Thursday, 2 August 2012

Should we just give up?

It's depressing.  We should be used to it by now, and understand that money is everything, people nothing.  but we still fondly imagine that people in government will wake up one day and say, "No.  This is wrong."  Dream on.  New disability benefit test contracts have just been awarded - to Atos and Capita.  According to the Guardian, the lion's share goes to Atos.  The paper is portraying it as a blow to G4S which was in the running, and hinting that the timing suggests that the Olympic security fiasco could have ruled them out.  I doubt it.  That's not how the procurement process works, as we know.  G4S's share price went down, but it's back up now.  A fascinating article by historian Michael Wood on the BBC website points out, among other things, that G4S is four times the size of the British Army.  The embarrassment of the Olympics is just a minor glitch.  Meanwhile A4e, a much smaller player, rides its own recent embarrassments comfortably.  It preens on its website that it has been telling the Polish government how it can transform its "public-private co-operation", focussing on payment by results.

The Exaro site previews a report to be published by the University of Greenwich Business School on outsourcing which, it says, will "reignite controversy" and "provoke a furious reaction".  Sadly, it won't.  The report states the obvious; that there will always be a conflict of interest between "commercial and shareholder interests" and the public objectives.  It also has evidence that any saving of money by using private companies is short-lived.  The authors of the article go to something called the National Outsourcing Association for a reaction.  They say that people only notice outsourcing on those rare occasions when it goes wrong; it saves money and employs a lot of people.  And that, I'm afraid, will be the extent of the debate on this issue.

We are not going to change anything in the near future.  But that doesn't mean we should stop resisting.






24 comments:

  1. Listened to BBC R4's The Report. Had a pretty revealing expose on the G4s security fiasco. The program asked whether the fact that G4s was a major olympic sponsor influenced the govt selecting them for the huge securuty gig.

    Link here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01l8n7t

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  2. This is totally off the subject, but does anyone know if you get housing benefit if you work over 16 hrs? My advisor at A4e had no idea and keeps trying to make me apply for part time jobs.

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    1. You can get housing benefit if you're working part-time, full-time or not at all. It depends on how much you've got coming in, not whether you're working or not. More detail can be had from those nice folk over at the CAG forums (consumer action group).

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    2. Helen, when I asked my own A4E advisor the same question as you asked yours, mine was unable to answer it. He did not know the answer, he said. He said that I would have to ask the local authority about HB and CT Benefits. It might be that HB/CT practice varies between different local authorities but I do not know for sure.

      What I did discover during the "Better Off Calculation" session that seems to be compulsory with A4E is that the A4E advisers merely want to know how much rent and council tax the customer would be paying each week if it were not for their JSA claim (in my case.) He put all the individual figures into an interactive, on-line calculator tool on the HMRC website.

      The HMRC website told him that if I were working for 30 hours a week (which I would have to since I have no dependent children) at the National Minimum Wage, apparently Working Tax Credits would give me an extra £48 per week. The A4E chap did not know what has to be done to claim WTC, how long it takes to process a WTC claim and so forth. He said the JCP might know about that

      If I had known that the only thing one has to do is to find this calculator tool on the HMRC website, even I could have worked it out by myself - despite my being hopeless at maths - because the machine does the calculations for you.

      When I phoned my local authority, the lady said that it is not sensible to try to work these things out purely theoretically because if I worked for 30 hours a week at £1 an hour above the NMW, it would affect - and might even negate - my ability to claim WTC. It would also affect how much I might be able to get by way of HB and CT.

      Calling it a "Better Off Calculation" was nothing more than a sales gimmick by A4E, it seemed to me.

      I agree with historian. If you are not certain yourself then make an appointment to go and ask a CAB Adviser in person. The CAB do not charge and they are brilliant - they may well know exactly what your local authority usually does etc. Also, in my experience if the CAB Adviser is not sure about something, s/he knows who to ask in order to be able to give the client an accurate answer.

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    3. "When I phoned my local authority, the lady said that it is not sensible to try to work these things out purely theoretically because if I worked for 30 hours a week at £1 an hour above the NMW, it would affect - and might even negate - my ability to claim WTC. It would also affect how much I might be able to get by way of HB and CT"

      Really? A4E are trying to get me to be self-employed as a gardener. The self-employment advisor tells me that I have to do 16hrs/week as a single parent to claim WTC; less than 16hrs I won't get it. No idea what happens when I earn more in 2 days than if I was on JSA as happened this week. They have told me that I do not need to contact HMRC no matter how much I earn (obviously if I'm earning £100/day I'd need to!) until I have guaranteed 16hrs/week work which would amnt to 5 clients and about £200 earned. And that WTC is guaranteed if you work less than full time. No mention that it is affected by earnings.

      The JC tell me that since it's taking time to find clients (everybody and their dog has taken up gardening) I should work on the basis that i am claiming JSA but looking for a full time job and if that happens sooner than I get enough clients for the gardening I give up the gardening. They have me filling out forms each time I go in so how much I earned in the preceeding fortnight is deducted from the JSA in arrears. They also said I don't need to contact HMRC.

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    4. The rules on self-employment and tax are complicated, and I would always seek independent advice.

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    5. Thanks everyone. I did a calculation and it seems I would be £30 better off if I did 16 hours, but then there would be £40 at least for travel so I'd be £10 under.

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    6. This is nonsense. When you are self-employed you are working even when you are not being paid. In the gardening example, you will be doing admin, invoices, banking etc.; looking for new clients; advertising; training; sharpening tools; propogating, potting on (etc.). None of this is paid, but if you don't do it you don't get clients. These advisers seem to know f£$k-all about business. Who is checking on delivery of DWP contracts?

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  3. Apart from trying to deprive disabled adults of their Benefits, it seems that the Govt has taken to lecturing the parents of disabled children:

    http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/08/02/dont-misuse-your-disability-benefits-the-dwp-might/

    Cameron vowed that he would not permit this sort of top-down "nanny state" interference but that pledge by him seems to have fallen by the wayside......

    My impression, from watching Dispatches and Panorama the other night, is that Atos themselves are not to blame for the chaos with the Work Capability Assessments. The medical professionals who work for Atos seem to say that they are not happy about an overly rigid set of demands from the DWP that rides roughshod over their own professional opinions about who can work and who can't. Professor Harrington was equally scathing about it, saying that human medical problems cannot be reduced to a database on a computer system.

    However, the politicians were the people who demanded a savage reduction in the number of people able to claim ESA, DLA etc. It is not difficult to work out where the blame really lies but the pollies are hoping that they can hide behind Atos, it seems to me.

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  4. If part time work is not in your jobseekers aggrement she cannot make you apply for part time work.

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    1. That's not the point. The claimant should ask for the calculations, and if that's not forthcoming, go to the CAB and get them to do it. part-time work can be feasible; it depends on your circumstances.

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  5. @Helen: Yes, you can. The threahhold for housing benefit is based on how much you earn, not how many hours you do (I work part time and still get nearly full housing benefit)

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  6. Not directly related to this story but read the JD/PS on this role. A sort of ethnic cleansing I would say to clear the way for accommodation of others "more worthy" to live in the smoke. Ironic really when you think about it. Moving low paid/unemployed people out of London to areas where there is very little employment. Unbelievable.

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  7. The jobcentre can do a Back to Work calculation for you. But make sure you know your Council Tax band before asking.

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  8. a bit off the subject,went to the WP,took the test for the CSCS card passed,have to wait for the real test... After talking with the ELO (Employment Lia?son Officer) He explained, I am the new gold dust of the programme,as an over 25 unemployed for close to 18 months they are inline for a big payday,if i become employed..great..but I have been fodder for 18 months,where has the training been before that?...not financially or in our interest to be viable,so piss off.

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  9. some people on the WP in my area ask for better off calculations at the Jobcentre and job centre are referring them back to A4e for them to sort out. Not to defend A4E, but the advisors there are not experts on giving out benefit advice and entitlements, and as the customer still has to attend the Job centre to sign on etc then surely the JCP advisor can offer this information? Or is it a case of them and us, seems like that to me.

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    1. I'd guess that's because when you are on the WP you are the provider's responsibility, that's why they get the cash when you get a job.

      So I am not allowed a second opinion from the JC staff about self-employment in order to check that what A4E are telling me is correct in terms of tax etc. The JC staff admit it's stupid but say they have to follow the rules.

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  10. This is an anonymous comment which I can't post as it is because it names the office:
    "A friend is being threatened with sanctions unless he agrees to sign up for distributing Kleeneze catalogues. There is no income to be made from doing this, any income comes from recruiting others, so it seems fairly certain that his A4E supervisor is using his position to recruit. Has anyone got any experience of this and/or any suggestions what action my friend can take, other than keep refusing?"
    This is serious on two counts. Kleeneze is what is known as multi-level marketing and, as the poster says, any income comes from recruiting others. I know that people in MLM are told to target the unemployed and tell them it will make them rich. It won't. If the A4e employee is trying to recruit people to his own Kleeneze business, that would be hugely wrong. The poster's friend needs to be absolutely certain of that.

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    1. "A friend is being threatened with sanctions unless he agrees to sign up for distributing Kleeneze catalogues. There is no income to be made from doing this, any income comes from recruiting others, so it seems fairly certain that his A4E supervisor is using his position to recruit. Has anyone got any experience of this and/or any suggestions what action my friend can take, other than keep refusing?"

      Mmmmmmm.

      Is this a ruse designed to push the friend into becoming "self-employed" so that A4E can claim an outcome payment from the DWP?

      Or is it something that the friend actually wants to do?

      Or is the A4E adviser trying to use one or more of the customers for the A4E's adviser's own personal benefit?

      I suspect that, as yet, not enough information has been revealed.

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    2. There would be no outcome payment, or not for a very long time, because MLM can very rarely become a sustained job. This sounds like either the adviser doesn't know what s/he is doing, or, as the poster suggests, wants to recruit the client for his or her personal benefit.

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  11. I do have experience of this via Betterware rather than Kleaneze. Here's how it works. Once an agent signs you up, you are then given your pack which contains X amount of catalogues, order forms and other promotional items all of which go into individual plastic wallets.

    You are then tasked with delivering each filled wallet to households across a particular area by leaving each one on the doorstep. A couple of days later you go and collect each wallet with the expectation (more hope) that many order forms will be filled in for large amounts. One then delivers any ordered items.

    The rate I earned was 20p i the £. So for a £10 order, I'd make just £2. That £10 order may be all you earn! To make things worse, I was doing this WITHOUT transport! A car is really necessary in order to be able to cover a much bigger area than I was able to. This line of work is pretty erratic esp. with regards earnings. As such it really suits retired or semi retied people with an already steady income.

    The jobcentre should not really be promoting such work as it cannot guarantee anything like a regular wage. As the poster highlighted by Historian points out, there is no real money to be made thus the need to recruit others and earn from their efforts.

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    1. But that's not how Kleeneze works, iMatt. Betterware is just direct selling. Multi-level marketing is a whole different ball game. I'd recommend anyone who doesn't understand it to look it up. It's often like a cult. You make money by recruiting others, but very few people ever make anything.

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  12. Oh sorry, my confusion! TYhought they were the same sort of thing!

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