Category Archives: JSA/Workfare/Work Programme

How The DWP Bribed Employers To Break Age Discrimination Laws With A ‘Golden Ticket’ Worth £2,275

wage-incentive-goldenticketJobcentres bribed employers with ‘golden tickets’ worth up to £2,275 to hire young people over older workers despite warnings from lawyers that this Wage Incentive scheme was probably illegal.

Figures released this week show that over one hundred thousand ‘Wage Incentive’ payments were doled out to employers before the scheme was quietly abandoned last Summer.  These payments could be claimed from the DWP every time an employer recruited someone under 25 who had previously been on benefits.  An early evaluation of the scheme found that it was riddled with abuse, with employers making backdated claims for workers they had already hired, or even using Wage Incentives as a tax-payer funded rolling stock of temporary staff.  This report came alongside warning from the DWP’s own lawyers that companies who took these payments faced the risk of legal challenges under age discrimination laws from older workers denied jobs .

Despite these warnings Wage Incentives continued and by the time a second evaluation was published all mention of employers abusing the scheme had magically disappeared.  What this evaluation found however was the huge amount of pressure Jobcentre staff were being placed under to encourage employers to hire younger workers and claim Wage Incentives.  According to the report some staff felt that older claimants were disadvantaged by ‘persistent pressure’ to concentrate on Wage Incentive jobs and that targets set by the DWP were unfair.

Both evaluations found that ‘self-marketing’ Wage Incentives proved one of the most effective ways to sell the scheme to employers.  This included encouraging young people to add details of the potential bribe to their CVs, mention it at interviews, or present employers with a shoddily designed ‘golden ticket’ like the one pictured above.  According to one Jobcentre worker: “The line from employers is usually – if I see two candidates exactly the same and one is eligible and one is not, I’ll take the wage incentive candidate.” 

In other words employers would hire a younger worker over an older one purely because they were paid by the government to do so.  It is clear that this discriminates against older workers and it seems likely this is one of the reasons why Wage Incentives were quietly scrapped in August last year.

Amusingly the DWP are now pretending that Wage Incentives were only ever intended as a “temporary measure to encourage employers to offer sustained paid employment to young people during the recession”.  This is transparent bollocks.   There was never any intention that this scheme was temporary and it was introduced and stayed in effect long after the official period of recession.

The truth is that Wage Incentives were unfair, ineffective, hugely expensive and probably illegal.  But that’s all just business as usual at the DWP and not usually enough to cause one of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes to be brought to an end.  Yet significantly, even many grasping employers found Wage Incentives too much to stomach.  According to the recent evaluation one Jobcentre said:  “Some of our large and national employers won’t take wage incentive on because they don’t want bad or adverse publicity, if they think it looks like a bribe.”

Astonishingly the report says that in “one or two extreme cases, larger employers … were so opposed to the wage incentive that they would consider only recruiting candidates aged 25 and over” adding that “Other employers have said ‘it’s unethical, we don’t want to know about it”.

Don’t believe the fucking hype, employers have not suddenly turned into a bunch of hippies, they are just worried about their reputations.  If anything this shows the success that groups such as Boycott Workfare and claimants themselves have had in exposing the exploitation and naked profiteering at the heart of DWP backed schemes.  Everything the DWP try and do is toxic now.  Let’s make sure it stays that way.

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25 Feb Day of Action To Support Activist Arrested At Jobcentre

tony-coxSolidarity with unemployed activist arrested for representing a jobseeker – call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty via Boycott Workfare

Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.  More info.

Actions planned so far:

Edinburgh and the Lothians:-

Leith jobcentre, Commercial St 9am – 11am
South Saint Andrew St jobcentre 11am – 1pm
High Riggs jobcentre 10am – 12 noon
Musselburgh jobcentre 2pm – 3pm

Dundee, Tayside and area:
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre: There will be a picket of the Forfar court before the hearing on 25 February contact admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net

London:
* 09.45-10.45am, outside Kilburn Jobcentre with Kilburn Unemployed Workers
* 3pm, DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street London SW1H 9NA (Nearest tube St James’ Park or Westminster) with Boycott Workfare

Cardiff, Wales:
IWW Cymru in Cardiff is in. 12-2 at Charles Street Job Centre, Cardiff..
https://www.facebook.com/events/607720169358185/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Liverpool
11.30 Jobcentre Plus. Eaton Road, West Daerby
https://www.facebook.com/events/805964602791737/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

UK Wide:

Send a message of support to admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net

Complain to Noel Shanahan, Director General Operations DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street London SW1H 9NA

Sign the petition

Please help spread the word about all events.

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Middle Class Solutions To Working Class Problems Is Why Charities Like MIND Keep Getting It So Wrong

didnt-go-to-work-todayIain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself.  A report released at the end of last year by mental health charity MIND could not have gone further in endorsing the core ideas that lie behind his bungled and brutal welfare reforms.

The report is titled “We’ve Got Work To Do” and claims to demand ‘fundamental reform’ of the workplace and social security system to better support people with a mental health condition.  Sadly it is calling for nothing of the sort and is underpinned by the exact same lies and toxic assumptions that have driven both Tory and Labour welfare reforms.

Just like the DWP, MIND have adopted the flawed medical consensus that work is good for your health. The charity does acknowledge that this isn’t actually always true, but falls short of saying that work can be bad for your health, instead arguing that “inappropriate or poor quality work can have as negative an effect on people’s mental health as not being in work”.  They base this opinion on research carried out in Australia that found that “the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality.”  In other words work can be worse for your mental health than being unemployed, rather than just equally bad as MIND claim.

It is not nit-picking to point out the discrepency between what this research found and what MIND say it found because it reveals the charity’s opinions to be based on ideology, not facts.  This same factual slippage occurs elsewhere in the report when MIND begin by saying that most people with mental health conditions want to work, which later becomes everyone with a mental health condition wants to work. The truth, as revealed in the footnotes to the report, are that only around 58% of people out of work due to a mental health condition strongly agreed they wanted to return to work whilst 20% did not feel they were well enough.

These two distortions – or let’s call them lies – have allowed the despised Work Capability Assessment, benefit sanctions and workfare all to be misrepresented as ‘support’ or ‘help’.  In truth these measures destroy lives.  The medical consensus that work is good for you does often not apply to those on the lower end of the income scale who face being forced by Jobcentres into the kind of work likely to make them ill.

MIND’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer claims at the beginning of the report that there have been “improvements in how people with mental health problems are supported”, although it is unclear what they are. There then follows an emotive story about someone’s journey through the benefit system after leaving work due to depression.  This is actually where their journey would stop, because unless they could provide reems of medical evidence to the Jobcentre they would be disallowed benefits for giving up work.  That this reports begins by misrepresenting the benefit system as it currently functions just shows how removed these giant disability charities have become from the lives of those they claim to support.

Instead the ‘fundamental reform’ they call for is actually more of the same or worse – such as the dangerous idea that sensitive health information from the Work Capability Assessment should be passed over to Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S.  This is like your boss having access to your medical history and appallingly MIND seem pretty relaxed about this as well.

Much of the early part of the report is taken up by calling for improvements in the working environment for people suffering mental ill-health.  Which is fine, everyone wants that, except greedy employers who worry it might cost them money or who harbour nasty little prejudices about mental health.  According to MIND themselves this is about 40% of them.  Yet one of MIND’s recommendations is that the Maximus run ‘Fit To Work’ service – the new telephone helpline which will be used to certify time off instead of GPs – should more effectively engage with employers.  About the only decent thing about Fit To Work, which is designed to bully people back into the workplace before they are better, is that currently you have the right to keep your boss out of any discussions.

The final part of the report discusses what future welfare-to-work schemes should look like for those with a mental health condition.  The charity are calling for “new specialist scheme for people with mental health problems on
ESA”.  A scheme which should be run by those who “have expertise and experience of working with people with mental health problems”.  And here lies the real reason for this report.  It’s a fucking advert to any incoming Labour Government to give MIND a lucrative contract to run a new welfare-to-work service.

There is no longer any doubt that endless Atos assessments, workfare and benefit sanctions are creating a crisis in the lives of those with a mental health condition.  The tragic death toll rises ever higher.  Yet nowhere in this report does MIND call for these brutal policies to be scrapped.  Even if MIND were handed a contract to be nicer to people on ESA this would still leave those who have been found fit for work abandoned and dumped onto mainstream unemployment benefits alongside those whose condition is at yet undiagnosed.  On twitter yesterday MIND claimed they couldn’t call for sanctions to be scrapped for people who are unemployed because it wasn’t a key issue.  If your mental health condition isn’t bad enough to be able to claim ESA then tough shit seems to be the charity’s response if you get sanctioned.

The thing is, naked profiteering aside, MIND are not bastards.  They have dedicated front line workers who don’t get paid anywhere near enough and are sincere committed people.  Workers who would probably agree that benefit sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment should be scrapped immediately.  They see the carnage that is being caused everyday.

The problem is that reports like these are overseen and commissioned by highly paid charity executives who live lifestyles that their service users and lowest paid staff can only dream of.  These lifestyles lead them to make assumptions based on their own distorted experience of the world.  Over time they become unable to avoid inflicting solutions to the problems faced by working class people based on their own middle class values because that is all they know.  Often these solutions are utterly bizarre, like the boss of homelessness charity Thamesreach Jeremy Swain’s obsessive belief that the biggest problem facing homeless people is that beer is too cheap.  You read that right.  Too cheap.

It is near impossible for someone on a huge salary who does a job they love to understand why someone may not feel up to working at present.  That, to someone like MIND Chief Executive Paul Farmer, really does seem like madness. Likewise charity bosses have no real understanding of why it might be dangerous to allow other bosses to snoop around your health records.  Bosses think bosses are lovely people who would never abuse their powers – or at least not without a damn good reason.  And bosses know best, they tell each other that all the time.

Charity bosses in particular have their own view of themselves as benevolent experts confirmed everyday by politicians and journalists who would far rather talk to them than someone on the dole.  Their whopping salaries provide further proof of their own ability.  As do arse-licking middle managers who continually tell them how wonderful and clever they are, to their faces at least.  So Paul Farmer must be is right because he’s Paul Farmer and MIND are right because they are MIND and anyone criticising them just doesn’t understand.  Because they are not experts.

That’s how MIND alongside other disability and anti-poverty charities can so easily dismiss the demands of grassroots campaigns comprising of disabled people and benefit claimants.  Groups which are more or less united in calling for benefit sanctions and the WCA to be scrapped completely.  These people are not experts.  At worst they might even be service users.  And you don’t want them getting too uppity.  Before you know where you are you’ll have working class people running organisations together to address working class problems.  Then there’d be nothing at all for poor Paul Farmer to do.    He might even have to get a real job.

Please sign/share/tweet the petition Benefit Sanctions Must Be Stopped Without Exceptions.

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Rachel Reeves Is A Lying Bastard

boycott-workfare-real-jobsLabour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves has probably never done a real day’s work in her pampered fucking life.  After graduating from Oxford and then the LSE she was handed a non-job at the British Embassy in Washington before returning to the UK to work in the banking sector.  She is every bit as clueless and out of touch as the chinless toffs in government she claims to oppose.

This week Reeves and her creepy underling Shadow Employment Minister Stephen Timms have been boasting about Labour’s plans to bully and impoverish unemployed people with their Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.  And just like Iain Duncan Smith she is quite happy to bend the truth to further her benefit sanctioning agenda.

According to Reeves, long term unemployment has soared recently with “a staggering 224% increase in the number of people (25 and over) who have been unemployed for over two years and claiming benefits.”

If this were true then readers of this blog would have heard all about it.  But it’s not, it’s a lie and Reeves knows it.  All government’s cook the books when it comes to unemployment and the last Labour administration were no exception.  Back then and just like now those on workfare were considered employed for the purposes of the unemployment figures.  According to the Office For National Statistics there were more people recorded on “government training & employment programmes”, otherwise known as workfare, in April 2010 than in January 2015.

Since when someone started workfare they were no longer classed as unemployed, then Labour decided they were no longer long-term unemployed.  That’s why Reeves can make the ludicrous claim there were only 41,100 people who had been out of work for two years in 2010.  What she means is there were only 41,100 people who were lucky enough not to have been sent on one of Labour’s shit training or workfare schemes for two years.

In an effort to make Labour look bad when Iain Duncan Smith took over he decided that in future people who have attended workfare should still be considered long-term unemployed, even if they are temporarily removed from the current unemployment figures.  This is the reason long term unemployment looks to have risen so steeply. That this actually ended up making Iain Duncan Smith look bad just shows what a dick he is.

This is not the only lie that Reeves has been parroting this week.  Labour will not force anyone’s who’s been out of work over two years to take up a job as the Daily Mail declared this week.  They can’t.  There aren’t enough jobs.  What they will do is force claimants to attend their workfare plus a sandwich scheme for six months or face benefit sanctions.  What this will mean is people required to work for 25 hours a week on the minimum wage plus another ten hours for free.  Which of course means they won’t be working for the minimum wage, but substantially less.

Reeves claims that this extra ten hours a week won’t be work at all, it will be ‘training and development’ provided by the employer.  An employer like Poundland.  She must think we’re fucking idiots.  She also declares that this will not have an impact on existing jobs, or at least that’s what she might mean when she says “Employers won’t be not be able to replace existing jobs or vacancies”.  For all her elite education she can barely string a sentence together.

Labour’s Jobs Guarantee is workfare.  It may be slightly different to Tory workfare, but the impact on jobs and working conditions for everybody will be the same.  As will the impact of benefit sanctions for those who refuse or are unable to do this forced work.  Perhaps most disturbingly it is a direct attack on the minimum wage, with participants only to be paid for two thirds of the hours they are actually working.  And it will be the tax payer funding those paltry wages, not employers who will no doubt be dump people back on the dole once the six month wage subsidy is over, as recently happened on the now abandoned Wage Incentive scheme introduced by Nick Clegg.

Make no mistake the current Tory Government are vermin.  But just like Iain Duncan Smith, Rachel Reeves is a lying bastard.  A lying bastard who is currently trying to cosy up to claimants by pretending Labour will tinker with the savage sickness benefits regime whilst her leader Ed Miliband hints that they might save the Independent Living Fund.  They have no fucking intention of doing either and they have no intention of ending workfare.  The so-called choice at this year’s general election is between a bunch of privileged toffs who are open in their intentions, or snivelling fake Oxbridge twats in the Labour Party who will happily use our poverty to further their careers and then stab us in the back just as hard.  Fuck the lot of them.  Vote for Class War, with a brick or a ballot paper.

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Money For Old Rope … How The Work Programme Poverty Profiteers Are Fleecing The Tax Payer

Former A4e boss Emma Harrison made millions out of the welfare-to-work scam before retiring just as the company became mired in fraud allegations.

Former A4e boss Emma Harrison made millions out of the welfare-to-work scam before retiring just as the company became mired in fraud allegations.

If there is one place that a culture of worklessness really does exist it’s in the offices of the companies running Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme.  Some welfare-to-work advisors have been languishing on tax-payer funded salaries for years whilst barely lifting a finger.

Last week the DWP published an update of the Minimum Service Delivery standards for all of the main Work Programme providers.  These are the very basic levels of service that everybody referred to these companies can expect to receive as promised in their contracts with the DWP.  As the document reveals, you shouldn’t expect too much.

Appallingly a claimant on Employment Support Allowance can expect to wait eight weeks before Maximus will be bothered to help them produce a CV.  Those placed with the notorious A4e will only have contact with a named advisor once a month, whilst the most other providers are offering is just fortnightly meetings.  At these meetings participants are likely to be given a string of conditions they must meet, which might include workfare, or they will have their benefits stopped.  Then they’ll be politely asked to fuck off for another fortnight.  And that’s the Work Programme.  That’s the wonderful, flexible, intensive, tailored to the individual, innovative, half-arsed piece of shit that bungling Iain Duncan Smith has so far wasted close to a billion pounds of our money on.  And that’s why the performance of the scheme has been so dire and you are more likely to have your benefit sanctioned than find a job on the Work Programme.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this of course.  Whilst Work Programme providers were initially paid a small fee for every participant, this has been gradually reduced.  The bulk of the funding comes from those who find work – with payments of up to £13,000 should claimants from some groups find and stay in a job.  This payments-by-results funding model was intended to ensure that whilst these companies are free to do as little as they choose to help people find jobs, if they are not successful they won’t get paid.

The problem with this model is that people get jobs under their own steam every single day.  The welfare-to-work sector barely existed before Tony Blair launched the New Deal in 1997 yet for hundreds of years people had been managing to find jobs without any help at all from an A4e Work Coach.  What this means is that even if these companies do nothing at all they will still get paid as long as they can claim the credit for these people finding jobs.  It is a scam, and it always has been.

Since these companies are guaranteed a large chunk of tax payer’s cash whatever they do they have two choices.  Firstly they can target their resources at the so-called hardest to help, which means people with little work history, extensive criminal records or who face other problems such as homelessness or addiction.  This is expensive however and a big gamble.  Employers are not rushing out to hire street drinkers or those with a conviction for violence after all.  And even if they find someone from this group a job, if they lose it then the company will lose most of their job outcome fee.  That’s why Maximus, and their charitable partners the Careers Development Group, are using ‘expert volunteers‘ to provide help for those “identified as having substantial barriers to work”.  It’s much cheaper that way.

The second, and most profitable option for these companies is to do nothing at all.  The job outcome payments will roll in regardless, so they make their money by keeping expenditure to an absolute minimum.  Of course they can tinker round the edges.  They can bully someone into a shitty job when if that person had held out a bit longer they would have found themselves a better job in their usual field.  They can ensure that someone who is at college is forced to leave and take up minimum wage work rather than use a short period of unemployment to gain a qualification and further their career.  They can pressurise someone into becoming self-employed and claiming Working Tax Credits even if that self-employment is unlikely to result in any real income.  There’s lots of ways they can tinker round the edges and almost all of them involve fucking up someone’s life.

The tragedy is that all that money squandered on the Work Programme could have been so much better spent.  Imagine if you walked into a Jobcentre and they told you about a course you actually wanted to go on.  A course that would train you in a real job – to be a spark, a chef, a beauty therapist or IT programmer.  Imagine if you could pick up a fork lift truck licence, or even driving lessons.  Or find out about a community project providing genuine and interesting volunteering.  Or even just have access to a half decent computer, stamps, fares, a phone and stationary so you can get on and find a job yourself.

But even that is beyond the welfare-to-work sector who instead sit on their arses all day sanctioning people’s benefit claims because they were five minutes late to their monthly meeting.  And for that we pay them hundreds of millions of pounds and make their bosses very, very rich.

Join the Day of Action Against Maximus on March 2nd.

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Benefit Sanctions Will Cause A Deterioration In Health And That’s OK Says DWP Rule Book

dmg-sanctionsPhysical punishment is now built into the benefit system with sanctions both known and intended to cause a deterioration in health says the DWP rule book..

The shocking fact was revealed by Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group who was giving evidence to Work and Pensions Committee’s sanction enquiry this morning.  Graham ended her evidence by pointing out a chilling extract from the DWP Decision Maker’s guidelines referring to whether a claimant who has had their benefit stopped should be entitled to a meagre Hardship Payment for the first two weeks of their sanction.

According to the rules, it would be “usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health” if they are left with no money to buy food or pay for essential items for two weeks.  A Hardship Payment can therefore only be awarded for this period if Jobcentre staff decide that due to an existing medical condition a sanction will cause a greater decline in health than it would a normal healthy adult.

As Boycott Workfare point out today, sometimes that deterioration in health can be fatal.  And all for the crime of missing a meeting with the Jobcentre.

The DWP’s decision maker’s guide can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/decision-makers-guide-staff-guide

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More Sanctions On The Way For Claimants With A Mental Health Condition In Scotland

work-makes-meThe DWP are currently tendering for a pilot scheme in Scotland which will see claimants on both unemployment and sickness benefits forced to attend training and possibly even workfare under the threat of benefits being stopped.

Around 450 claimants in the West of Scotland Jobcentre Plus District are expected to be forced onto the scheme if Jobcentre staff decide they have “low self esteem; and/or limited capability to manage stressful or challenging situations.”

Unlike the Work Programme, this scheme will not be aimed at people who have been on benefits for a long time.  Instead the tender documents state that those referred are likely to be people whose period of unemployment is less than 26 weeks, suggesting people could be sent from the first day of their claim.

The DWP say they expect 20% of participants to enter an “educational training course” including work experience or sector based work academies – both better known as workfare.  It is unclear whether those on the programme will be forced to move into unpaid work, however the tender clearly states that benefit sanctions will be applied in the event of “failure to attend or participate in any meeting or activity, having been notified of the requirement to attend by the Supplier”.

Worryingly this mandatory activity could include referring claimants for specialist support to “manage health conditions” or “advice related to alcohol or substance misuse”.  This could mean Jobcentre busybodies and two bit welfare-to-work companies making decisions on people’s healthcare, not doctors.

One of the key aims of this scheme will be to “promote the positive impact working has on health and well being.”   This is the latest propaganda drive from the DWP, who are also plotting four more pilot schemes around the UK aimed at people with mental health conditions.  Whilst details so far are scant on what these programmes will involve, in the DWP staff newsletter they are being justified by bungling toff Lord Fraud on the grounds that: “Work is good for your mental health”.

According the the Health and Safety Executive the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 487 000.  Work can make you fucking miserable, as anyone who’s ever had a real job is likely to be all too aware.

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