Friday, 10 January 2014

Weekend round-up

Still waiting for A4e's accounts, but as one of our commenters points out, A4e has frequently been late filing its accounts in recent years.  Perhaps of more immediate interest is the down-grading of its credit rating.  But while we await developments there are the usual attempts by the DWP to hide its own incompetence.  The news came out that there has been a blunder with the hated bedroom tax.  Anyone who was on HB before 1996 and has been on it ever since should not be subject to the new legislation; they are covered by an older law which wasn't superseded by the new one.  One estimate is that this applies to around 40,000 people, many of whom have already had to go through the misery of losing their home or trying to exist on less money.  And I reckon that many of the people who have been on HB that long will be disabled or have long-term conditions.  So the government intends to "close the loop-hole".  It's not clear whether that will mean more retro-active legislation, or whether they can just sneak it through on a Statutory Instrument, which doesn't go through Parliament.  Either way, why did those highly-paid civil service lawyers not spot this before?
The DWP tried to distract from this with news that the benefits cap is very successful.  This is perhaps the most popular of all their bites at benefits, because it seems only fair that you shouldn't get more than many people can earn.  But it obscures the fact that the bulk of the money goes to landlords, not the claimants, so if you live in an expensively-rented home and suddenly lose your job, you will lose your home as well; this is shown by the fact that the large majority of the boroughs where people have been affected are in London.
The row about Channel 4's Benefits Street rumbles on.  The Daily Mail's contribution comes from John Bird, who is the founder of the Big Issue.  It's typically confused.  Bird thinks that the show tells the truth about benefits, and he's an expert, he says, because he came through dire poverty himself.  Perhaps the worst example of right-wing hate-mongering came from Katie Hopkins on the BBC's This Week last night.  Who's Katie Hopkins?  Quite.  Her only claim to fame is that she was on The Apprentice; she now writes for the Sun, and seems to have taken the place of Kelvin McKenzie as the nutter of choice for TV producers wanting to anger their viewers.  (The Daily Star called her rent-a-gob.)  Last night she called for more welfare cuts; directly insulted Diane Abbott MP, who showed remarkable restraint by not decking her; and said, "Food banks are a con."  The rage about her on Facebook, most of it, I guess, not from benefits claimants, shows that we might just have reached a point where the general public is embarrassed by this continual demonisation of the poorest.
One bit of news about the DWP itself came from an unlikely source - the Telegraph.  It revealed that more than 1,100 DWP staff have been warned over "prying" on benefits records.  That's breaches of privacy, accessing records they had no right to see.
Finally, how's this for irony?  "BBC misleads public every day on scale of cuts, fumes Cameron".  Yes, it's the Daily Mail describing Cameron getting annoyed on Radio Merseyside when he as accused of treating Liverpool unfairly.  No wonder the BBC has become so tepid in its journalism.


  1. The points raised by Historian just show how easily large sections of the public can be conned into thinking things such as JSA being the biggest constituent part of the benefits bill, benefit fraud being much bigger than it is and anyone can use a food bank and walk out with carrier bags full of food. Sadly, some will be influenced the John Gaunts, Nick Ferrari's, Richard Littlejohns and now the Ann Coulter wannabe Katie Hopkins spreading quarter truths and downright lies.

    But then as an old saying goes, a lie can be half way round the world before the truth has got its pants on.

    Hopefully, there are enough people not as easily influenced by fourth rate commentators who will have the intelligence and wherewithal to find out the facts for themselves and not the tabloidesque sections of the media. The current backlash to "Benefits Street" seems to bear this out.

    As for Hopkins. She is as wrong as she is vacuous. Someone once said "there's no such thing as bad publicity". Well, Hopkins is a clearly true believer in this saying. Watching the BBC clip on Huffington Post as I type, she (Hopkins) talks about "people going out to work, paying their taxes".

    But just what DOES Hopkins do herself? She is often credited with being a "business woman". However, apart from making herself look stupid on the BBC and ITV (such as an appearance on "This Morning" when she made a pillock of herself condemning certain children's names including those named after geographical locations despite herself having a daughter called India), how else does she earn a living?

    This from Wikipedia:

    "Katie Hopkins is often introduced as a business woman in television appearances and refers to herself in her media articles as an employer in a small business. That business is Katie Hopkins Limited, a company classified as "business & management consultancy", based in Exeter, Devon, and incorporated on 21 June 2007.[40] Katie Hopkins is the sole shareholder and only director, with her husband, Mark Cross, acting as company secretary. The company has run at a net loss since June 2009. As of 30 June 2012 it had a net worth of -£11,927, and had no declared turnover at all during the previous 12 months".

    So her business, essentially herself has failed to make any money, and indeed a LOSS. Remind me never to go to her for business advice. It seems for some being a rent-a gob is a full time career.

  2. IDS used retroactive secondary legislation (ie a Statutory Instrument) in order to rescue his own legal blunders last year. On that occasion (in the Poundland case) the Court of Appeal held that IDS had breached the Welfare Reform Act (primary legislation, passed after proper debate in both Houses of Parliament.) IDS acted undemocratically & unconstitutionally in order to wriggle out of repaying the sanctions money which he had withheld unlawfully from thousands of Benefits claimants.

    This time, he would only need to alter an older SI retrospectively, so he could do it without another high-profile row. However, the principles of “democracy” have always believed that if Parliament has made a mistake, Parliament does NOT punish other people, retrospectively, afterwards. IDS does not have the guts to uphold one of the strongest cores of democracy and is probably too stupid to understand what they are.

    The govt’s in-house lawyers (all Civil Servants) would not have made a small error over HB if they had been allowed enough time to do their work properly. Also, when the political pygmies demand shrinkage of the Civil Service, they have only themselves to blame if an insufficiently high number of civil servants cause the pygmies a bit of political embarrassment here & there. The errors are made inadvertently, so it is up to the pygmies to defend and protect the Civil Servants, who are not allowed to be seen to defend themselves.

    Traditionally, the buck stops with the Minister so, traditionally, the relevant Minister resigns. IDS is too cowardly and too craven to resign. Bullies are always craven cowards, in my invariable experience.

    1. Important point re. the retroactive legislation - it was primary legislation, not a statutory instrument - it's the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013.

      The reason why this is important is that it was helped through parliament by Labour abstaining (although 44 Labour MPs ignored the whip and voted against). The price for this support was pretty minimal - primarily the independent review of sanctions now going on headed by the independent reviewer, Matt Oakley, formerly of Policy Exchange.

      If I was a more cynical person, I'd probably observe that DWP don't appear to have entirely acted in good faith, running the call for evidence over the Christmas and New Year period, and appointing as an independent reviewer someone who has, whilst at Policy Exchange, authored or co-authored a number of policy papers focussing on robust conditionality. I'm not for a second doubting Oakley's integrity or his ability to fulfil the role of independent reviewer, but the appointment itself could be seen as sending a message.

    2. Or, in layman's language, the whole thing is a stitch up.
      If I remember correctly the idea that Labour would lie down and not oppose the retroactive legislation was down to Liam Byrne. Miliband subsequently found the guts to sack him and consign him to the back benches.
      Bearing in mind the right wing nature of Mr Oakley and the Policy Exchange "think tank" I would counsel not holding one's breath for a significant report from the enquiry. Expect a whitewash.

  3. Have you noticed that when any govt' minister or right-wing nut attempts to justify the benefit cuts they always do so in The Daily Mail? Perhaps this is because both are founded upon hatred and lies?

    As for the British public beginning to sympathise with those affected by the cuts - maybe. But I will say this, as the effect of the cuts begins to spread and living standards fall the Tories will lose support.

  4. I have not posted for a while(Laptop busted) after all the rhetoric about the post WP programmes that "We" would have to participate in I was actually looking forward to it,finally training,education or a work placement as stated.....Wrong! SSDD When asked about training "Unless you have been unemployed less than 15 weeks,we are unable to help" In the letter I was sent we were supposed to talk about training,if I fail to engage I will be subject to sanctions..Sorry,we do not do that,you can submit for training and we will consider it on a case by case basis...Ok,do you have a list of Providers? NO..Are you not my employment "Coach?" Yes,,,And what advise do you have? (confused look) Advise about what? Training,education,up skilling or work placement? Are time is up,you have still not allowed access to your UJM account and we will no longer accept screen shots or written down jobs applied for from UJM,you must apply from a different source and allow us to confirm this independently .....Can I have this in writing? No.. You do realize that I have recorded this for my own records? Security! I attend next week and will request to see a manager.

    1. I have been told that the post WP programme management is entirely down to the individual JC. So some will have you in daily as soon as you are off the WP, some give you a chance to prove you are doing what you should be and actively looking for work. I doubt any of them have the money for actual training, but they can advise you on certain things as they've done that for me. In my case it was helpful (far more so than similar advice that A4E gave me on the WP), but anyone else would need to be in the exact same situation and their area would need to have the same facilities as mine does

    2. The idea is that 'Help to Work', once procured (which is going on at the moment) will comprise 3 elements - Community Work Placements of compulsory, unpaid work of 30hrs pw plus 10 hrs of 'support' (so essentially the same as the CAP piloted in some locations), 35 hours a week of compulsory, supervised job search, or a more intensive 'regime' at JCP.

      The idea - with no real rationale - is that a third will go to each. CWP will, in theory, be aimed at people with no or limited work experience. Supervised signing will be aimed at those thought to be lacking motivation (plus, as an unmentioned target, those thought to be working off the books). JCP will be for the remainder.

      You're entirely right though that it's down to JCP staff. There's not much in the way of guidance - DWP doesn't like this because 'it's all about individual relationships'. That might be fine, but the problem is that the two approaches (out of three) that have been piloted don't work very well, and the one that's being emphasised (the 30hrs work + 10hrs job search) was the worse performing out of the two, although better than doing nothing, although it's difficult to factor in the propensity to drive people on to sickness/disability benefits rather than JSA. Generally, initiatives like this tend to do this, and also to drive people off social security entirely.

      The good news is that both enhanced JCP support and CAP (now CWP) showed an increase in the number of people who went into work. However, the shift is tiny, and almost certainly represents a loss in financial terms compared to the cost of doing nothing, compared to spending £250-300m on marginally helpful interventions.

      As I may have mentioned previously, I have serious doubts about whether or not CWP will work (In DWP's terms) - campaigns against coercive labour have been effective, and although the amount on offer appears large, it doesn't really stack up as a financial proposition unless one is keen to displace workers or offer bulk placements that don't realistically offer any chance to learn and move on.

      And all that's assuming that JCP makes the right allocations - supervised signing and CWP look more like punishment than employment support (e.g. longest criminal community sentence is 300hrs, vs more than twice that for merely failing to find a job), so will JCP staff make their decision about who to allocate to a particular strand according to presumed needs and barriers, or according to (say) whether they like the person in front of them or not?

      On one level, it doesn't matter - although statistically significant (just), the intervention used, out of the two trialled, doesn't seem to make much difference from a distance. On the other, the rationale for paying a few hundred million a year (mostly to outsourcers) to do something that's been proved to be largely useless, that will probably be allocated arbitrarily and will almost certainly serve as a sanction production line is unclear.

      Being optimistic, I hope that VCSE orgs and local authorities put their foot down and reject this, although I suspect for local authorities in particular, there may be acute pressures. I'm in favour of real work experience entered into voluntarily - it can make a huge difference. The evidence base for CWP is pretty marginal - I hope most reasonable employers of all sorts will recognise it for what it is.

    3. At my JCP(Wales) post WP you are assigned to a team of 5 "Specialist" advisers,you rotate from one to the other,the problem is that at each interview you have to start over,any questions that you had at a previous meeting are put off too the 2 week signing on,where you have a different adviser and so on and so forth,I have requested a bus ticket to find the "Hidden" jobs that I have been told to drop off my CV too,just random shops,that apparently are waiting for staff(?) I also requested that I have 40 copies of my CV printed in order to drop then off(Max 10 per visit) they were printed on recycled paper,the same stuff that comes out of the Job points,tatty. I also requested postage(denied) The use of a computer,referred to a Library,I was told that JSA £71.70 was to be used for Job seeking,ie Bus tickets,copying,mobile phone and internet access and postage and that under the new Claimant Commitment they will no longer fund any expenses unless you are on 1 of the 3 options,Training,Education or Work Placement,great,how do I access these options? You don't,we will inform you. What is the need for being so evasive? Do these programmes really exist?

  5. When I saw the food bank remark by Hopkins I expected a furious return from Abbott, sadly she's like most politicians who only know the basics of what is going on to the unemployed.

    1. Let's no get political, but Abbott is MP for Hackney, so I suspect she is more informed than many MPs. Hopkins' remark was so stupid that it didn't warrant any reply.

  6. This is a quite urgent request for help. I hope I'm in the right place to ask and that someone will be kind enough to oblige me.

    I've been unemployed for just over 10 weeks and at my last signing on appointment was given a slip of paper notifying me that I had been given a 'Jobcentre Plus Support Contract Referral Notification.'

    What this means is that I have been referred to a two day course with a Work Programme subcontractor called Learning Links based on the south coast [on their website it says they are partnered with A4e in delivering the Work Programme and this blog was the first I found when Googling A4e]. The course is entitled 'Finding and Getting Jobs.'

    I am not to keen to attend [even among those like myself who have not been unemployed for a great deal of time it's well known that these things are just cash-cows for the organisers and cattle-pens for jobseekers] but my advisor has assured me that it is mandatory and so I don't really have a choice.

    Never mind, I thought. It's only two days.

    My real problem is that on Friday, a gentleman called my mobile from Learning Links to warn me in advance that 'You had better show up, we have got your number and address' and to let me know that '...we don't put up with any funny business here.'

    I thought he was joking to begin with [why wouldn't I] but sadly no, the gentleman I spoke with holds the title of Service Delivery Manager with the company. The chat was very formal and his tone and language was passive aggressive in the extreme. He told me that he likes to call all of his customers before they attend so that they 'know the score.'

    What this means, I can only wonder.

    I know this sounds bizarre but please believe me, there is nobody who found it more bizarre than I did. I was hoping that somebody in this forum might know my next best course of action. I do apologise in advance for any inconvenience but ANY help or advice would be most welcome.

    Thank you in advance


    1. I don't know that any of us can actually help, but we will certainly support you.
      This is the point where you start to record all your dealings with these people. You must turn up for this "course" or you will be sanctioned. Go along with everything they want of you - as you said, it's only two days, but they'll sanction you like a shot if you don't comply. Get the names of the people you are dealing with (but don't make them public).
      The chap you've spoken to is a classic bully, and unfortunately the system now encourages bullying. You'll survive.
      Welcome to the world of unemployment. Good luck, and I hope you'll get a job quickly.

    2. Thank you very much for your advice. It is very kind of you. Especially so late on a Sunday evening.

      I shall indeed attend and I shall indeed comply. Your advice of keeping a written record is gladly noted and I shall do so.

      Many thanks once more.


    3. Shahid - all good advice. But not just a "written record". Try to record any exchanges you have by an audio device, e.g. mobile phone/mp3 player. It is obviously near impossible to record a whole 2 days worth but if you anticipate any individual exchanges coming up then whip out the device, Be aware that you ARE allowed to record for your own records. You will be surprised how your treatment improves when they know that you are recording them.

    4. To expand on Historian's advice, use a tape recorder, dictaphone, or telephone to record these sessions - I would take an old fashioned dictaphone along and place it on the table, and next to it, a small digital recording device (already on and recording).

      Demand copies of ALL papers presented to you and file them somewhere safe - If nothing else, it is evidence that you attended.

      Finally, purchase a return ticket and insist that it is refunded without any conditionality - This is in line with DWP guidance that states travel expenses should be refunded. Don't use a car as some providers have a reputation of not reimbursing the full amount (that and the mileage rate is insufficient at 25p/mile).

      "Never fear answers, only fear running out of questions." - Always ask (im)pertinent questions ;-)

    5. While this may well be good advice, I would caution against being too assertive. Words like "demand" and "insist" don't take account of the climate now, where you can be sanctioned on a whim. And I am someone who does demand and insist! If you want to tape or digitally record interviews, ask first. It's polite, for one thing. If they say no, write down that they've said no.

    6. First thing you need to do is cover your back.. Protect yourself.. that is of prime importance.. Make notes, politely ask the tutors name, if they ask why say well i want to make notes to be sure i am not doing something wrong..Be polite, Dont swear.

      Its scary out there, the feeling of being bullied by groups that are supposed to help you, to boost your confidence yet i have always felt even worse after leaving, The fact they have stressed on several occasions they are not there to get you a job but get you job ready.. puts the onus on you.It must be your fault you havent got a job because you havent got a job it must be a failing in you.. thats the way they treat you..

      I hope everything works out ok for you Shahid. When you do get a job please remember how you were treated and spread the word.. Good luck

  7. Part 1

    I have today completed the first day of the two day course. It was an awful, disheartening experience that I can barely bring myself to repeat tomorrow. There were 23 people including myself referred onto the course- yet no more than 10 chairs in the room we were ushered into. We were asked to bring more chairs from an empty office downstairs to make up the rest. There was no lift and so myself and another younger man carried them up two flights of stairs. Apparently there was a problem with the sole computer and so we were all barred from using it to search for jobs throughout the day.Day 1 of the course consisted of the following activities:
    1- I arrived at 9.15 for a 9.30 start. When I greeted the security guard at the entranceway with 'Hello' he responded with, 'What's your national insurance number.' I told him that I did not think that was a very polite way to address people and also made him aware of my intentions to record what happened throughout the day on my mobile telephone. I promised to be discreet and that I would not film the faces of any tutors or fellow course members.

    2- He was very angry with this suggestion and ordered me to sit down and wait while he consulted with the office manager. To ensure that I could not leave during this period he also locked the front door of the office. By the time he left five more people that had also been referred onto the course were huddled outside in the rain, unable to get inside.

    3- The security guard then returned and told me that he had spoken to the office manager and he would not allow any filming. I told him that I had researched this matter and it was my right to film and he then disappeared again- without letting the people waiting outside into the office and out of the rain.

    3- After approximately 5 minutes he again returned with the message that either I hand over my phone or they would telephone the Jobcentre immediatedly and tell them that I had not attended and my unemployment money would be stopped. Reluctant and embarassed- not least because of the crowd now gathered at the door waiting to be let in, I handed over my phone.

    4- We were all taken upstairs to a very cramped room where at about 10.45 [more than an hour late] a tutor finally appeared and we completed a series of what I consider to be pointless excercises- we made towers out of used toilet tissue rolls and were each asked to write down what we would like to be on a slip of paper [although these were never read either aloud or by the tutor.] At 12.00 we were sent to lunch, with strict instructions to return by 13.00 or they would ring the Jobcentre immediatedly.

  8. Part 2

    5- I had to go back to the security guard to ask to have my phone for the lunch hour. He agreed to give it back to me on the strict proviso that I not film or post ANYTHING online about the company on social media sites during the lunch hour. How he intended to police this, I do not know.

    6- After lunch we were largely wasting time until the end of the day. There was a short presentation by a lady about apprenticeships and the benefit of workfare [getting references etc] but I have only been unemployed for 10 weeks and so do not see the point in working, especially for multi-million pound corporations, for free.

    7- One thing that was interesting was that after the presentation our tutor declared that she had to use the bathroom and we should 'amuse yourselves' while she did so. When she left the room she took her keys with her and locked the door from the outside. Many of us found this to be disturbing and a much older gentleman challenged her about why she had done this when she came back into the room. Remarkably, she told him that she would not answer his questions because of 'Data Protection'

    8- We finished the day by watching a short video about some of the community work that the organisation does and with another talk about workfare placements- which we will discuss more of tomorrow.

    I really do dread returning in the morning. I can't sleep tonight because I'm so worried about it. I shall keep you updated.


    1. wow! Where to begin?
      You are allowed to record for your own purposes so being prevented from doing so is grounds enough for complaint. Having your mobile confiscated smacks of being treated like a naughty child - who do these people think they are?
      Being locked into a room is probably a technical crime of kidnapping! It is almost certainly against fire regulations and maybe worth reporting to the fire service on those grounds. People should not be treated like prisoners just because they are unemployed.
      The course content sounds like the usual rubbish dished out with monotonous regularity.
      I hope you make it through the last day.
      Don't be afraid to write it all down and complain to the JobCentre.

    2. Sick of the Work Programme15 January 2014 at 02:13

      If she locked you in when she went to the toilet, then that is very serious and she should certainly be reported. If there had been a fire, you would have been trapped.

      I have just been speaking to someone who used to work for HSE, who confirmed that the local Fire Service should be informed when an organisation has committed a serious breach of the fire regulations. I don't know whereabouts in the country you are but I found this page on the London Fire Brigade's website. As you can see, they advise you to contact your local Fire Safety Regulation Team if you have concerns about an organisation breaching fire safety regulations:

      Perhaps the older gentleman who challenged her might also be interested in complaining to the Fire Service- the more of you who complain, the better. That way it is less likely the tutor will be able to get away with claiming that she didn't do it.

    3. Appalling. I recall historian has previously mentioned the Stanford University prison experiment so I won't bang on about it. On the face of it is seems pretty relevant, and not just because of the frequent locking-up of people (about which I'd also have concerns around fire safety, along with concerns about potential repercussions should I raise them).

    4. Anonymous14 January 2014 16:16 its the handing over your phone thing! Might as well hand over your wallet while your at it - what about all your personal info on your phone - your contact list- any text-mail etc etc. I personally would have asked him to sign a declaration:
      (a) you were Ordered to do this by the course manager,
      (b) he would be personally responsible for any incurred costs and responsible for data-security of your details while he had the equipment in his possession.
      I would also point out to him it was against your insurance policy and terms to hand the phone to use by someone else and unless you that you may have to purchase a new phone- would he pay for it.
      Seriously handling others peoples phones is definetely a NO the security chappie must be very ignorant and stupid to even touch it!
      As Historian and others have said I would mention all of this in a written compaint to your JCP manager (named) - hand it over at your next meeting with them. If you get a feedback form then note all of these things down - dont be scared of getting sanctioned - chances are your gonna get it anyway- might as well prepare your grounds for appeal- good luck dont take any crap from these people and assert your rights.

    5. Shocking, but sadly not surprising!!!

      The security guard is on a power trip. But little does he realise he is but one step up from you. No doubt earning probably little better than the NMW but thinks he can make the rules up as he goes along

      Do as I have done and become a pain in the butt. Become the flea the dog cannot scratch or shake off. Whilst keeping as calm as possible and refraining from bad language, issue complaints about this appalling treatment from both the security guard and the 'adviser'. Get their names in full if possible.

      Complain to the provider the adviser works for, the jobcentre, and your nearest CAB. Find out who this joke of a security guard is employed by (G4s?) and make an official complaint to his superiors. The local media may be interested in what happened to you. Making a complaint to your local Fire Service is good advice as well. If you can persuade even a couple of others who were there with you on the day to do the same, all the better. If not, complain anyway.

      Not only may something be done about it, making a complaint to someone who listens gets things off your chest and releases some of the pressure.

      Using myself as an example, I made several complaints about A4e when I had the misfortune to be one of their 'clients'. I even did so to a jobcentre adviser when on A4e's premises. They (A4e) did NOT like this at all and one adviser shouted I "was out of order" for daring to do so. So I made a further complaint about this.

      Although the quality of service and facilities remained as poor as ever, there was a 'softening' of the attitude from some of the staff. They though that playing quizzes and other games would be the answer.

      So get in there and make yourself heard!!! We're all right behind you!!!

    6. So many things wrong with this "course". Insufficient chairs, no lifts, locking of doors, and "security" !

      My first exchange with "security" would have been:
      "My name is Mr ******. That is spelt S. I. R." (and yes, I do do this). No statement would have been made about filming (not something I would recommend, audio recordings only), and handing over of personal property, most certainly not. What would have happened if the JCP had tried to ring you about a job ?

      Locking of doors and the resulting B.S. about "data protection" would have seen a call being made to the police and possibly the door being forcibly removed.

      From what has been reported about this "course", it sounds like a scam perpetrated by the provider, and as a tax payer, I am disgusted at the waste of money.

  9. Dear me Anonymous. You're unemployed NOT a criminal.

    In my opinion, this is beyond writing complaints to JCP or the provider.
    I'd have walked straight to the nearest police station and asked to record a written statement concerning 'possible' assault, kidnap and H&S violations, - yes really.
    In my experience this is much very much easier and quicker than it looks, and whatever the problem, gives you a great boost knowing that you've put the first stake in the ground. It will be up to you if you want to take it any further or not.

    THEN write your complaints, if you have to mention somewhere along the line "I've already made a statement concerning this" don't give any detail (of the statement).

    Yes, I really do think this is that serious, and agree with the other replies and advice.

    1. Sorry, but some of what has been said in the above comments is irresponsible. Your mistake, Shahid, was to state your intention to film the session. But they did not have the right to confiscate your phone, and that should be the subject of a complaint. Locking you into a room is another definite cause for complaint. Go through the complaints procedure with your Jobcentre.
      I would also send a detailed account to your MP and to your local paper.

    2. Here we have it again, another well intentioned and willing participant put through a lot of unneccesary trauma and inconvenience for a totally useless training session - he's 10 weeks unemployed, not exactly a hard to place candidate I would have thought, one must ask agina nd again what is going on in the DWP whom are ultimately responsible for all this nonsence and waste of tax payers money- this example is a defenite case which should be put in the mainstream press - let a lone the local paper- an apology from your advisor would be seem to be in order Shahid.

  10. To be honest I'm not 100% sure about Shahid's experience. It all seems a bit far fetched. Locking you in a room seems to be rather extreme and if it had happened with me there I would have been hammering on the door to be let out.

    Couple of things I think need to be cleared up and I don't understand why Shahid hasn't commented on. For one, where exactly is this place? What is the name of it?

    I'm really not sure what to make of his posts, at times I think the work of a fantasist or a scaremonger....

    1. Possibly. But if he did give the details of where this happened, I wouldn't publish it. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt because it seems plausible.

    2. Well, the same sort of happened to me some time ago. Prior to the useless New Deal at A4e, I and others were sent to something called Gateway to Employment for two weeks.

      Just as useless and wasteful as New Deal. There were several uniformed security guards who let clients into and out of the building. Anyone wishing to leave for a cigarette break of lunch had to be asked to let out by one of the guards who then unlocked the main door. So even though I never experienced locked rooms, I was in a locked building.

      The way the ridiculous schemes such as the WP are administered, ANYTHING is possible I'm afraid!

  11. 'At times I think [it is] the work of a fantasist or a scaremonger...'

    What evidence do you have that he is lying?

    Lots of people would have thought that three women held as slaves in a South London house for 30yrs was 'a bit far fetched'. But it actually happened and lots of people have gone on record about their poor treatment at the hand of the dole and work programme providers. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

    1. Time after time the WP/JCP misinform people,at my last JCP appointment I listened to adviser after adviser tell clients that they are required to allow access to UJM.I had to restrain myself from correcting them. There has been a lot of rhetoric about post WP returners being required to attend training,education or work placements,3 months in nothing,this is very similar to the promises made on the WP,most unemployed would jump at the chance to increase their chances at employment,but it seems these funds disappear.As for being locked in a room? It has happened to me and nothing these jokers do surprises me.

    2. "What evidence do you have that he is lying?"

      I didn't say he WAS lying, just that I'm not sure about some of his story. But I guess you need hard evidence of all of this happening before these places are named and shamed, historian? Anyway, let's hopefully see part 2 of Shahid's experience and take it from there...

  12. I completed the final day of the course today and if I am to be frank, the treatment and level of support I received was much improved. The lesson plans were well scheduled and although the guard did ask that I hand it my phone at the start of the morning, when I politely declined and assured him that no recordings would be taken, he permitted that I keep it in my possession.

    There was a short presentation after lunch about working for one's self and setting up a small business enterprise which was particuarly of merit- I had not realised that even if a business is making a loss that somebody in my situation can 'earn' more in Working Tax Credits than Jobseekers Allowance. The gentleman that led the presentation told us that if there were no jobs out there [which in my experience there are not] then surely it makes sense that we create own jobs. The DWP will fund such businesses through Tax Credits and even if we make a loss he assures us that these will continue to be paid and, perhaps best of all, we will still be eligible to claim Housing Benefits and will no longer have to attend the Jobcentre. Definite food for thought!

    Whilst the room was still cramped and we were again not allowed to access the computer facilities, the manners of our tutor were also much improved. There was a minor argument late in the day when a very young lady [I would estimate 19] became angry at not being allowed to visit the restroom in the middle of a lesson but other than that there were no incidents and the room was much more relaxed than it had been yesterday.

    That said, I am glad it is over and happy that I can now concentrate on getting back into work. Thank you to everyone for your support and kindness. Finally, to the poster who suggested I had somehow embellished my experiences- I do name the provider in my first post and if the owner of the blog would permit, I will happily email him / her copies of my referral paperwork for his publication.

    Thank you again.


    1. Sick of the Work Programme16 January 2014 at 02:38

      They should not be encouraging people to go self-employed in the belief that they can make up for lack of earnings through Working Tax Credits, as this could actually be fraudulent. This issue was investigated by BBC 5 Live last year:

    2. Extremely poor advice. The intention wasn't that DWP (actually HMRC) fund 'businesses' specifically set up to claim Tax Credits, and whilst I'm not an expert on Tax Credit recovery and fraud, it would be at the least go against the intention of the Tax Credit system to set up a non-viable business purely for that reason.

      I was at a meeting some time ago - around the time of the BBC programme linked to above, in fact - where David Freud spoke at some length about this. His perspective was (inevitably) that cases where people set up 'businesses' that are really hobbies and claim support for them is effectively scamming, rather than, as is often the case, people being gulled or bullied into it by DWP providers on a PbR contract, and he emphasised that whilst distinguishing between a growing business and a completely non-viable one might be difficult in the current regime, one aim of UC will be to address this. People establishing businesses will need to demonstrate seriousness of intent, and will, after 12 months, have an assumed income of 35 hours a week at the minimum wage, regardless of their actual earnings.

      Finally, apologies now if the above seems unduly negative. If your intentions are to set something up and give it a real go, then all power to your elbow - it's entirely right and proper that people with that genuine ambition get a measure of support.

  13. "The gentleman that led the presentation told us that if there were no jobs out there [which in my experience there are not] then surely it makes sense that we create own jobs."

    Did he go into detail on how we can "create" these jobs?

    "I had not realised that even if a business is making a loss that somebody in my situation can 'earn' more in Working Tax Credits than Jobseekers Allowance."

    So, you set up a business which is losing money but you can still earn more in Working Tax Credits...? And how long is this business losing money going to last? Also, what kind of business would you look to be going into?

    As "the poster who suggested I had somehow embellished my experiences" I still find most of what you say rather odd. And somebody being refused to use the restroom? Hmmm....

    1. " And somebody being refused to use the restroom? Hmmm...."
      This happened to me at one of A4e's NLP lead sessions. About an hour and a half into some mind blowingly inane presentation (harangue) I requested that I be allowed to go to the toilet, My request was refused with a curt "there's only half an hour till break". I got up, left the room. did the necessary and duly returned. No comment was made.
      I have never actually been locked into a room though.

  14. I have just accepted an offer of a job and the paperwork is in the process of going through. I was summoned to my WP provider and I told them this but I refused to give them my new employer's name or address. I was under the impression that there is no legal requirement that I do this. Today I have found that the provider has put a suspension (not a sanction) on my JSA until I provide them with the information. They did not tell me that they were going to do this. I thought that if I got a job while "under the care of my provider" regardless of whether they helped me find it or not they could claim government money but that they needed my employer's name to do this, which is why I refused to give it. Is this correct? The JSA suspension has also triggered a suspension of my Housing Benefit. My next move is....?

    1. The provider can, in theory, only recommend a sanction, not impose it - that's for the DWP. I have never heard of this kind of suspension, and I would appeal it immediately. The provider needs the employer's details to claim an outcome, and the pressure to get the money in may have driven them to this. But it doesn't seem legal to me.

    2. Next steps: Speak to your HB office immediately and ask how you can have your claim reinstated. This may mean making a 'nil income declaration' - use those words to them as (anecdotally) I've heard of LAs and JCPs making it difficult to access entitlements unless the relevant magic words are used.

      Secondly, appeal the suspension. The suspension may or may not have originated with the WP provider, but the decision always rests with DWP.

      I seem to recall hearing of examples of this where there had been concerns about people not providing details of employment (to JCP rather than the Work Programme). Given that the WP providers need the details to get paid, they're keen to get them and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that someone would act maliciously and / or outside the law to 'encourage' you or to teach you a lesson. It's sadly a bit of a free for all now - if you're JCP / a provider, I mean. Not for claimants, obviously.

    3. Were the JCP or your WP provider in any way instrumental in you finding and securing this job? If not I would be sure to include this in your appeal. Also write a letter to your provider (preferably send by recorded delivery) requesting a copy of anything that you have signed that states that you must provide them with details of a future employer.

    4. The JCP/DWP are the data controllers for the Work Programme and the providers are the data processors. Whilst this means little to many, the effect is even if you refuse or retract consent for the WP provider to contact an employer or share data with third parties, they still can. If you don't want a provider to know certain details about you, don't tell the DWP - When you sign off, there is no legal obligation to provide employer details to the JCP (or any WP provider).

  15. Not until the fat lady sings- as the old saying goes!
    An offer of a job is not the same as starting the job- sometimes a potential employer will make an offer verbally but will not follow through with an actual start - something may go wrong. Once you have a start date then I would approach your JCP/or provider for help- say you need new clobber, tools, fares until you get paid anything you can conceivably claim for do so- the provider will keenly give you expenses if they are sure they have a positive outcome from you - I believe you are also entitled to continuation of housing benefit until you are paid. Remeber to spread the word about the awful treatment the unepmloyed have to endure on this WP rubbish and if you have been sanctioned recently - formally appeal it before you start your job.

  16. How did you learn of this "suspension"!? Assuming it is not a bluff intended to frighten you into disclosing the information I recommend appealing ASAP. If you have been officially notified in writing I recommend that you also contact your local authority re Housing/Council Tax benefit. Say that you have "nil income" and the housing/council tax benefit should continue.

  17. I was asked recently by a WP employee "How come you feel,you deserve anything from us? You need to stand on your own two feet and find a job,it is your responsibility" After a bit of reflection,I realised he was right....But on that same premise,what is your purpose? And this is the problem,I no longer worry about employment,I worry about keeping the WP/JCP happy in order to keep them employed and cans of beans in my cupboard,

  18. Sian - if you've tried copying and pasting it into the box and it's being rejected as too long, then it's probably too long to be a comment. But, as you see, quite long comments get posted, so maybe you're not doing it right. From what you've said I wonder if this blog is the right place for it.

  19. I attended my third post WP appointment at the JCP yesterday,during the meeting I brought up training and was told by the adviser and manager that training was only available for new claimants who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or less,this makes no sense,has anybody else experienced this? The only option offered was a 9 week 9am to 330pm Mon-Fri employability course on CV building (9 Weeks?)

  20. @Gissajob - I learned of the suspension at the Job Centre when I was checking why my Housing Benefit had been stopped. I have received no official notification in writing from A4E and therefore have no documentary proof. I had not yet formally notified the DWP that I had received an offer for a job - there seemed little point until all the relevant paperwork had been completed. Neither the JCP nor the WP were in any way responsible for my having got this job


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