Monday, 14 January 2013


I was talking to someone recently who felt that he'd been pressured into going self-employed by a WP provider (not A4e) and then wasn't given the help and advice he needed.  Under previous programmes, there were accounts of people who wanted to go self-employed, but were not helped to do so.  What is the picture now?
We know that self-employment removes someone from the jobless figures, and counts as an outcome if it's sustained, so there's every incentive to encourage this.  But is the backing available?  Are we going to end up with an army of under-employed freelancers?


  1. I think some advisers see getting their clients to go self-employed as one way of achieving a much needed outcome when real jobs are so scarce. I was regaled by my adviser with a heart warming tale of a fellow "customer" who canvassed friends and relatives asking if they would consider employing him to do painting and decorating. Apparently the response was so positive that he decided to become a self employed decorator. Now I have no idea whether this tale is true. If it is I also have no idea whether the business was remotely successful. Presumably if it wasn't the decorator received working tax credits, the provider got their outcome payments and the DWP got one less on the unemployed stats!
    This particular tactic may not be so attractive once UC is in force but meanwhile expect gentle nudges towards self-employment.
    P.S. I have no idea why the vocation of decorating was put forward - I am useless at decorating and have never worked as any sort of tradesman (self-employed or otherwise).

  2. Historian, I dunno If you are physically following me(surely not;-). It's just that your question is uncanny!

    I have just returned about 20 mins ago from a business taster workshop held at a centre a few minutes from my home here in Leeds.

    There were presentations made by people such as a chap from HMRC, another from the Leeds Chaber of Commerce and a woman who ran her own marketing company talking about tax, finance, marketing etc. There were also a couple of women from JCP talking about the NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) scheme.

    Obviously the NEA is not available for those on the WP. It may have been useful if a WP provider could have come along to discuss what 'support' they offered.

    Because as Historian says:

    "Under previous programmes, there were accounts of people who wanted to go self-employed, but were not helped to do so".

    This was my experience. The mentor I saw via a 3rd party was pleasant enough. And I'm not saying he did not know his onions so to speak. It's just that the help on offer was pretty basic. I thought one area of help was compiling a business plan. Well, only one part of this was completed, a cash flow forecast. And a bit of talking about marketing. That's it!!! Over 18 weeks to boot!!! It's a good job I have areas where I can access free help far superior to that on offer by the WP. Sadly, not everyone can or knows where to.

    This is why if the WP provider is putting people forward for self employment who are serious about it, then these people really need to be getting the best help and advise the WP can offer. If the WP provider cannot do this, then let someone else do a better job!

    Conversely, if someone is being pushed into self employment who is not looking to go down this route, then this is a waste of time and resources that can be better spent and provided to someone who is.

    Hard to say which client is worse off under these circumstances!

    1. My advisor has never mentioned a business plan, or a cash flow forecast. I just put up ads and then when people contact me I go out and do the work.

  3. If you are on the WP you are not allowed access to the JC self-employment advisor. In this area the JC advisor is very good, and IMO far better than the person I have to see at A4E.

    The help I have had over the past year is as follows, in no particular order -

    - Self employment advisor who is available to talk to whenever I want via email and can arrange for me to go into office if needed.
    - Suggestions of what I can do in terms of increasing local knowledge of my business (basically a list of websites).
    - Help printing out flyers/posters
    - I will be a whole £10/week better off on WTC as opposed to JSA (as mentioned in other posts this doesn't take into account things like dental treatment etc which are free on JSA and not on WTC)
    - Personally I only need to do 16hrs a week to claim WTC, HMRC (?) don't check the books so it's possible to make it up. (I am happy not working for say 3 hours a week and ascribing that to admin etc, but being told I can spend an entire 16 hrs doing nothing during 3 months of seasonal downtime and cooking the books I am not happy with. Apparently this is what people doing 40hrs for WTC are being told to do, and if the advisor is to be believed they are actually doing it)
    - Workshop with HMRC about self-employment and tax (basically this is a 2 hour lecture with handouts)
    - Suggestions of what I can do to become self employed given that I live in a rural area and don't drive (sell sandwiches from my house, the advisor was adamant I wouldn't need a hygiene cert; sell things on Ebay, cleaning, gardening, sell my photos, crafting etc etc)

    I am semi-selfemployed. In the past year I have earned the equivelent of JSA each week and occasionally a bit more but I still sign because if I lose a customer then I am earning less than on JSA. If I had a couple more clients then I'd sign off immediately. The past couple of months I have had no work due to seasonal down time, but things are picking up again.

    Oh yes, and at my last visit to the self-employment advisor last year I was told I'd be signing off early this year before UC comes into force no matter how many clients I had, so presumably I am expected to start cooking the books.

    1. Polly, I don't know if I have it already, but could you send me a NFP comment with your email address, please. And forgive my ignorance, but what is WTC?

    2. Working Tax Credits?

    3. Historian - WTC is Working Tax Credit. The way the govt subsidisers poorly paid work but without increasing the unemployed stats,

    4. Thank you both. I should have thought of that.

  4. I went self employed last september and my experience with the KMRC was an interesting one to say the least.

    I had to wait over 10 weeks before recieving any WTC payments, and had to go through an audit to make sure I really was self employed. I was asked to provide invoices and payments recieved, plus was questioned in depth about my business plan. I asked the HMRC advisor if I had just been selected as part of a random sample, but was told that I had been automatically flagged for an audit as I had come straight from JSA and had no prior record of self employment. The advisor also made a comment that they were seeing a lot of new business starters that had also come from JSA (and made mention of the work programme) and that they were vetting those people to make sure they actually had a viable business proposition. And that they were turning people down who were just trying to use the self-employed status as a means of escaping the Work Programme.

    1. It's so reassuring to find out that the tax authorities are busy chasing people claiming £71 per week in Job Seekers Allowance, so they can't avoid the Work Programme - you know the Work Programme that if you are on it means you are less likely to find a job than if you were left to your own devises.

      So reassuring to learn that the Inland Revenue has got so much time to pursue the unemployed now that all those large companies have decided not to pay tax any more.

    2. Could the Anonymous whose post above begins "I went self employed last september and my experience with the KMRC was an interesting one to say the least" - please send me a "not for publication" comment with their email address.

  5. I am one of A4E’s Work Programme customers. My impression is that A4E are keen to encourage Work Programme customers to become self-employed because this would be a job that the relevant customer would definitely be able to get and A4E could definitely get an outcome payment if the self-employment lasts for long enough. Meanwhile, Ministers would be happy as well because it would help their own propaganda machine.

    I was told that it would be mandatory for me to attend one of A4E’s in-house “training” sessions devoted to the subject of self-employment, so I attended in Nov/Dec 2011. About 10 customers attended altogether.

    A4E’s performance was useless. They fielded one of their local “trainers,” who said that she has never been self-employed and who proceeded to demonstrate that she knows zilch about the subject of self-employment. That was that. Nobody who actually knew anything about the subject turned up in order to say anything so the customers ended up none the wiser and not even better-informed.

  6. Just seen this article on The Star website ..... Make of it what you will!

    1. This is a campaign run by A4E themselves and put out to local papers. They did it also in a paper that Historian posted about on here

      After she did so I looked on A4E's own page or perhaps their Facebook or Twitter page and found they were also running it somewhere else, don't have the link.

      Cleverly worded though isn't it, so it looks like the paper themselves has thought of it and is trying to help .

  7. Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody that cares?

    I've been unemployed for a long time. Nobody listens to me.

    I've been on two unpaid placements where I worked like a dog, leaving at the end of each shift with enough money for a bus home. On the last day of the second placement, I was set upon by four customers and beaten up, without warning or provocation. Several other customers pulled them off me. I reported it to the police. No charges were brought. No body cared, I'm only someone on benefits.

    In October I went to the job centre, and realised I had a new adviser. She put pressure on me to work for two months in Argos without pay. I refused. There was a discussion that almost became an argument. I could almost see her thoughts, as she tried to find a reason to stop my money. There was none, but she referred me to Mandatory Work Activity again.

    I made an appointment with a solicitor. I don't want to get beaten up again. I can still get legal aid. The solicitor found a way I could avoid working for free again.

    i haven't seen that adviser at the job centre since.

    Now, I'm on the Work Programme. I was told to hand in my CV to employment agencies. I didn't say that I've already done that more times than I can count. I was told to write a personal statement for a job application and send it to them for editing.

    The day I decided to walk around the agencies it was raining heavily. I don't have a winter coat. I started by spending £15 in an internet cafe printing copies of the CV that was written by the Work Programme adviser. It was virtually identical to the one I already had.

    So I walked from one end of the city to the other, distributing copies. In one a Polish woman noted that she remembered registering me when I first went there, "a long time ago."

    At five O'clock I sprang for coffee - £3.50 is more or less what I spend a day on food. I sat in my shabby clothes watching normal people who lead normal lives and after a while, went back out into the rain to catch the bus back to my unheated flat.

    I didn't write a statement for the adviser. I just used one that I had used for a job I applied for month before I was referred to the Work Programme. She told me it wasn't good enough. It was all wrong. I checked my email account a couple of hours after the meeting. I had a message from that employer, inviting me to an interview. I sank into despair because I'm always being told that I'm too stupid to fill in an application form, and the interview letter proved that there's nothing wrong with what I do.

    I didn't get the job. I haven't even had a rejection letter yet but I know. I saw my reflection in the waiting room. I looked shabby and underfed, and shuffled in the chair embarrassed while others passed me by. There was no place for me there, and I only wanted to get the interview over with so I could leave.

    I've read a lot of self-help books over the last few years. The sensible ones that recommend finding evidence for a negative thought, and evidence against and then drawing a balanced conclusion. I practice "mindfulness" which helps to avoid dwelling on the hardship I deal with day to day.

    The books don't tell you that if you try to keep your mind a bank how your worries will come back at night in vivid dreams that link the problems of the present to events that upset you in the past.

    I do not drink because I know how dangerous it would be to start, but I live by the AA mantra of taking one day at a time. I have to because if I thought about about another year living like this I am sure I would begin to think of another way out of all of this.

    Is there anybody out there? Hello............

    1. There are lots of people out there who know exactly how you feel. Including me. I was unemployed for several years during the early 90s. The key is not to blame yourself, for anything including failing an interview. And taking one day at a time is the only way to survive. You've proved that you can get an interview; celebrate that. Unemployment is not your identity.

    2. we have all been there, we have experienced maybe not exactly what you have but enough to know what its like. Somedays it gets bad you feel worthless, you have to realise YOU are unique you are worthwhile in this world. It may be hard, but there are us we who have experienced it. I get happy when i get a rejection letter, it shows i exist, As historian says One day at a time.

  8. Hi Simone

    Thanks for the article about Giuseppe the plumber. Personally, I think that this sort of exposure is an excellent idea for some of the Work Programme customers and this sort of Press coverage is not possible without the individual customer’s say-so.

    A4E’s Sheffield office seems to be quite enterprising, to judge from a recent article on A4E’s own website:

    I am miles away from Sheffield. I wish that my local A4E office would be similarly enterprising. Locally, there have been one or two good ideas lately but there is no reason why A4E’s local office shouldn’t think & go further than they already have. (I’ve just sent them an e-mail to nag them about this, including the link to the newspaper article about Giuseppe the plumber.)

    A4E probably already call me The Nagamatic so I might as well live up to the soubriquet.

  9. I have been referred for mentoring via NEA, which I am currently (supposed to be) having. Luckily, I was referred just in time because, as someone above mentioned, if you are on the new Work Programme then you are not allowed to go on NEA. However, the problem I've got is that this is not the case if it's the other way round - this means that although I've already started having NEA mentoring, I may still be required to go on the Work Programme in a few weeks time regardless so, in effective, the whole experience will have been a complete waste of time.

    As far as I am aware, the NEA mentoring is required to go on for at least 8 weeks and so my Jobcentre advisor postponed my Work Programme interview to a later date. However, I have less than two weeks to go before I am due to be referred for the Work Programme and have, so far, only had one NEA mentoring session within the last 2 weeks, despite trying to contact them to arrange another meeting. The whole NEA thing seems very inefficient, disorganized and time consuming (time which people such as myself simply do not have).

    What's even more peculiar is that Work Programme seems to be encouraging people to go self-employed, yet the help towards self-employment may be taken away from me, because I will be required to go on the Work Programme! The whole thing is very ill-thought out and just seems to cause more problems and conflict, rather than actually helping anyone.


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