Wednesday, 25 August 2010


The DWP has published the "framework specification" for the Work Programme bidders. A summary on the Indus Delta site is somewhat opaque, but we learn that contracts will be between £10m and £50m in value. The DWP says that "the £20m turnover figure is intended to give potential bidders a steer regarding the size of organisation they believe is required to manage within a more challenging, outcome-funded commercial arrangement than they have hitherto employed." So the big players will end up in charge, with the smaller companies and "consortia" trying to pick up work by competing with each other for sub-contracts. It's interesting that there are more big players in the market competing with A4e, Serco and the rest. One of them is Peopleserve which already has contracts here. It's a division of Rescare, an American company. Iain Duncan Smith was in America recently, admiring the welfare-to-work system over there. But the one big difference in the US is that welfare benefits are time-limited. No doubt he sees that as the next step here too.

One of A4e's income streams is from Train to Gain. The Yorkshire Post reports "Dismay as taxpayers save firms £175m on training" That £175m is just in Yorkshire and the Humber. "Already £200m has been cut from this year's budget – which has been slashed to £757m – and diverted into apprenticeships and building projects at colleges. Business Minister John Hayes told MPs recently: 'The problem with Train to Gain is its deadweight cost – a fact that the last administration were unwilling to face up to. The evaluations of Train to Gain suggest that it is used to support all kinds of training that employers would have funded anyway and to accredit skills that already exist.'" So that particular stream is drying up.

We've reported before that A4e advertised for volunteers to mentor their clients. Another advert again seeks people to do a minimum of 3 hours a week for a minimum of 6 months in the London area, to "provide support, information and guidance, helping their mentees to gain confidence and overcome the barriers they face in gaining sustainable employment". I have no idea whether the other providers do this. It seems on the surface a good thing. The mentors can provide one-to-one help whilst themselves receiving training. But if the mentor is successful and the mentee (yes, it is a word) gets a job, the money goes to A4e, and that doesn't seem quite right.

We should always celebrate success, and I'm happy for Peter Whitwell who, according the MyA4e community site, has started his own business with the help of A4e Middlesborough. But "to acquire funding, A4e liaised with the local council (who provide funding through their Local Enterprise Growth Initiative) who agreed to provide Peter funds to purchase tools, and equipment, and cover advertising costs." So while A4e certainly played a role, it was the local council which provided the money. This source of funding is disappearing as councils lose money and the Work Programme replaces all such initiatives, and that is everyone's loss.


  1. Whats all this about unemployed people being lacking in confidence? ive never met any, i find people in work lacking in confidence with the threat of there jobs going at any moment, constantly having to prove themselfs like sheep to there boss, the stress must be incredible.

  2. Regarding mentoring, a couple of issues spring to mind, sep as I have personal experience of such issues.

    Firstly, when I attended A4e a few years ago, I actually saw a mentor, as did a few others from the same A4e office. She had a high opinion of A4e at first. However, her views changed when people came to her with their concerns!

    Secondly, and direcrly related to my first point, will a mentor be required to keep any information passed to them 100% confidential whether verbally, in writing or electronically? Again whilst at A4e, a chap from the local Job Centre visited once a week to listen to A4e clients views. He heard my views on A4e. Shortly afterwards, I was told by an A4e member of staff "I was out of order" for what I had said.

    One would hope that any mentoring service run by A4e will be run professionally and respect client confidentiality.

  3. Anonymous, I agree that the "lacking in confidence" bit is overdone. What generally happens is that people have applied for so many jobs without success that they become resigned to never getting a job; or are very selective in what they apply for because they know what's a waste of time and what isn't.

  4. Quoting from a recent Freedom of Information Request made to my local JCP office: "Providers delivering welfare to work programmes are required to meet a rigorous set of security standards and requirements, before they are awarded a contract. These standards are monitored throughout the life of a contract and DWP take seriously, and will investigate, any suggestion of a breach in security of DWP customer information."

    This response came about after reporting concerns that conversations could be overheard and providing specific names & information. The hostile attitude of A4e since the report being made would indicate that some form of investigation had been conducted :)

    Unfortunately, information given to JCP/DWP can be passed on to A4e (and other providers), and "mentors" are in the employ of A4e - As a result, they can pass on any information within A4e and to JCP/DWP. If you want to keep information confidential, the only option is non-disclosure.

  5. Paul's comment raises some interesting points. Many jobseekers, myself included, previously just completed all the induction paperwork A4e gave us without asking any questions about how our personal data would be used and how long they would keep it for.

    On my last day on the New Deal at A4e Edinburgh one of the staff mentiond they hadn't got a copy of my CV. He went on to say they would keep it for 3 years! Needless to say they never did get a copy of it. Why would they want to keep it that long when New Deal lasted 13 weeks.

    From my own experience of Flexible New Deal with Ingeus i can tell you that you do NOT have have to sign the Information Disclosure form giving the provider permission to contact your employer - should you obtain a job whilst on the program. When I refused to sign the form, the Ingeus advisor said I could visit the office to sign a declaration stating I had found employment. Even if you did sign the form, that does not give your employer permission share your details with your provider unless you give them permission to do so.

    Equally you can withdraw your permission giving the provider freedom to share your data with third parties, and you can even specify that the provider must not use your personal data after you have left the program.

    I would not share my personal data with a A4e Mentor. Remember, the mentor is not employed by A4e. They are some sort of freelancer, so who are they accountable to for any loss of your personal data?

    Neither the jobcentre or A4e will tell you what your rights are. So make sure you ask questions before completing any forms either of these organisations want you to complete.

  6. I know people get uptight about this, but in my experience the only sharing of information which goes on is necessary and not invasive. "Third parties" would only be, for example, external training bodies. Providers are keen on confidentiality because they have to be, and want to be. When there are lapses, you have the right to complain. Don't be surprised that providers are keen to get info about employers; it's the way they make their income and pay their employees. On the topic of volunteer mentors - they will be subject to the same rules as employed staff.

  7. Another company called Standguide is getting to be a bit of a bully,we where told to start applying for 15 jobs a week as of today instead of four previously,or else the usual threat of having JSA suspended,anyone know if this action is actually Legal???

  8. I was interested to read in the advert for the mentors that a CRB check was not necessary. This raises the question of safeguarding etc. When Flexible New Deal was awarded to the various contractors all employees and new employees had to have a CRB check done. WHy not the mentors and I wonder if DWP are aware of this.

  9. Anon: Standinguide have no authority to say you have to appply for 15 jobs a week. You only have to adhere to what your Jobseekers Agreement says, and if it says 4, then 4 it is.

    If they try to bully you show them your Jobseekers Agreement. You must not give in to them!

  10. It's rather a sterile argument as to how many jobs per week you can be compelled to apply for. Remember that to the world at large there should be no limit to how many applications you make. You and I know that it's not as simple as that, but how does it sound when you say, "I only have to apply for 4 jobs each week and you can't make me apply for any more"?

  11. Rewording it as: "I am required to contact a minimum of four employers per week by telephone, in writing, or personal visit with the view of seeking sustained, full time employment. Please feel free to provide me with a list of an additional eleven genuine vacancies (without repetition) that I am qualified for, and have a reasonable chance of reaching the interview stage."

  12. Just would like to make a couple of points.

    1. Confidential doesn't mean Private, secret or assume any protection. ISO 17799 on Confidentiality means protecting data/information from those who aren't authorised.

    This means (the Data Protection Act also states this) A4e etc. have to provide a decent level of care to make sure third parties including other participants can't get hold of the information; however, they are free to pass on the information to any subsidy, partner, DWP/JCP, the police or any other Government body as long as they make sure it can't be intercepted by those not authorised or the recipient.

    Likewise (for example) your medical records are confidential... that is what you tell your doctor etc. isn't communicated to the wider world, however, it is RECORDED and anyone deemed authorised anywhere in the country can access and read it (perhaps another doctor, admin staff etc.).

    2. The Jobseekers Agreement (JSAg) has no bearing on the legalities of claiming - it is a requirement one exists though, it encourages people to look for work by undertaking steps and can be used against or as a defence in regards to sanctions.

    Standguide is a poor bully, they cannot enforce this. The law states you must do 2-3 steps per week to Actively Seek Employment (ASE) and silly enough neither of those 3 steps require you to apply for a single job - save the behaviour of deliberately refusing to, would mean you aren't ACTIVELY seeking employment.

    The 3 steps could be, looking on directgov (1), looking in the newspaper (2) and ringing up to enquire about a job (3) - although not applying for it.

    Benefit sanctions are normally OTT on claimants, however, the conditions on seekign work really are too relaxed. To apply for 4 jobs, assuming you need to make a phone call for each before sending an application form or CV, and you found out about 2 from Directgov, 1 from newspaper and 1 from a shop window... would actually be 11 steps... 3 steps of discovering the jobs, 4 steps of individually enquiring about them and 4 steps of completing the application/CV+covering letter including sending them.

    It is unfair how people can be applying for 3-8 jobs a week for example while others might apply for the odd one here and there if they can be bothered - both people getting the same amount and both deemed they equally match the conditions.

  13. A4e and any other provider can only pass on your data to third-parties if you consent to it by completing their paperwork. Without your consent, you cannot be enrolled onto any job program.

  14. Hello.

    What if you are told that by not signing such a document you could be deemed unwilling to participate and therefore a sanction could be initiated upon failure to do so?

    And there is so much paperwork to sign that one doesn't really know what one has to sign and what can be declined without a veiled (or blatant?) threat of a sanction.

    Does anyone know if the 'my deal' document can be amended? I have been told it's standard for everyone.
    It appears that one may have to simply agree to everything asked of one! And hope that they do not take advantage of this fact. Well, you signed!

    Agree? Must agree or come to a mutual agreement?

    I want a 'suitable' job. Within the framework of current acts etc. What they deem might not be enforcable, but they wont impart that too willingly.

    I read all the damning material regarding such, but initial impressions appear to convey that the bad reputation has substance beyond disgruntled 'clients' posting untruths.

    I expect to be 'forced' to do anything they deem me suitable for without question. Or face action!

    I was 'advised' that I really do not want a sanction because I could lose my HB and CT and JSA and could be at risk of becoming homeless!

    Advising or coercion?

    It appears there may be an assumption that all those unemployed long enough to qualify for the mandatory FND are all of ill repute.
    Some are of course, many are not. We here, I hopefully assume, are aware of such a truth.

    Little humanity, many targets to achieve.
    It doesn't inspire confidence.


  15. There is a mandatory requirement to agree and sign an FND plan - Six months in to the program, I have yet to be presented with such a document - From A4e's (badly written) booklets, this so called "plan" is flexible and can be amended as circumstances change.

    If you are threatened with sanctions, point out that there are procedures that must be followed and that DWP guidance notes[*] should be consulted beforehand. Sanctions should be a last resort and not used for trivial reasons or as a routine method of coercion. Not forgetting that you have a right to appeal, and if the "sanction" is vexatious, it will be overturned.

    Unless the rules have changed, "sanctions" only affect JSA and will not affect any other benefits (so HB/CT will continue unabated).


  16. Moose: Sean Young refused to sign into New Deal with TWL. He recorded several interviews with his New Deal advisor at Accrington jobcentre. They even had a jobcentre area manager present during one interview. The johcentre called the police when he refused to leave the office, and he also recorded his conversation with them outside. Anyway, the upshot, was he had his JSA and HB suspended by the jobcentre on the pretext that he had not done enought to find work, and was therefore in breach of his jobseekers agreement, when the real reason was because he refused to sign the paperwork for New Deal.

    So yes, you'd be better to sign the paperwork. But that doesn't mean you can't ask questions about how your data will be used, and how long they intend to keep it for. For example, A4e keep CV's for 3 years!

    In case anyone is wondering, for a first offence you can only have your benefit suspended for 2 weeks.

  17. Provider Guidance Updated 29 March

    Employment Zones

    19. Compliance with Data Protection Act and Information Disclosure
    The contractor must ensure that there are adequate arrangements in place for
    collecting, processing and sharing customer information.

    It is important to remind a customer of the DWP confidentiality statement which they
    signed when they first made a claim to benefit. However, a customer’s signature
    which only acknowledges awareness of the DWP Confidentiality Statement does not
    constitute “consent” at all and does not enable any sort of data sharing or disclosure.
    It simply provides a degree of assurance that DWP will handle personal data fairly
    and lawfully.

    There is no specific legislative “enabler” which gives a provider the ability to gather
    or share customer’s information with a third party, for example an employer or
    another training provider, for the purpose of placing the customer into training/work
    and obtaining outcome-related payments from DWP. The informed consent of the
    individual must be obtained beforehand, in line with the requirements of the Data
    Protection Act.

    The information disclosure consent form must, as a minimum, contain the following
    • What customer’s information your organisation will collect;
    • why the organisation needs the information, for example for the purpose of
    recording the numbers of customers placed into training and/or employment ,
    monitoring the effectiveness of the service and reporting outcomes to DWP
    and claiming associated payments;
    • how the information will be stored;
    • when and why the information will be shared with a third party, for example an
    employer will be contacted when the customer starts work within so many
    weeks of leaving provision for the purpose of obtaining evidence of
    employment so that a job outcome payment can be claimed from DWP.

    Your organisation needs to make it clear to customers that giving consent is
    voluntary and that refusal to give consent or withdrawal of an existing consent will
    not affect any benefit they may be entitled to.

    Authorisation to contact an employer to obtain evidence of employment must be
    expressly stated by the Provider and consented to by the customer before any
    information disclosure takes place. Renewal of consent needs to be confirmed at
    every intervention.

  18. Despairingly Honest1 September 2010 at 06:48

    having been a part of staff at such an employment place, it is smoke and mirrors most of the time. I saw many hardworking people come and go, all just looking for a job to support their families. They didn't need to be made to feel like they were stupid, or incapable of putting a basic CV together. Half the time the office managers had their own agenda, and the *jobseekers* were left to their own devices, some just sat around on computers doing very little, or some just sat and read newspapers all day. These companies get paid our taxpayers money and are set out to help the unemployed! Yet I saw very little help going on, I left because I felt demoralised and useless in there. I wanted to give people help, not sit and do paperwork to make the figures look good.

    What annoys me the most is the wrong people are being targeted. The layabouts are the ones that need sorting out, not good honest people who just want to earn a living.

  19. "What annoys me the most is the wrong people are being targeted. The layabouts are the ones that need sorting out, not good honest people who just want to earn a living."

    It appears that anyone who has been unemployed long enough to be mandated onto such a programme is assumed to be a layabout first, jobseeker second. No benefit of the doubt!

    Guilty until proven innocent... Oh stuff that, just do as they say, or else.

    It would be amusing if it wasn't so tragic.

  20. "What annoys me the most is the wrong people are being targeted. The layabouts are the ones that need sorting out, not good honest people who just want to earn a living." - you been reading the Daily Mail or something? Solidarity!

  21. Despairingly Honest12 September 2010 at 10:48

    I used to work in one of these schemes that ran courses, 90% were there because they wanted to get back into work,( good honest people) 10% did nothing but grumble about having to get out of bed to do a course, do take part in group sessions, and generally moan and groan as if they had been forced into a labour camp (the layabouts).

    Don't assume I am tarring every jobseeker with the same brush because I am not. I have met some damn fine people who simply couldn't get a job in their field of work.

    PS I dont read newspapers, I live and breathe this godsforsaken existance.

  22. grumble? i think i would too if i was forced to attend a 13 week "course" that is a totall waste of time, and forced Yes a person is forced to attend or benifits stopped.

  23. Needs to target those in most need. I'm in my 40's with a wealth of work experience and education and training to boot, soul destroying when they say, "you have to go on a voluntary work placement for 30hrs a week for four weeks" and then suggest doing office admin or sweep floors in charity shop! Do they really think this will this improve my skills and employability? They go through the motions ticking the boxes

  24. If they say "you have to go on a voluntary work placement for 30hrs a week for four weeks" it's not really "voluntary" is it? Like the old army joke where the sargent major lines up the squadies and say ok I want two volunteers-you and you.


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