Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ignorance is bliss

Have you ever wondered why so few people know what's going on in "welfare" these days?  Ever shouted at the radio or TV when someone pontificated on, say, the Work Programme without appearing to have any knowledge of the subject?  Ever despaired at the sheer ignorance of most people about unemployment?  Then you might have been cheering this morning when the Today programme on Radio 4 decided to look at whether all that self-employment in the latest job figures is genuine.  Two experts were asked; one was a woman whose name I forget, the other Professor Roy Sainsbury.  I'd never heard of him, which is a pity because he's head of the Social Policy Research Unit at York University - and he knows what he's talking about.  Speaking lucidly and quickly (important if you want to get your point across without being interrupted) he pointed out that Work Programme providers were pushing people into spurious self-employment because it enabled them, the companies, to claim for a job outcome under PbR.  Cue astonishment from John Humphrys, who was doing the interview.  "You mean they get paid for it?" he gasped.  And well he might.  When did you last hear a clear and honest examination of anything this government is doing in the name of "welfare reform" on the BBC?  Oh, I know they've looked at food banks, the bedroom tax etc., but always with a timid eye on "balance" for fear of IDS launching another complaint.  At least Humphrys learned something new this morning.

However, the government's apparent ignorance about sanctions cannot be excused.  They have repeatedly been confronted with real cases of people being punished for trivial or non-existent offences, by Labour MPs and others, but have insisted that it's not true.  That has become more difficult since the Mirror published revelations on Tuesday.  Iain Duncan Smith, along with Esther McVey and Neil Couling, head of Jobcentre Plus, attended a meeting last week with a whistle-blower who has worked for the DWP for more than 20 years.  The man told them, "“The pressure to sanction customers was constant.  It led to people being stitched-up on a daily basis.”  He went on "“We were constantly told ‘agitate the customer’ and that ‘any engagement with the customer is an opportunity to ­sanction’.”  The targets, he said, are sometimes referred to as "expectations".  And this led to managers stitching up claimants by altering their appointments without telling them so that they missed the appointment and were sanctioned.  They were told to "inconvenience" the clients and to regard them as scroungers.  It's a horrific account.  And now the Labour MP Debbie Abrahams is agitating for an independent enquiry into sanctions.  It won't happen, of course.  

There's one area of outsourcing on which most of us prefer to remain ignorant.  Read Polly Toynbee's Guardian piece headed "Now troubled children are an investment opportunity".


  1. Disturbingly, the first comment on this post was spam from a payday loan company!

  2. "Let’s inconvenience the customer’'

    A despicable level of double speak. Referring to jobseekers as customers has often struck me as odd considering a customer usually purchases or barters for a product or service. And as a result has certain rights.

    To inconvenience 'customers' is a phrase that can only come from the rogue and dysfunctional DWP. Where else in the public or private sector could managers get away with saying that? And indeed expect to get away without customer complaints, boycotts and voting for an alternative.

    To stitch up and mislead jobseekers is underhand, dishonest and just plain nasty. Unless Labour (who still need to apologise for failures such as the New / Flex New Deal) state how they will banish such deception and weed out such unscrupulous individuals, then on can possibly see why sections of society feel fed up and ignored. They either move to extreme politics such as the BNP and UKIP (neither of which are the answer) or don't bother engaging at all.

  3. Why would they listen to a whistle - blower about things they instigated themselves.

  4. Hi Historian,

    Just a head's up, but I think it might be worth you posting on this:

    1. I did post on this, I think, back in March. But nothing has been heard of the plans since.

  5. The R4 Today interview was short but worth a listen.

    How dare John Humphrys be surprised at WP providers being paid up to £thousands for forcing WP victims to declare themselves self-employed, and not much else. He's done enough programmes on benefits and unemployment that he should know better.
    What does he think the WP victims have been complaining about for over 2 years.

    Starts near the end at 2:55.

    Contact form for anyone wanting to educate him/them.

    1. Thanks for that Simon. I did as you suggested and posted this on the link provided:
      Re This Morning and John Humphrys' seeming incredulity at learning that private sector Work Programme providers get paid (extremely well). How could he be so ignorant? Workfare and in particular the disastrous and expensive Work Programme has been around for three years now so he should have a basic grasp of its realities - it is after all a "flagship" Government policy! Perhaps someone at the BBC needs to look at Channel 4 News to see how this important subject should be covered.
      However Professor Roy Sainsbury was excellent in the limited time afforded to him.


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