Hull’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) is set to close after the local council awarded a new contract for legal advice to corporate scumbags Action for Employment (A4E).
A4E are better known for harassing benefit claimants and providing low quality training on the government’s New Deal scheme. A racket which has made their founder, Emma Harrison, a multi-millionaire on the back of government contracts to bully some of the most vulnerable in society.
This new move of branching out into legal advice has angered the fine folk of Humberside with several protests being held at the closure of a popular community resource which has provided legal advice to 13500 people in the past year. 55 jobs are set to be lost.
No doubt to be replaced by identikit, poorly paid and under-qualified workers, most of whom are former benefit claimants bullied into being there so A4E can pick up almost 2 grand for finding them work.
The fact that staff rarely last in the job more than a couple of months is good business for A4E, once their former employees are back on benefit they can return to the organisation for yet more poor quality training and ‘job search’.
The appalling treatment of the people A4E call clients is matched only by their disgraceful treatment of their own workforce. One former staff member who worked in the now closed Camden branch told the void:
“I was quite shocked at the low salary I was offered which was a good 25% below what you’d expect to receive for a similar position, but I needed a job and foolishly took up the position. I was even more shocked to be told on my first day that telling any of my colleagues my salary was a sackable offence.
A few weeks in I realised why when after a few drinks after work I discovered I was actually the best paid person there, with many of my colleagues on little more than the minimum wage for skilled positions such as IT trainers.
I received no induction and scant support from a manager who was rarely present. I never received a contract. Although my working hours were 9-5.30 I was told that I was expected to be there at 8.30am ‘to prepare’. Lunch was half an hour, barely long enough to buy and eat food (if you could afford food) and there were no breaks.
The training being offered to the claimants was appalling bad and not at all relevant, even bordering on surreal. 18 year old inner London kids being trained on how to apply for a mortgage, or fresh graduates being forced to sit through adult literacy training. Group sizes could be as large as 30 with many others floating around the building doing nothing at all. This was because A4E weren’t able to find work experience placements for people which left them forced to attend the offices for 30 hours a week and do precisely nothing.
I don’t think one of the people I was involved in training found paid work except for one guy who was co-opted to work for A4E under threat of benefit sanctions. Every client was supposed to have an ‘Individual Training Plan’ which was specifically tailored to their needs. I was therefore shocked when I was handed a photocopied training plan and told to copy it out for every single client.
As far as I could tell, every A4E client in the country, thousands of them, had the exact same ‘Individual Training Plan’. There was no computer access, one phone and a rag tag selection of out of date newspapers which were to be used for the clients to find work. Clients were not provided with any lunch and many were unable to buy it at Central London prices so most of them went all day without any food.
The final straw came for me when a new manager decided to illegally increase the clients time on the programme by two and a half hours a week, forcing them to attend the centre to do nothing for over the allotted 30 hours. No reason was given for this move which also increased the staff’s already punishing workload.
After making several complaints to my manager and encouraging clients to do the same on the A4E complaints line (which was never answered) I was sacked without any diciplinary hearing or prior warning.
I wasn’t sorry to leave.”