Thursday, 15 September 2011

"The Report" on the Work Programme

Radio 4's "The Report" tonight on the Work Programme had a straightforward thesis: it is unlikely to succeed when it is being delivered by the same private companies which have failed on all previous welfare-to-work schemes.
They homed in on the Pathways to Work programme which failed so dismally for those companies. A4e and Reed, you remember, were interrogated by the Public Accounts Committee on why they had performed so much worse than Jobcentre Plus. Now, A4e's Nigel Lemmon ( Executive Director A4e Welfare) says that they did better in some areas than in others; but the programme pointed out that this was only on their own measures of performance. (Lemmon later on said that all the criticism of A4e was unfair.) Dan Finn, who is a professor of social inclusion, said that JCP did better because they had been doing the work for years - er, yes - and because they were in competition with the private sector. (No evidence was given for this, because there is no evidence.)
Then we got Hayley Taylor. But what she said was actually true; people are not realistic and the government has no comprehension of people's lives. A report from the DWP says that half the people on benefits are not looking for work. I haven't seen the report, so I don't know what that figure includes. There was an interview with Colin in Leeds, a graphics designer unemployed for 3 years, who described the poor facilities and lowest-common-denominator approach he has experienced on New Deal and FND. Then Hayley Taylor openly criticised her old employer, A4e, for the first time. She knew it was hopeless when she was faced with an 18-year-old who didn't want to work and a redundant 55-year-old who was desperate for a job and was expected to deliver the same lesson to them in the same class. The impression was given that this was the reason she left A4e, whereas she seems to have left to star in her own show. Anyway, the programme pointed out that much of the criticism they had heard was about A4e, which seemed to have an unenviable reputation. Yet it got the second-largest share of the WP contracts. We heard from Martin who is with A4e for the second time; he was shattered to hear them telling him that his CV was no good, when it had been done by the same A4e people the first time around. He said he felt he was serving a prison sentence.
The presenter said that they had spoken to numerous people on the WP who feel that they are being ignored because there are too many people on the programme. They also complained about assumptions that every client was illiterate, innumerate and stupid. One commentator said that the big companies had all bid for the WP because that was all there was, and they all assumed that the government will have to step in and renegotiate when it goes wrong. Chris Grayling said that won't happen. The CE of the WISE Group complained that they had lost out on the contracts and had to lay off 40% of their staff. The presenter then said that they had a confidential document which shows that Ingeus offered a 60% discount for part of the contract, and they were not the only providers which had done this. Grayling denied that the government was putting price before quality. It was pointed out that only half the promised 40% of the work went to small companies and voluntary sector, and there were fears that the primes would cherry-pick the easiest customers and pass the hardest on to their sub-contractors. Finally, and significantly, the presenter said that everyone they had spbout oken to in their research wanted a job. All in all, this was a worthy attempt to present a serious programme about the Work Programme.

Here's the document about A4e's "Families Unlimited" project to get sub-contracts for the new workless families contracts. There's an American organisation with the same name. Perhaps they didn't know.

I'm thinking of setting up a website with practical advice for the unemployed; jobsearch, application forms, CVs, interviews etc. What do you think?


  1. This prog was pretty good. If there is a criticism, it's that it was just too damn short!!

    Wish the BBC, Ch4, Private Eye and the Guardian could spend more time and devote more print and space to the W2W sector. That said, the fact that they look into this industry in the first place is to be massively welcomed as no other media outlet seems to be interested.

    What Ms Taylor said was intersting I suppose. But only if you were coming at this completley cold. If (like many here) you have prior or current experience of the W2W sector, you'll have been saying the same thing a long time ago!!

    P.S. the ide of a dedicated site for those out of work sounds intersting. Could be a big help. Especially for the likes of Martin on the program who recieved conflicting messages over the state of his CV. A sort of on line one stop shop?

  2. I'm thinking of setting up a website with practical advice for the unemployed; jobsearch, application forms, CVs, interviews etc. What do you think

    Great idea Historian! Suggest it to The DWP and get funding before Ms Harrison and her gang jump in first ..... !!! lol

  3. I'm sorry, but you expect me to take this programme seriously when they interview Hayley Taylor? Is this a joke: what does 'people are not realistic' even mean? People are not willing to work long hours for low pay in soul dstroying jobs, presumably. If so, good. What's the point of living if that's what your expected to do?

  4. A cv is very subjective, I may have done a brilliant cv and one person at a4e says its brilliant, in the same company i show them that cv.. and its rubbish. Ghost Whistler, I would love to work in a soul destroying job, and for low pay. I wouldnt live for work. Its finding employers that will hire you.

  5. A good programme, the first real criticism of the W2W sector, and A4e in particular, that I have heard from the BBC.

    In reality, it is not the private companies contracted to deliver W2W programmes that are at fault here. It is the senior politicians and the career civil servants who have devised the unworkable programmes which are intrinsically incapable of delivering the results we all desire.

    A4e, and others, are taking advantage of the situation, true. But that is the nature of global capitalism. And some of these companies may even make a loss because of the Work Programme, which is fair.

    W2W private companies should be able to profit if they do well. But equally, should they fail then there must be financial penalties...

    I am currently attending BEST in West Yorkshire on the Work Programme and view it as simply a reconstructed, cut price New Deal. I believe it is a car crash waiting to happen for the private sector...

  6. Noone wants to spend their lives in soul crushing labour for low pay. That you think this is the problem. People can make their own choices about what they enjoy in life and work and that's entirely fine. We need to send the state a message that work should be rewarding and fulfilling.

    But interviewing this stupid Hayley Taylor creature? Typical BBC. They have no idea and never do the subject justice. I don't care what she has to say; that tv show was a farce and anyone willing to front that nonsense shoudl be widely ignored.

    Ironic though that she admits to quitting her job.
    "i couldn't do this anymore" she whines.

    If she was on the Work Programme or having to sign on that attitude would be pilloried by her own kind and she would kis her benefits goodbye.

  7. It's a very recent idea that one should be able to opt out of "soul crushing labour". Most people have always had to sell their time, doing work no one would volunteer to do, in order to live. And they didn't have the choice of claiming benefits instead. Sorry to sound like the Daily Express, because I actually sympathise.

  8. Work is work, home is home. What is soul destroying to you wouldnt be to others, Why do you think people should be happy in work. If i work its for the money to do what i want when i am not working. I do say it has to be in an industry you have trained for but other than that happiness is irrelevant. Work to earn money then you can afford holidays, going out with friends and family. The happiness is in how you spend the money.

    I had the most boring job it was as using a microfiche every 7 seconds a machine rolled over a sheet of paper that had to be replaced, to be put on a microfiche.. 9 til 5, for 15 months i loved it. Once you got your hand eye working you could automate yourself, and think about anything else. It was boring but it was good and i loved it. It would have driven most people insane.

    Hayley Taylors comments made my respect for her to go up slightly.

  9. I agree with anonymouse about a job not having to be fulfilling but a way to get some extra cash. I would be happy enough doing a boring job that gave me some extra money to spend or save. It would get the jobcentre and work programme providers off my back and get some peace of mind.

    One of the comments raised in the programme about most not wanting to work I think is a false one and hard to prove. If politicians keep making those kind of statements then eventually most people will believe them and the unemployed will be taken advantage of more than they are now. It looks like we are heading for a system where if you are unemployed you will be doing some kind of work for your benefit until you retire. It's only a matter of time before this will be the case.

  10. I have just come back from my work programme appointment at Working Links. According to the woman who saw me I must be unemployed because I don't have a good CV. She hasn't yet seen my CV but she said that as I have been unemployed a long time it must be because my CV isn't good enough otherwise I would be working. She said that if I applied for six jobs that I have the relevant experience for then I should receive three interviews and a job outcome. She has believed this for five years and when I doubted it she said that she wouldn't argue with me although I was just questioning the statistics and where they had come from.
    I'm due to see her again in two weeks and probably receive a new CV and after applying for six jobs I will be attending three interviews and likely to get a job. She must live in a fantasy world but it didn't help when I told her that she had a cushy job.

  11. All this emphasis on CVs is scary. For the vast majority of jobs you apply for you don't need a CV; you fill in an application form. Don't let them impose a generic CV on you. There are plenty of templates out there to enable you to compile your own (I really must set that website up!). Keep a careful log of everything you apply for and what replies you get, if any. That might convince her that she's on a different planet.

  12. Working Links are a total waste of space. I saw them when i first started on Income Support before ESA ruined everything. At first they sounded very helpful and then at the second appointment onwards became the complete opposite. Everythign I said i was interested in was rubbished, zero help was offered, appointments weren't punctual, phone calls were ignored and yet they moaned at me for not 'engaging' with them. Total waste of my time and your money.
    I find this emphasis on altering people's CV's very worrying also. My CV isn't spectacular but that's because of a lack of experience. That can't be altered short of deception. Fundamentally however it is a personal document and it hsould be entirely my choice as to whether I want it changed and how. I absolutely do not agree that they should assume it's 'wrong' and insist on changing it, but that's easy work for them - far easier than actually finding decent opportunities. Easy to just blame people's lack of work (as if that's a crime) on their 'shoddy' cv. Personally I don't even want these people near the damn thing in the first place.

  13. The Anonymouse said...
    ......Work to earn money then you can afford holidays, going out with friends and family. The happiness is in how you spend the money.

    I think the point is that working long hours in "soul crushing" jobs for very little pay does not allow a person to pay for anything (if even then) other than the basics such as a roof over their head and minimal food. Working in such jobs has been shown to have a deleterious effect on the mental health of the worker too. Sitting at home by the phone hoping to be called in to work one hour a week is not going to provide anything for an individual except unfair levels of stress and immense insecurity.


  14. I don't disagree, Lucy. Indeed, the history of the 20th century was about improving that situation, through trade unions and legislation. But, in the context of today, when we're going backwards, can it be justified to refuse to do such work and stay on benefits? Maybe. But the working population probably wouldn't agree.

  15. I think it can be justified. In fact I think, at this point, with the politics and the schemes we have right now, you either stand against this tide of regression and division, or you are part of the problem. I think there is no other choice. Sadly the masses don't see this and just receive their media bias as cultural conditioning: hate the scroungers - except the richer ones.
    I think people should refuse these jobs because of the message it sends. We are human beings and if there isn't more to life than soul estroying drudgery for some privateer or spiv then what's the point - seriously!
    It's one thing to discuss whether people should work in proper work - work that benefits and, more importantly, builds communities. But expecting people to be grateful to sit in a call centre bumping up Mr Big's profit margin, or pushing paperwork for A4E is morally, in this climate, the wrong thing.

  16. Oh Historian I wish you would set up that website, something pro-active is needed I consider I have a good CV (well, I should have as I have spent hours compiling other peoples) I don't believe in generic CV's and encourage everyone to tailor their CV to suit the job role being applied for. However, more and more job applications are by application form and a CV can then be used as reference for date etc.
    Also, if you would like any help to set up this website then I could help - I will forward my CV to you if you want!! ;-)

  17. Ruthy59, I'm onto it now. When it's done I'll publish a link. It will have a contact form and a blog on which I can post comments from that form. If I put something you disagree with(about CVs, for example) then you can tell me. It's on a free-hosted site, by the way, so there's limited scope for design.

  18. Rob, thats pretty much what a4e said to me. My cv must be wrong, because otherwise i would have got a job. I wonder how many other people and organisations are blaming cv's rather that external factors.

  19. Hi anonymouse
    All these providers in my experience want to change my CV and I usually go along with it to avoid any trouble and it allows them to say that they helped me even if I end up with a worse CV.
    I was told by another person on a previous appointment at working links that my CV would be changed to be specifically targeted for the job I apply for. If they send my CV to employers without informing me first they could in effect alter my CV to make out I'm the best carer or toilet cleaner in the world while in fact I'm looking for admin work. If an offer of employment came about it as a result it would be difficult to turn down a job in this climate without risking a benefit sanction as they could argue that a job is a job and you have more chance of finding another job while in employment. With open plan offices at these places everyone in the room can't help but over hear conversations. Data protection and privacy appear to be things of the past if you are unemployed.

  20. Looking forward to seeing it Historian - I will only add constructive comments on it if felt necessary but I think you have the necessary 'skills and qualities' needed for the site

  21. I worked in this sector for TNG for 2 years. The companies are a business and are there to make a profit - this affects the quality of provision massively. Combined with the fact that JobCentres like to offload severely long term unemployed, recovering addicts / alcoholics into provisions that are overcrowded and ill equipped to help means that few people really benefit from the experience. The reason that JCP refer so many is that people on such provisions are not counted in the unemployment figures. basically the centres that are deemed to have done well will have an agreement with an agency that holds a large contract for unskilled labour - they can funnel large groups of people into these jobs and get paid as long as they last a sufficient period of time (used to be 13 weeks - but has changed under Flexible New Deal).
    Overall the people who work in the centres are well meaning and often very hard working under far from ideal circumstances. The programmes should never be outsourced from JCP (who incidentally claim on outcomes that have been generated by employment programmes - double counting no less)- individual and companies should not make a business out of supporting people - it only means that the resources and conditions are cut back unless of course an inspection is due by OFSTED in which case resources are suddenly found!
    Sorry its a ramble but just wanted to throw a few first hand experiences and observations into the mix.

  22. I'd quarrel with you over a couple of points here.
    "JobCentres like to offload severely long term unemployed, recovering addicts / alcoholics" - the Jobcentres have no say in this. Under whatever contract is in operation at the time they have to refer people to the providers after a given period out of work.
    Your point about funnelling people into agencies is also inaccurate, especially now. Agency working was never popular with the providers because they couldn't claim job outcomes for it unless someone at the agency was prepared to lie. Under the Work Programme the providers won't get any payment at all for casual agency workers.
    I agree with you totally when you say that the programmes should have been left under the control of JCP. But I don't get your point about double counting. Neither JCP regionally nor the individual Jobcentres claim anything for job outcomes.
    But thanks for your input. It's always good to hear from a practitioner.

  23. I have asked my advisor and his boss regarding a £50 handcuff course however as they are paying for my security licence they are saying that they can't pay £50 for this other course that would greatly benefit me!

    1. That's normal. You don't need the handcuff course to get a security job, and presumably the logic is that once you have the job you can fund the extra yourself.

  24. Some of us actually care and do a good job!


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