Tag Archives: A4E

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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Chris Grayling Hands Probation Service Over To Bunch Of Crooks

a4e improvingBungling Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, has announced plans to hand over probation services to some of the shadiest companies operating in the UK.

Grayling is introducing a payment by results scheme for new probation contracts, similar to the one he helped launch on the Work Programme back when he was the bungling Employment Minister.  The Work Programme so far has been an unmitigated disaster as private sector poverty pimps have sat back and let the cash roll in from start fees, cherry picked the easiest to help and forced them into workfare, and largely abandoned everyone else.

Astonishingly it is likely to be many of the very same companies who have screwed up the Work Programme who will be let loose on probation services.  G4S, the company most famous for the death at their hands of Jimmy Mubenga, and the bodged Olympic Security fiasco, are certain to be on the list of those bidding for contracts.  A4e, the workfare company who have faced a string of fraud allegations, have also long been eying up probation services, presumably on the basis that they know a thing or two about crime themselves.

One of the key measures private companies are likely to be paid out on is whether they are able to stop people re-offending and ending up back inside.  This will mean that from the board levels down to the front line staff – who will no doubt be working to strict targets – it will be in the financial interests of the companies to cover up any further crimes probation workers may suspect have been committed.

Will a G4S worker really help the police with their inquiries, as grassing probation officers often do, if it means they won’t hit their targets that month?  G4S’ experience of getting away with crime could prove invaluable in keeping those ‘outcome’ payments flowing into their grubby pockets.

Experienced crooks like A4e and G4S giving people tips on how to stay out of jail for what will be trivial offences in many cases may turn out to be no bad thing.  But the potential for abuse is terrifying.  Grayling is said to favour the ‘black box’ approach to commissioning services.  This means all he cares about is the price, as under these kinds of contracts companies involved are given free reign to do whatever they choose to try and hit their targets.  Just like the Work Programme, these companies could be given unprecedented powers over people’s lives with barely any scrutiny.

According to The Guardian, the public sector will not be allowed to bid for the draconian new contracts which will cover 70% of the work carried out by probation services.  Social Workers should take note, this won’t end with probation staff.

It seems that Chris Grayling is intent on exporting the shambles he left   behind at the DWP into the Ministry of Justice.  Like some malevolent  jumped-up imp, he seems to think he’s being tough by prancing around scattering chaos wherever he treads.  In truth he’s far more Norman Wisdom – without the wit or talent- then he ever will be Norman Tebbit.

And when it all comes crashing down compulsive liar Grayling will no doubt slink off somewhere else in Government, turning his back on the shambles he’s created and claiming “it wasn’t me guv”.

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Some Workfare Workers Will Be Violent and Aggresive Warn DWP

Some people sent to work for charities by the Jobcentre are likely to behave violently and aggressively the DWP have warned companies tasked with finding work placements.

The stark warning comes in the newly revised Provider Guidance for the Government’s Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme.  This document outlines the rules of the scheme to private contractors such as A4e.  These companies pick up lucrative fees for every person they place in an in unpaid work placement.  Thousands of people have been sent to work for four weeks without pay in charity shops and other community projects.  Those who refuse or fail to turn up face increasingly brutal benefit sanctions.

Charity bosses will be horrified to learn that the DWP warn:

“You may experience a wide range of behaviour from the customer group referred to MWA. This may include those customers who exhibit difficult, aggressive, or sometimes violent behaviour. However, you cannot select the customers with whom you work. Generic guidance provides further details.”

The Generic Guidance is the rules which apply across all welfare to work contracts with the DWP and can be found at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/supplying-dwp/what-we-buy/welfare-to-work-services/provider-guidance/framework-generic-guidance.shtml

Of most concern is that this document reveals:

“Participants will not be excluded on the basis of potentially violent or inappropriate behaviour (e.g. racial or sexual verbal assault, foul language or the issuing of threats, or in the event that the participant refuses to engage).”

At this point it is critical to point out that benefit claimants are no more likely to be violent, aggressive, racist or sexually abusive than any other potential employees.

This is something that employers usually mitigate with CRB checks, interviews and references from former employers.  The key point here is that none of these checks have been made by either the DWP or welfare-to-work companies when referring people to workfare.

Often the charities happy to exploit people on workfare have not even interviewed potential staff.  The welfare-to-work company and the Jobcentre are the only people who have had previous contact with the claimant.

Welfare-to-work companies only get paid if they secure someone a placement with a charity.  The rules state that they must not turn anyone down.  Can companies like A4e really be trusted to throw away lucrative payments by warning charities that a potential worker has previously displayed threatening, sexually abusive or racist behaviour?

The Corporate Take Over of the Third Sector Begins

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to use private sector poverty pimps to fix social problems is a long cherished business objective of the scandal rocked A4e and other welfare to work comnpanies.

Last week Iain Duncan Smith announced that new Payment by Results programmes will be established to address not just unemployment, but youth offending, low educational attainment and bizarrely, step-parent, single parent or other alternative family structures.

His latest crazy scheme will be based on the floundering Work Programme, under which private companies have been paid almost a billion pounds to fail to fix soaring long term unemployment.  So proud is Iain Duncan Smith of this unmitigated disaster that he now plans to export the model to other areas of social policy.

Welfare to work company A4e are best known for harassing unemployed and disabled people into attending sub-standard training or workfare.  The company however has had long held objectives to spread their rancid tentacles into all areas of social care.

In 2008 A4e attempted to launch a community website on which they sought to offer advice on all aspects of life from health to housing.  Originally only available to A4e inmates on government training schemes, the hope was that the site would become a hub for people to discuss and seek advice on a range of personal problems.

The website was soon abandoned when A4e realised that were it opened to public registration then it would fast develop into a forum for people to pour well deserved abuse onto the company.  In a telling sign of things to come however, much of the information on the site was concerned with highly personal topics such as health, relationships and even people’s sex lives.

Astonishingly A4e offered advice on impotence and unplanned pregnancy. People with mental health conditions were advised to contact A4e for help.  Perhaps most disturbingly A4e appeared to encourage cancer patients to seek out alternative health treatments.

Whilst much of this seemed like the kind of hippy-dippy bullshit that the company regularly espoused, this was an early, if bodged,  attempt to break into the social care market.

A4e, whose work already includes contracts with probation services and legal advice centres, now boast on their website of: “improving access to health and social case services and empowering disabled people through employment and advisory services”.

Increasingly charitable organisations who work with so called vulnerable people have been pushed into marketisation.  This means charities bidding for contracts, often against similar charities, to carry out a certain social purpose.  This could be housing street homeless people, providing services for drug users, running care homes or similar roles which would have once been the preserve of national and local government.

Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement last week pointed to plans to open up far more areas of social care services to the market than ever before.

When Blair brought the private sector into employment support services, companies like A4e and G4s soon muscled out the smaller community based job clubs and unemployed workers centres.  Larger charities were pushed into the role of sub-contractors, carrying out the dirty work for the money grabbing parasites who ran the sector.

Under Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme the role of charities has become almost indistinguishable from profit hungry welfare to work companies.  Charities such as Scope, Mencap, MIND, RNIB and many more have been only to happy to collude with brutal benefit sanctions and workfare.  With the take over of the Welfare to Work sector almost complete, companies like A4e are now looking for new ground in their drive to commodify and profit from the poor.

Charities only have themselves to blame for this erosion of their role in providing social care.  A united front declaring non co-operation with the government’s attempts to privatise welfare services could well have stopped welfare reform in it’s tracks.  Instead greedy charity bosses have paid themselves huge salaries by picking up lucrative welfare to work contracts with barely a thought for the needs of their service users.

The direction of travel is now clear.  A4e have already aggressively moved in on legal advice, resulting in the closure of Citizens Advice Centres.  Their ambitions do not end there.  Gormless charity bosses will only be able to look on in despair as vultures like A4e and Serco swoop in to take over relationship mediation, probation services, care homes, homelessness hostels and any other slice of the Third Sector that they can gobble up.

And some of us will say ‘we told you so’.  Not that it will matter anymore.

Emma Harrison Mauled Over Work Programme Disaster

Emma Harrison, former head of poverty pimps A4e, was mauled on Channel 4 News this week after figures were released suggesting less than 4% of people have found work after being sentenced to the Work Programme with the company.

The Work Programme is Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship scheme aimed at bullying long term unemployed people into low paid work or workfare.

Claimants on the Work Programme can be forced to undertake any activity that private sector spivs like Emma Harrison decide will help them find work.  Brutal benefit sanction, which can lead to extreme poverty and even homelessness, are inflicted on those who do not comply.  Despite this unprecedented power over people’s lives being handed to the likes of A4e and G4S, all the evidence suggests that the Work Programme is a dismal failure.

Emma Harrison, who is still the largest share holder of the fraud ridden welfare to work firm – despite resigning last year after repeated fraud scandals – claimed that Channel 4’s figures were wrong.  Despite this denial, she refused to offer any alternative numbers and complained she was being bullied – a mealy mouthed claim given that allegations of A4e bullying benefit claimants are rife.

The Government have steadfastly refused to provide any performance figures for the Work Programme, despite repeatedly hailing it a huge success.  Figures promised last Spring were postponed to November and it now appears the DWP may be trying to push back the date even further.  The DWP statistical release calendar suggests only the numbers of people who have started on the Work Programme will be released next month – not the number of those who have actually found work.  Channel 4’s Factcheck blog states that the release date for performance figures is now ‘not confirmed’.

Long term unemployment has risen month on month throughout the alleged fall in overall unemployment.  Despite this A4e’s figures, if true, represent a new low for the welfare to work sector which has already squandered almost billion pounds of tax payers cash on the Work Programme.

The DWP have previously published what they claimed were preliminary figures on the scheme which showed that 24% of early participants left benefits for at least 13 weeks during the programme.  This derisory figure does not necessarily mean that people got jobs.  Many participants will have retired, started full time education or training, or moved onto another benefit due to pregnancy or illness.

Curiously the Channel 4 factcheckers appear to have bought DWP spin that only around 5% of people would be expected to find work without any help from the Work Programme.  The true figures, as this report from the National Audit Office shows (PDF), is 28% as Channel 4’s Factcheck has previously reported.

The Government made wild claims that 35% of people on the Work Programme would find work due to the wonders of the payment by results system.  In truth all welfare to work contracts have had an element of payment by results ever since the introduction of Tony Blair’s New Deal in 1997.

With the performance figures for the Work Programme so bad that the Government is terrified to even tell us what they are, payment by results seems to mean that we pay whilst the DWP hushes up the results.

You can watch Emma squirm at: http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/241012

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.

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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.

Grayling Hands Blank Cheque To Welfare to Work Industry

Bungling Employment Minister Chris Grayling has handed a blank cheque to money grabbing parasites like A4e and Working Links after claiming that the derisory Work Programme performance figures represent a success.

It is unclear whether Grayling’s gushing support for the fraud ridden Welfare to Work companies who run the Work Programme is down to simple naivety or something more malevolent.  With the Work Programme performance figures representing a new low for the Wefare to Work industry, it appears that the Minister has been bamboozled by the sharp talking spivs in cheap suits who run the sector.

In the 90s it was expected that 45% of people who attended Job Clubs or Employment Service Programme Centres would find jobs.  By the time the Work Programme was launched last year that figure had slipped to just 36%.  Now it appears that the Minister is quite happy with a rate of 24%, and this doesn’t even represent those who actually found work.

The Daily Telegraph recently reported that 28% of people would be expected to find jobs under their own steam with no help whatsoever from the Work Programme.  That a mere 24% of people on the Work Programme have come off benefits is therefore a disaster for the scheme which seems to be performing far worse than if the Government had done nothing at all.

It is increasingly clear that the scant help offered by the Welfare to Work sector is directed at those who would have found jobs anyway whilst the more difficult to help are abandoned.  There has been no break down in the figures for those on sickness benefits, ex-offenders or homeless people, the very groups that Work Programme was intended to work with most intensively.

Homelessness charity St Mungos recently pulled out of the scheme after revealing they had not placed a single person into employment on the Work Programme.  This followed the decision of SHP (formerly the The Single Homeless Project) to hand back their Work Programme contract after raising concerns about the ethics of the brutal sanctions regime.

Whilst the charities involved in the Work Programme have struggled financially due to a lack or referrals, the Welfare to Work companies are laughing all the way to the bank.  Despite Grayling’s claims that Work Programme providers are paid only by results, over half a billion has already been handed over to the sector.  The results have been less impressive than if the Work Programme didn’t exist.

Grayling’s continual cheering for dreadful performance figures is merely lowering the bar even further.  So desperate is he to hand over £5 billion of tax payer’s money to protect his political reputation, it now seems that any old crap the Welfare to Work industry comes up with will immediately be rewarded with wads of cash.

Despite the Work Programme, long term unemployment is rising.  The very problem that the Work Programme was established to address is getting worse and all the Employment Minister can do is sing the praises of those fucking it up so dreadfully.

Chris Grayling must be a laughing stock in the boardroom of A4e.  The worse they perform the more the Minister cheers them on.  If he’s not getting a decent kickback from these private sector poverty pimps then he’s even more incompetent then he appears.

As part of the National Week of Action Against Workfare a communications blockade aimed at poverty pimps A4e is taking place today.  Full details on facebook or simply ring their handy freephone number 0800 345 666 and ask them about exactly where the hundreds if millions spent on Work Programme is actually going.

Could The Work Programme Really Be Increasing Unemployment?

The figures speak for themselves – the Work Programme isn’t working.  Yesterday’s report by the Welfare to Work industry reveals that only 22% of long term unemployed people bullied onto the Work Programme have got jobs.  Of those many will be in temporary work.

Chris Grayling claimed that 36% of people on the Work Programme would gain sustainable long term employment.  Yesterday’s figures reveal this is little more than a fantasy.

Of more concern however is the figure given in the Telegraph today (thanks Eric) which reveals officials would have expected 28% of long term unemployed people to have found work without any help at all.  This means that the Government’s flagship Work Programme is not just under-performing, it appears to be making the problem of long term unemployment worse.

This almost appears counter-intuitive.  How could a multi-billion pound scheme, carried out by experts in the Welfare to Work field like A4e, actually be creating higher unemployment?

The recent drop in the unemployment count may be a blip and is entirely due to full time jobs being replaced with part time positions.  But still long term unemployment is rising.  The very problem the Government is throwing billions at is getting worse.  Worse even than if they weren’t throwing billions at it.

The Work Programme scheme does not exist in a vacuum and is one of several schemes designed to ‘help’ unemployed people into work.  Almost all of these schemes have workfare at their heart.  Whilst sanctions have temporarily been removed from some of those schemes, possibly hundreds of thousands of people are currently working for free in supermarkets and High Street stores.

The DWP claim they don’t know how many people are on workfare schemes as what the Work Programme providers are actually doing for their billions is shrouded in secrecy.

When the workfare row blew up perhaps one of the most illuminating excuses from corporate workfare exploiters came from Argos, who claimed they only use workfare during the Christmas rush.  This was a clear example of real jobs being replaced by unpaid labour, funded by the tax payer.  Temporary seasonal jobs are the kind of roles which companies may have been more likely to offer to the long term unemployed.  Perhaps some of those people would have been offered permanent positions.  These kinds of jobs and opportunities have disappeared due to workfare.

Common sense dictates that unpaid labour is almost certainly one of the reasons that the Work Programme, and all the other workfare schemes, appear to be doing more harm than good.

But could the problems run even deeper than that.  Successive governments have sought to blame the unemployed for unemployment, a useful lie which benefits both government and business alike.  Governments get to pass the buck for fucking up the economy and the demonisation of the unemployed allows greedy bosses to drive down wages.  As people become ever fearful of the murderous stigma that is now attached to claiming benefits, competition for the few jobs out there increases and therefore wages come down.

However the recent Work Programme figures suggest a problem with the current scapegoating of the unemployed.  If it is unemployed people’s own fault they are out of work, and long term unemployment is increasing for those on Work Programme, then what the fuck is the flagship Government scheme doing to them that means they are unable to find work?

Of course this kind of thinking is bogus, but ministers can’t have it both ways.  Following the logic of Iain Duncan Smith and his bunch of clowns at the DWP, the Work Programme appears to be demotivating people, increasing idleness and making people work less hard to find jobs.

Whilst it is shameful to blame the unemployed for unemployment, government schemes like the Work Programme do have real and tangible impacts on people’s lives.  It is entirely possible that being patronised, bullied and lectured at by A4e jobsworths is damaging people’s self-esteem and confidence.  It is also possible that the Job Search facilities offered by the  Welfare to Work industry are no better than those available at home or in libraries, the only difference being that in those environments they can be used in peace.  It is not unimaginable that people on workfare, or pointless fake training schemes, become not only institutionalised, but stuck in a rut and are less, not more likely to look for an alternative.  It is therefore even possible that the Work Programme is increasing, not decreasing, dependence on the state.

There are other factors that could be at play.  A recent comment from Dave L on this blog says:

“It’s a complete waste of time, in all the appointments I’ve had I’ve had absolutely no help, none at all. Last bit of ‘help’ was a cover letter that they thought was brilliant that contained lines such as “friends and family would say I’m a good worker”… I have work history too, so why put that?”

This is an all too familiar description of life at Welfare to Work companies.  Shoddy CVs, poor covering letters, badly trained staff, broken computers and unemployed people forced to send off mass applications for jobs which aren’t suitable, are all too common criticisms.  Perhaps the ‘help’ offered by poverty pimps like A4e is worse than no help at all when it comes to finding work.

To further compound the problem, many people currently having their time wasted on the Work Programme may have previously been on courses at local colleges which provided real skills.  Depending on which Work Programme shark they are sent to, they may have been forced to leave College to attend A4e.  This has been a feature of compulsory Welfare to Work schemes ever since Blair brought in the New Deal way back in the late 90s.  That, like Work Programme, was a dismal failure.

Unemployed people need and deserve support.  This means access to computers and the internet, advice on career options, as well as more practical provision such as fares for interviews, tools or clothing needed for work.  It also means real training, not the airy fairy vague bullshit offered by the Welfare to Work industry where IT training means little more than being told how to turn on a computer and any other training is virtually non-existent.

Where are the training courses for the long term unemployed to become plumbers, hairdressers, IT workers or classroom assistants?  They once existed, but in this neo-liberal brave new world training as a nurse, carpenter or midwife is not an economically viable option for most people over the age of 20.  As for the idea of education as a life long process, the big lie fed to my generation, forget it.

The Welfare to Work industry has deskilled the training sector in the UK, forcing unemployed people onto ever more pointless ‘jobsearch’ courses and workfare instead of providing real training.  They’ve done this because it’s far cheaper to pay someone little more than the minimum wage to run CV Workshops than it is to provide quality acredited training that would lead to real jobs.  Once again the private sector has been allowed to run rampant providing public services.  And once again the only people who have benefited have been the multi-millionaires who run the Welfare to Work racket.

Farewell Emma – Fuck Off A4e

A boisterous and well attended Farewell Emma party was held today outside workfare company A4e in Brixton today.  Party goers were celebrating the departure of former Chief Executive Emma Harrison who recently abandoned the company to spend more time with her money.

A4e are one of the largest providers of the Government’s Workfare schemes under which unemployed people have been forced to work in supermarkets and High Street Stores for no pay. The company is also notorious for providing shoddy training courses, bullying benefit claimants and more recently has been mired in fraud allegations.  Recently they were stripped of the contract to provide Mandatory Work Activity schemes in the South East, whilst several members of the company have been arrested after allegedly cooking the books to claim yet more millions from the tax payer.

Those attending the party enjoyed food, music and a warm reception on the busy Brixton High Street which was adorned with bunting and banners condemning the shoddy company.  Many people stopped to talk, have a piece of cake and tell us of their own unpleasant experiences at the hands of A4e.  The doors of the company bore a sign indicating they were closed for the day unless people had prior appointments.

The party was organised by Boycott Workfare, with members of South London Solidarity Federation, UNITE and the SWP also in attendance.