S.