Thursday, 6 March 2014

UJM and slumming

I was composing a reflective piece on the last six years; but two news stories yesterday are more important.

First, of course, there's Universal Job Match.  It's not news to us, or to thousands of people, but because Frank Field MP has spoken out the media are taking notice.  There are articles in the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror and the Huffington Post  which tell the story.  Channel 4 News are running a story on it, and I think the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine programme has already done a feature.  So, mercifully, this scandal is now out there, and there has to be action.  What the DWP should do (but won't, obviously) is to take the site down immediately.  They can't tinker with it because it's owned and run by a private company, so Monster should be sued for breach of contract.  If it's possible, revert to the old site which compiled vacancies from all the jobcentres.  It worked.  If not possible, then chuck out the idea of a single site altogether.  Jobseekers should be immediately freed from the obligation to use UJM.

The second bit of news is horribly depressing.  The BBC have commissioned another entertainment series from the people who brought you Benefits Street, to be called Famous, Rich and Hungry.  Yes, we all have fond memories of a previous effort, Famous, Rich and Jobless, which gave A4e's Emma Harrison the chance to swan about looking as if she knew what she was doing.  For an opinion on the latest offering I can't do better than Tanya Gold in the Guardian.  
Just as the government has reverted to Victorian attitudes towards the poor, so have the rich reverted to a very Victorian practice - slumming.  It got going in the 1880s, particularly in the East End of London.  It was a form of tourism, with the wealthy going amongst the slums seeking excitement and illicit thrills.  Some went out of genuinely altruistic motives, to do good works, but for many it was just a fun night out.  So it is with the media today.  Such a pity that the BBC thinks that this sort of "entertainment" is appropriate.

Before these two stories broke, Frances Ryan wrote an excellent piece in the New Statesman.  The case she makes is strengthened today.


  1. I have always been cautious when using the UJM site, I removed all identifying data from my cv, No phone numbers or email addresses except the ONE i only use for UJM, I use it for No other thing. I was always worried because i read about that serial killer in america who used a jobs page to advertise a false job and the people called for interview was murdered, Always thought it is dangerous to just let anyone post any advert without the job centre knowing they are real companies. recently one of the people i know a young woman went for a job and was felt up by the interviewer, She couldnt say anything to the job centre because she was afraid they would think its just an excuse to avoid working, How many other people could be in such a position. It worries me.

  2. I am sitting and contemplating why I have been unable to secure employment,listening to and reading statements by the likes of IDS and Ester McVee it is obviously my own fault as I am a scrounger not a striver...But lets look at the facts,I worked for 32 years without a problem,the economy tanked,but I could take some assurance that help was available to help me back into employment through the DWP/JCP+ Year 1 and I was able to find two short term temp jobs,the problem with this was that you started back on the bottom of the list for training and then funding was stopped because the WP was starting up..Year 2 and 3 on the WP,no training or support,excuses were constantly changing "We need time " "No funding" "you need to find a job" the WP has failed on every level,broken its minimum performance contract,yet no penalty,,,, Year 4 returned to the JSA for Post Work Programme Support "Everybody returning will be expected to be in Training,Education or a Work Placement" A team of specialist advisers will act as a Hit Squad,,,,6 Months on? Still no training,education or any help available....So who is Bull£hitting who? What is all the money being spent on? Every programme that IDS touches costs hundreds of Millions and ends in disaster,yet he still has an income(I refuse to call it a job) UJM/WP/Bedroom Tax/ Most people on this blog predicted that it would fail 4+ years ago,have any MP's actually visited a JC or WP provider?

    1. On your last point, yes. Only this week a PR piece popped up on a couple of local papers in, I think, Doncaster, where the MP had visited A4e and seen what a splendid job they're doing.

    2. remember awhile ago there was a story about people being sent out for "job search" and getting ringers in when a MP was visiting, even staff members pretending to be job seekers.. Faced with an impromptu visit by inspectors from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), Amy, who worked for the company for six years and was in charge of 23 staff, needed to act quickly.
      ‘I had to stage-manage a completely bogus training session, complete with a fake chart. It was awful. It was all lies, a facade. We just pretended,’ she admits.
      She was told to borrow people from another A4e course in the building and persuade them to claim — if they were asked — they were attending her course. She says: ‘I was told: “Don’t worry about it. Get the training room sorted. It will be fine.”

    3. The 'no funding' line is one that comes out often, and suggests either that staff are not being entirely frank, or that they don't understand the model. Either seems plausible.

      The whole point of the WP was that providers would spend (invest) their money, in the expectation of making a return. In essence, they'd bring their own funding with them, in most cases by borrowing. It wasn't that they'd be living hand to mouth on revenue and consequently unable to make that sort of investment.

      There are some fairly legitimate reasons for some of the difficulties - lower than expected performance being one (not helped by the economy) and the Work Programme (correctly) not being considered investible being two big ones. But most business activities involve investment and a degree of risk - imagine a restaurant that didn't bother selling anything other than bread and oil because there was no 'funding' for anything else. They might be able to keep the doors open by basing themselves somewhere cheap and employing few and unskilled staff, but they wouldn't gain many stars.

      Saying 'no funding' suggests either that they're trotting out a convenient excuse, or alternatively, that they just don't get the concept. In all likelihood, it's the former, but I've met many fairly senior WP provider managers who don't seem to understand and are still in the mindset where 'funding' = revenue = payment for doing things rather than achieving results.

  3. I saw a piece the other day by Rachel Johnson, writing in the Independent:

    Had she been on her “poverty safari” wearing those earrings, I wondered? If the earrings are real gemstones, they are worth around £300,000. If they are fake then why does Ms Johnson want to resemble a Christmas tree? Tania Gold depicts Ms Johnson looking miserable eating corn flakes with a fork, it appears.

    Is the new BBC TV series a new, cheap way of presenting the other one where minor celebrities hung around in a jungle clearing in Queensland?


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