Monday, 1 August 2011

What went wrong with FND

An interesting evaluation of Flexible New Deal has been published by the Policy Studies Institute. (The link to the full report doesn't work.) It doesn't name providers, which is a shame. However, some of its findings are:
  • For the 18-24 year old group, it was less effective than New Deal.
  • It often didn't live up to the expectation that support would be individually tailored and personalised.
  • There was little innovation in the design of the service provided and "greater flexibility also appeared to have led to differences in the amount of support received (eg, variation in access to training and in-work support, and different rules on the payment of travel expenses)."
  • Some providers didn't meet the requirement that they should see clients once a fortnight and couldn't find "work-related activity" for all clients.
  • Finally, "The qualitative research identified several issues with regards to the effects and administration of sanctions, including poor timing and inconsistency of messages between Jobcentre Plus and providers, and staff believing long-term claimants were less likely to change their behaviour when faced with the prospect of losing money." I'd have to read the full report to be sure what that means, especially that last bit.
What's worrying is that the Work Programme is similar to FND in many respects.


  1. Found the report at - Still reading through it, but the FnD programme reported on bears little if any resemblance to the one I was on. No "face-to-face initial meeting to include an individual assessment of needs". No Action Plan discussed or agreed.
    Meaningful fortnightly contact was nonexistent and certainly did not occur every two weeks. No discussions or offers of MWRA. As for "in work support" - Does a sod-off letter from the branch manager count ?

    The report does highlight a wide range of inconsistencies in delivery as well as a failure to provide fortnightly meetings (or contact) - i.e. Failure to meet the terms of the DWP/JCP FnD contract. Also disappointed that the qualitative sample group is so small. Can any real conclusions be drawn from the experiences of just 44 customers... The conclusion would appear to be that the "black box approach" failed to deliver innovative solutions and minimum standards were not met in a number of cases.

  2. After completing my 13 weeks on the old new deal I was put on the flexible new deal three months later. I went to the first provider for 20 weeks around once a fortnight for jobsearch and a couple of discussions on application forms and CVs. The next provider I attended for 12 weeks. For eight of those weeks I attended approximately once a week to do jobsearch and the other four weeks for my mandatory four weeks of work experience. They couldn't find us any placements so we all did our four weeks work experience with the provider and it was mainly a case of nothing for us to but hang around the office until we were sent home. Then I spent the next 20 weeks with another provider and that basically was jobsearch roughly once a fortnight. Now I have started on the work programme and so far I have had an induction followed by an interview and my next appointment will be for an hour or so of jobsearch. These three appointments will be over a four week period.
    Looking at those facts, the work programme doesn't look too different from the flexible new deal.

  3. I do wish visitors would stop posting as Anonymous. We now have 2 comments - from anonymous. Are they two different posters or one poster posting twice?

    Come on guys, use a name, any name. No one expect you give your real name anyway! So please, in future, use a name whe posting, any name!

  4. Does anyone know of any blogs recording experience of the Work Programme, preferrably in depth? I'd love to know what's going on from a claimant's perspective. I cannot see how it can be different from the FND - it's the same thing! Forcing people to attend just to look for jobs which, in many cases, they can do from home. Or just wasting peopel's time because these organisations cannot magic up jobs for people to do. Mandatory work experience. What a waste of time.

  5. I am doing ND now and according to A4E staff the WP is meant to be the same as ND apart from the fact that they can sanction you (stop your benefits) immediately and without giving you a warning. I heard this happening to someone who didn't turn up to a meeting with a financial advisor (the person phoned up in the afternoon and said it had been too early in the morning for them and could they come in on another day)

    And the WP is taking work away from the job centres where the staff are now worrying about their jobs......

    A4E are very enthusiastic about it, some of the staff come across as genuinely very well-meaning and convinced that it's what is best to get people back to work.

  6. Polly: I've no doubt some of the A4e front-line staff are well intentioned. But you have to look at in context, we have a deadbeat economy, with growth of less than 0.5%.

    All the jobs growth, for several years, has come from part-time working. I doubt many claimants on these job programmes, will ever be in a position to be completely free of some form of state benefit, even if they secure employment.

    In the case of A4e, ask you advisor how much they have to spend per client. I suspect it will be very little, most of the money they got from government contracts has already been designated "profit".

  7. Let's be clear, the vast majority "of the A4e front-line staff are well intentioned". They're doing a job to the best of their abilities. And all the providers have to spend a lot of money on staff and facilities before they make any profit. An A4e employee is unlikely to know the financial figures.
    I agree with your middle paragraph, though. See the link on the right to "Wage support scheme to boost jobs".

  8. Polly - There are strict guidelines on imposing sanctions and it is made quite clear in the DWP notes that it is only to be used as a last resort. If a sanction is being imposed without a properly drafted Job Seeker Directive (which should always be in writing, signed with a name and position), then there is something rotten and corrupt within A4e. Should the JCP endorse the sanction, then I would suspect collusion on the part of DWP especially this early on in the life of the WP contract.

    As for how much money A4e are getting - The providers currently get an up front referral fee of £400 and an outcome payment after the "client" is off benefit for a sustained period. The value of the final payment depends on which group the client has been categorized in. i.e. Disabled, ex offender, ex military, or common garden unemployed. Suffice to say £400 doesn't buy anything in the way of training or support from these providers even if they already have staff and facilities in place.

    One last note - Don't ever sign a blank piece of paper. If they want your signature to a "My Journey" or whatever fanciful name they give these things now, ALWAYS sign on the document and insist on a photocopy to take away.

  9. Hi teflon don

    I posted the second anonymous comment about the work programme that I am currently on. I have completed new deals, flexible new deal and now that I am on the work programme I can say it isn't much different at the moment from flexible new deal. So far I have had an induction and completed an online questionnaire. My second appointment a week or so later was about being questioned on my answers to the questionnaire. It involved all the basic questions relating to employment and qualifications. My third appointment was to be doing some jobsearch although as the computers were down it was more of a half hour interview. My fourth appointment in just under two weeks time will be jobsearch. The providers do have more power than they used to have and you can be assured that a sanction will be rubber stamped by the jobcentre so it is best to go along with most things to avoid giving them a reason to say you are not making enough effort. Although it is supposed to last two years, it could be up to seven years with the provider receiving less over time and nothing after I believe three years unless the claimant ends up in a job. At the moment the mandatory work experience isn't included in the work programme but eventually I'm sure they will be combined. So far it's like being on flexible new deal but I get the feeling that the people who used to mess around on the flexible new deal and old new deal programmes will be sanctioned very early on unless they change their attitudes and go along sensibly with suggestions given.

  10. Thanks, Rob. It was interesting to hear about your experience of the Work Programme. I haven't actually started it yet, only referred.

    I'm appealing one sanction, disputing a second. And suspect a third sanction is in the pipeline. I suppose if nothing else, I might end up in the Guiness Book Of Records for getting so many in such a short time!

  11. Hi Teflon Don

    I guess your appeal against a sanction is to the now called decision maker who once was called the adjudication officer. lol
    I once had my benefit reduced by 40% and I took it to an appeal tribunal confident that I could overturn it. Sadly for me, although I had to turn up and face three people who would decide on my case, the adjudication officer didn't have to attend. Instead a legal expert, well dressed could only respond to my questions with statements such as " I cannot speak for the officer concerned and can only read from the notes I have." This left me unable to question the reasons behind the adjudication officers decision. I hope things have changed since.

    Good luck with your appeals.

  12. Hi Rob: This is my first experience of a sanction, so it's all new to me. So they reduced you benefit by 40% for the period concerned. Looks like it has changed because in my case, I will get no JSA for 13 days.

    I'd heard it can be hard getting a decision overturned at appeal. From what you say, everything is against you if you can't even question the civil servant who made the decision.

    But despite everything, it was a matter of principle and I felt worth pursuing despite the risks. And I do have the help and support of a Benefits Rights Advisor, which is a big help - as you don't feel you are completely alone.

    Oddly enough I used to be civil servant and once made a mistake with a case, sent the claimant a letter accepting his claim, and entered his details into the computer wrongly - which resulted in his claim later being rejected. My manager went mad, saying how this have to go to a tribunal - and how expensive that would be. For the record, I didn't work for the DWP!

  13. Hi Teflon Don

    In the old days if the jobcentre stopped your benefit then you went to the social security office and they would after checking the facts give you a minimum amount to live on and that was 60% of your normal entitlement and that happened to me years ago. Now they have put the two departments together and you have to ask about claiming due to hardship. The staff at jobcentres don't seem to like informing a claimant of their entitlements. If people are going to have benefits stopped then they should be immediately informed of their rights and entitlements. Rent and council tax are paid and I'm sure the 60% is still in place but the question is do you ask the receptionist at the jobcentre or your advisor. At least the person helping you with your case should know.

    All the best

  14. If in any doubt go to the CAB. You need an independent source of advice.

  15. ALWAYS go to the CAB! Never trust the JC to give you the whole story about what you can and can't claim. There is some dispute as to whether hardship payments still exist, and you would have had to still sign on to claim them. In fact you would still have to sign on even if your benefit has been stopped in order to keep the claim open.

    I would like to verify whether sanctions must be accompanied by a written notification or some such. As opposed to whomever just handing them out willy nilly.

  16. You also need to continue to sign on to get your NI contributions paid. That may not seem important now but it can leave you with a hole in your state pension later.

  17. Thanks for the advice, everybody. The DWP letter, apart from confirming the sanction, was not much help as regards entitlement to hardship payments or other help. See below:

    "You may be entitled to other help. To find out more about this ask us for leaflet INF2".

    "You could get housing benefit or Council Tax Benefit. If you are already getting Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit you should show them this letter.

    NB: My council had been informed of the sanction several days before I got the letter confirming it. And you will note, the above makes no mention of this or if the sacntion would affect HB and CT.

    Following a phone call to the council, I emailed them to say I would continue to sign on, and had "nil income" and would live on my saving for the affected period.

    Also the provider did not contact me over the event concerning the first possible sanction - thus preventing me from having the opportunity to respond. The first I knew there was a problem was when the DWP wrote to me. I suspect I know the reason for this is they're on dodgy ground.

    On the event concerning the second possible sanction, guess what, the provider wrote to me asking me to give my version.

    Ghost Writer, your so right about no trusting the JC. Last time I signed on, I asked about Housing Benefit. And they said "benefits are linked", the implication (or at least my understanding) was that I would lose that too. He could of course added, as long as you continue to sign on you will continue to get housing benefit - but didn't. Well, you can draw you own conlusions from that!

    As already mentioned, I am appealing the first sanction, and have replied to the provider about the second possible scanction.

    I would have gone to CAB in the first place if there was no other help available.

  18. Hi

    I just want to make a few points regarding my own experience only last year on the flexible new deal. I had to complete my mandatory four week work experience and when you start that they officially take you off jsa and put you on a training allowance. When the four weeks were over I had to revert to jsa but the training company had not informed the jobcentre. This left me receiving a letter from the council suspending my housing and council tax benefit. It appears the councils computers had information on them saying that I wasn't on jsa or training allowance and therefore housing benefit was suspended. I eventually managed to get my jsa and I took a letter from the jsa to the council but they still suspended my housing benefit until their computers showed that I was back on jsa some three weeks later. It was a bit worrying but at least the rent was back dated.
    In a previous post I said that I once received 60% of benefit after having my benefit some years ago reduced. I noticed online yesterday a statement stating that the conservative government have quietly altered the social security act in regard to the unemployed with no dependents. It seems now that people in that situation if sanctioned won't be entitled to any kind of hardship payment and that is a disgrace. They feed people in prison but it appears if you upset a training company they can have you starve to death or create more criminals. Having benefit reduced will make people think twice about how they behave but expecting them to starve is only going to lead to more people feeling isolated.

  19. I forgot to mention that when I started on the work programme I asked about sanctions. I was informed that if a person didn't show up for an appointment then they would be telephoned at least twice and if the claimant didn't contact them then jobcentre would be informed and a sanction imposed.
    I always thought that the jobcentre would ask for the claimants reasons before making a decision but it seems it is a rubber stamp job.

  20. In my experience (which is not up to date) if the client doesn't show up and can't be contacted the provider sends the paperwork back to the Jobcentre which automatically signs them off, thereby stopping their benefits. In the past an appeal was possible, where the JC asked the provider to respond to the client's version of events. Use of the word "sanction" is relatively new, signalling punishment rather than the assumption that the client has effectively taken himself off the system. They seem to be much more trigger-happy now.
    The general public doesn't have any sympathy with people who refuse to comply with conditions for their benefits.

  21. Hi there,

    I’m a Radio 4 journalist currently working on a programme about the government’s Work Programme.

    I am interested to hear from people who are currently doing courses run by private providers such as A4E, Ingeus, Reed in Partnership, Seetec etc. I would be interested to hear about your experiences.

    I would appreciate if you could get in touch. My email address is and my telephone number is 07706154283.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Anna Meisel


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".