Monday, 5 May 2014

Back to work?

It's back to work tomorrow - assuming you have any work to return to.  So what has been going on over this rather disjointed few weeks?

On the outsourcing front, I would have said until an hour ago not very much.  A4e set up a new website, reminding us of one of the less well known aspects of their business - "Independent Living Services".  This all began 9 years ago when local councils had to offer direct payments for social care, so that users could shape their own care packages and employ people directly.  A4e were quick to see an opportunity here and scooped up contracts.  It didn't always work out well; Middlesborough council was not happy with how the contract was delivered and brought it back in-house.  But the company is now running the show in 15 areas.  Let's hope the website doesn't herald the regrowth of all those websites A4e used to have before the makeover.
There's now a new privatisation in the pipeline (although A4e won't be involved in this one).  The Guardian has the story that the land registry is to be flogged off.  That may not mean much to many people, but it's the body which keeps all the records of who owns what land and property in this country.  The paper says: "Former executives from the body ....... say that a sell-off 'beggars belief' because it will allow the private sector to adjudicate on what can be conflicting interests between sellers, buyers, lenders and neighbours."
George Monbiot, writing in the Comment is Free section of the Guardian, may have been reading this blog.  If not, he's one of the few who has picked up on the fact that G4S must have been bidding for contracts while it was supposedly banned.  He says: "Was it ever banned at all?  Six days after the moratorium was lifted G4S won a contract to run HMRC services.  A fortnight later it was chosen as one of the companies that will run the government's Help to Work scheme.  How did it win these contracts if in the preceding months it wasn't allowed to bid?"  Quite right.  But why have so few journalists picked up on this?

A story doing the rounds in the press tonight seems shocking to some, but unsurprising to many.  Labour MP Sheila Gilmore asked the wretched Esther McVey a question about sanctions and got a worrying answer.  At the moment JSA claimants are not required to apply for zero hours jobs.  Under Universal Credit they will be.  Jobcentre "coaches" will be able to force people to take such work, on pain of having their benefit stopped.  (See the Guardian.)  The DWP confirmed this.  Gilmore pointed out that this would stop people taking training courses to improve their prospects.  Others have said that people will be caught in a trap; told to increase their hours or be sanctioned while unable to increase their hours.  But this was always part of the point of UC, in the wonderful world of Iain Duncan Smith.


  1. People will take only so much.....................

  2. It seems that Parliament’s only real objection to casual labour (aka “zero hours contracts”) is when the contract precludes the casual labourer from doing two or more jobs. Therefore it is probable that UC claimants will be forced to abandon this one type of “zero hours contract,” on pain of sanctions if they disobey.

    For the minute, I suspect, it is possible to get round this by declaring onself to be “self-employed” instead. The zero hours employer is merely the first of one’s own customers/clients. Ergo, “Get on with it, HMRC, and hand over those Working Tax Credits.” However, I believe that the proposed UC scheme will do away with WTC.

    1. Might be worth some caution declaring yourself as self employed. HMRC are very picky about what they will allow. If you only have one person giving you work and they dictate what time it starts/finishes, where you work, what breaks you take, then it's not going to be easy explaining that to HMRC when it's time to file your tax return.

      I think we will see a huge stretching of the definition of the word "exclusive" when it's applied to these type of contracts.

    2. I am in the process of setting myself up as self employed. And yes, with one customer HMRC will not allow you to be self employed - you're that customer's employee.

      I had to explain this at an interview where there was the option of me doing either full time hours as the sole employee or part time hours (with somebody else) and the interviewer was saying they wanted me to be classified as self-employed. I'd have been happy with either as I could easily have made up the remaining hours if I was part time, but sadly didn't get the job

    3. Hopefully I will be starting a job,25 hours a week,in order to claim Working Tax Credit I need 30 hours,can I set up a Window Washing Co and work 5 hours a week self employed (only have 3 customers) ???????

  3. Is Universal Credit ever going to be fully rolled-out? My understanding is it would pay any benefit entitlement automatically but you would also need to meet your Job Seekers Agreement ie look for and apply for jobs etc. Why not go back to something like Income Support to "top-up" your income?

  4. What a coincidence! The government announce (again) that the Independent Living Fund is to be abolished (new entrants were stopped a while ago) and lo and behold A4e have decided to push their independent living service. Nothing dodgy going on there surely?

  5. They are two totally different things, Lucy.


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