Wednesday, 19 February 2014


I've just heard Esther McVey lying about sanctions on Radio 4.  No surprise there.  The unemployment figures are out, and it's tempting for ignorant commentators to link the slight fall to the sanctions regime, in a simple-minded way.  Iain Duncan Smith announces even more restrictions on the ability of immigrants to claim benefits, standing on what he fondly imagines is the moral high ground; but he hasn't publicly replied to Archbishop Nichols, who is sticking to his guns.  No, he's left that to his mate Dave, who has claimed, in an extraordinary piece in the Telegraph, that the government is on a "moral mission".  He accuses the Cardinal of saying things which are not true.  "Mr Cameron insisted that no one would be left destitute by the welfare reforms and said the claim the basic safety net no longer exists is untrue."
Cameron misunderstands the concept of morality.  I'm tempted to refer to the Christian gospels, but I know that cuts no ice with a lot of people (it ought to with IDS, but apparently doesn't).  Morality starts with the way you treat individuals.  You do not sacrifice them to some self-appointed mission.  All the most monstrous dictators of the 20th century believed that individual suffering had no significance in pursuit of the grand plan.  I really don't know whether Cameron knows that he is not telling the truth when he makes his claims; but a moral person would take steps to check.  Instead, like all of his government, he has simply turned his back.  He might like to read an article in the Independent which reports a survey of GPs in their trade magazine, Pulse.  16% of the doctors have been asked to refer a patient to a food bank in the last year.  One Everton GP describes his experience of this in detail.  Hospital diagnoses of malnutrition have nearly doubled in the last 5 years, and academics have called it an emerging "public health emergency".  Now that, Mr Cameron, really is a moral matter.

Today, many people are staging demonstrations at the various offices of ATOS.  On Monday we read in the Guardian that a leaked document shows that the government is preparing to shove ATOS out of its WCA contracts.  They want, first, to bring in more contractors; and then to push ATOS out altogether.  But a competition lawyer is quoted as saying that it wouldn't be lawful, because they would have decided in advance that they were going to exclude one bidder from the tendering process.  While many would rejoice at the ousting of this company, the competition could only come from those on the government's "framework" of favoured companies.  And that means Serco, G4S, Capita and - yes - A4e.


  1. I think A4e decided not to bid for this last time citing conflict of interest with Work Programme.

    1. I don't recall that. But the same would apply to any company on the "framework".

  2. In my experience the the criteria to qualify is so hard no wonder so many people appeal (and win). The Coalition altered the descrptors to make it harder to qualify for those with sight problems in particular.


    The guardian also had this on the site today as well about sanctions going up. Seems to me that every time there's a reported decrease in people on JSA, there's also an increase in the number of people being sanctioned.

    I also notice the protests outside Atos aren't being reported by many if any, mainstream media outlets. I know there was a protest outside the one in my town given I went past it today, but our local paper hasn't got any of it up on the online pages.

    1. I've seen the sanctions figures, and will comment later. You're right about the media ignoring the Atos protests, although my local paper has reported it.
      By the way, people, there's a new "like" button under posts. Can I beg you to use it?

  4. Esther and friends Dave etc. will not discuss these sanctions and their effect on those that have to suffer from them; the parable being that it is good for them, and society, for claimants to suffer in some pecuniary way- much like a prisoner might have their privileges removed if they don't follow the prison's house rules, or a recalcitrant juvenile is kept back in school for misbehaving!
    The unemployment figures have shown a headline drop (year-on-year) of -0.6%, i.e. a 0.6% improvement since last year (see ONS-, this is the data that the government refers to, showing salvation is at hand and green pastures lie ahead. They quote these figures much like the weather man quotes the daily forecast- its something outwith our control - its a natural thing.
    Yet again a statistically minor fluctuation on an economic indicator is pounced upon to justify their draconian policies - look they are working - see we told you so- what are you complaining about - a price worth paying and so on...?
    Well ok unemployment this quarter has apparently fell a little then - but what about the quarter of a million sanctions handed out since July last year- what has this done for the claimants?
    Misery, poverty, economic chaos in many communities, family and health problems much like what the good Cardinal said. Further what is the government going to do about this 7% unemployment - nothing - just watch the figures wobble about some average and shout alleluia and smite the victims.
    I've ranted nuf - lets now look at wages for the believers- those in work ugh - not so good - well lets ignore that little economic inconvenience - ah the promised land - I see it cometh - I see it!!! _Tom

  5. It seems that Archbishop Nichols has received the support of 43 other bishops, 27 of them Anglicans, according to the BBC this morning:

    IDS & Cameron are describing Utopia, not real life.

    The vast majority of new businesses fail within three years. Therefore the deluded Utopians have NOT created some sort of new “enterprise culture,” either. The ONS are concerned about the unrealistic number of “new businesses” and Mark Carney is worried about it too.

    I’m not surprised that not many demonstrators stood outside Atos’ offices yesterday. People who are unwell or disabled cannot spend all day standing around on pavements and their doctors would all advise them not to attempt it.

    1. I suspect you're right. Most new 'businesses' are low-paid self-employed people who would formerly have been employed - cleaners, care assistants and so on, or people who've signed up to Working Tax Credit to avoid being harassed by JCP, or at the behest of a Work Programme provider.

      What the Tories are prone to herald as an entrepreneurial renaissance really looks like a rather problematic manifestation of an increasingly casualised labour market. This blog pulls together some interesting data:

  6. The Tories are now on the backfoot. They have lost control of their 'mission' and are having to defend the effects of their policies from all sides almost daily. Nobody believes that the economy is improving in fact recent figures suggest it is getting WORSE e.g.

    0.1% rise in RPI inflation
    0.1% rise in unemployment over the last month

    The Tories have absolutely failed to revive the economy. It is still desperate. Perhaps WORSE than it was four years ago. They have done absolutely nothing to help create jobs or tackle the housing crisis (which led to the financial crisis) or tackle financial criminality or tax avoidance. Indeed we are heading very soon for another meltdown because of the continued rise in personal and national debt.

    It has been a disaster and historians will look upon this govt. as a total and utter failure. I know plenty of WORKING people who are far worse off now than they were four years ago and ultimately that is what will count at the polls.

    Cameron and his idle rich friends (and the BBC) can spin the economic figures as much as they like but nobody believes them.

    1. Sadly, a great many people believe them. Even now, the government is controlling information.

  7. Discussing morality in Britain 2013 - a capitalist economy- is akin to holiday resorts in North Korea - an oxymoron.
    Badgers contribution above (flipchartfairytales) would seem to show that people are moving in droves from the punishing ordeal of claiming JSA to the relative calm of claiming tax-credits as self-employed!
    These charts also show that GDP is on the steady increase- a welcoming statistic often cited as personal wealth creation by Osborne. However you and I are not going to see any of that extra dosh - its scurried away under the guise of tax-avoidance to distant shores. The wealthiest 100,000 individuals in the world deposit 95% of their wealth in places beyond the reach of the revenues man.
    A study by the TUC (circa 2009) showed that some of the top FTSE 100 companies accounted for over £11billion of lost revenue to the treasury. Mr Cameron made a speech in 2013 that this was a problem that would be tackled but in the main was not serious!
    He did not mention that most of this wealth was tied up in British Dependencies, Cayman Islands, Guernsey or the Isle of Man etc. No mention of morality on that issue- hipocricy writ large.
    (ref: wiki:
    _ Tom

  8. I have just discovered your blog.

    Thanks for what you are doing,

    I cannot see a reference to Probation for quite some months now.

    A4E have recently been listed by the Ministry of Justice as approved to bid for five contracts for delivery of Probation Service work in Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, Hampshire and Essex.

    Do you have a comment please?

    1. Thanks. I'm not sure whether we published that list. I'm grateful to you if we didn't. It's now a matter of waiting to see which company gets what, and there's really not a lot to say until then. We know that it will be the same old story - lower-paid staff and a poorer service.

  9. Thanks for a speedy response.

    I am sure you are right - some readers of the On Probation Blog are in danger of having their contracts of employment transferred to A4E without them having the prospect of being made redundant if they refuse to work for them, due to The Ministry of Justice presumably believing A4E are in sufficient good standing to monitor the behaviour of a clientele who are themselves, already law breakers!

    Maybe you would be interested in posting a summarizing comment on the 'On Probation' Blog, to tell readers overall your opinion of the situation. Readers of that blog have been focusing on the flawed and dangerous procedures the MOJ are instituting rather, than up to now, the behaviour of any potential contract providers.

    Though as Serco, and G4S are already known in Criminal Justice there has been some attention on them - due to having unresolved fraud investigations - as far as I am aware - Serco and G4S are not first stage bidders, though it is suspected they maybe allowed in later as sub-contractors are allowed.

  10. CPA map here, if it's of interest: - I see that the list is on the blog (which looks excellent, by the way) but a map might help non-TR types understand it a little better.

    For what it's worth, I think the post you've linked to highlights the main problems, which are less to do with one potential provider (for what it's worth, in my estimation A4e are about par for a pretty poor & discredited sector, are better than some and have some decent people) and more about the whole model. With the withdrawal of G4S & Serco at prime level (not an endorsement at all, but they do have the size to deliver if not the necessary skills, ethos & competence) the whole thing is starting to look a little Mickey Mouse.

    TR is a dangerous experiment, based on madcap ideology and untested assumptions. The idea that a large new extra cohort can be moved into probation, whilst bringing in new providers and running a pretty shonky payment model that can be at best described as optimistic and at worst may find new ways to drive down performance, is crazy.

    historian is right about the lower pay and a poorer service. Unless someone out there has a bright idea that the very committed and bright people working in probation have overlooked (and I suspect nobody does), there's no other way that the more people / lower cost combination can work. This will end in tears.

    There's also a problem with proportionality, but that can wait for another day.

    Arguably the biggest problem is that it's a one-time deal. If a service is already outsourced to the private or VCSE sector, you can scrap a poor contract relatively easily. Dismantle probation, and it'll be difficult if not impossible to put it back together again.

    Mildly diverting to wonder what would have happened if Cameron had shown some backbone and IDS had ended up at MoJ instead of Grayling. Overall direction would probably be the same, but possibly accompanied by a level of incompetence that would have left probation safe until after the election.

  11. See that to get a 40 hr a week job these days is not to visit JSA land or goto W2W providers like A4E, but instead commit a serious crime, get sentenced to a new style MoJ prison run by Sodexo. There you will get 40-hrs a week working for DHL as a printer- not sure if you'll get paid though. Not much different from working for some employers outside prison it seems.
    PS thanks for Andrew for his link through to the probation blog- maybe Historian should rename this blog Watchinga4enSodexotoo! _Tom

  12. Just when you thought this rotten government could sink no lower than a worms nether regions:

    That's right. Appeal a decision such as a sanction and it could soon end up costing you due to the government wishing to charge claimants for challenging a decision. Putting you further into debt beyond what the sanctions already did. If this is sanity, then declare me mad. Wibble!

  13. The BBC say that Atos have announced a wish to terminate their WCA contract early:

    Mmmm. This is embarrassing for IDS and the McVague woman, I suspect.

    1. Will you lot stop pre-empting my posts :)


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