Thursday, 27 November 2014

Marking time

Right, I'm back.  Sorry about the hiatus.  What has been going on in my absence?

On the A4e front, very little.  There is no news about the fraud trial, which surely should have finished by now.  But FE Week reports that the £17m London prison education (OLASS) contract, which A4e gave 3 months notice of handing back in August, will continue in A4e's hands until the new year, because the Skills Funding Agency can't find any college willing to take it on.  This seems to back up A4e's claim that the contract was no longer viable.  The prison system is in such a mess that prisoners are being shifted around too often to make education possible.  

On the wider subject of "welfare", I don't need to detail the antics of Iain Duncan Smith.  He was on Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday, setting out the new timetable for Universal Credit.  Mishal Hussein, who interviewed him, raised the obvious points about missed targets and wasted money.  Now for IDS, that is not how the BBC should behave.  The interviewer should just listen respectfully to whatever fantasies he chooses to spout.  I feared for Hussein at the time.  And sure enough, the next day IDS was reported to have lodged a complaint about her being "negative".  At the same time the National Audit Office warned that any further delays in UC would be hugely costly.  It said that there were no contingency plans to deal with delays.

There's a report in the Independent today about single parents being wrongly threatened with sanctions, or having those sanctions imposed.  I was struck by the blatant lie in the DWP's response: "Sanctions are a necessary part of the benefits system but they are only used as a last resort for a tiny minority who don’t follow the rules and hardship payments are available if people need them.”  This is utterly dishonest propaganda.  But then, if the man at the top of the department is a fantasist it's going to permeate the whole organisation.


  1. Smith is indeed one warped individual. He somehow believes he should be able to meander through his political career without being ever questioned or challenged. Thus he attacks a journalist for being 'negative'. Most would say she was simply doing her job.

    This from the Independent:

    "A single mum who had her jobseeker’s allowance stopped for three months after turning down night shift work because she could not find suitable childcare"

    This does not fully explain what ''could not find suitable childcare'' means of course. But it either means inappropriate or far too costly. So what was she supposed to do? Leave her kids to fend for themselves until she came home in the small hours? Pay for childcare that would leave her much worse off? I have a sister who was until recently paying over £700 A MONTH for her daughters childcare! Fortunately she has a well paid job. How can someone on NWM expect to be able to cope?

    It is not just the warped Smith who lies about sanctions of course. The equally out of touch Cameron also repeats the lie at PMQ's about how sanctions are used as a last resort for those ''who refuse to look for work''.

    1. I was told to leave my 14yr old daughter and do night shift work. Luckily, I live in a rural area and they accepted that buses didn't allow me to do that.

      I became self-employed in August and JCP assured me there would be no problems with reduced earnings during the winter because the council does a 3 monthly assessment...... For some reason the council over-estimated my earnings based on the projected 3 monthly figures I gave them, so right now they stopped the housing and council tax benefit which means I am expected to pay £550 a month rent, and £105 council tax. It being the down season for gardening I am now earning the same as or less than on JSA a week, but can't get a temporary job because of having no transport. And the housing association has just sent a final warning that if the rent isn't paid they'll start legal proceedings. The council is dealing with my claim as an appeal, but it being Xmas it won't be done until January. So we've had no heating and no hot water for the past month because I can't afford to pay for everything, and Christmas won't be happening.

      I suppose the Tories never said who work actually paid did they? They just left you to think they meant the people doing it......

    2. That's appalling. Have you been to the CAB? Your MP?

  2. When my JSA was stopped (clerical error) I asked about a hardship payment and was told that I needed to go to the Council for a voucher for a food bank as Hardship payments /crisis loans were no longer available,were they telling porkies?

  3. a4e Court case
    Reading 2 T20130595, T20137362 T20147015
    Hayley Faye Wilson
    Ines Cano-Uribe
    Matthew Hannigan-Train
    Sarah Hawkins
    Serge Wyett
    Yasmin Ahmad
    Zabar Mehmood Khalil
    Details: Trial (Part Heard) - No Event - 10:26
    Trial (Part Heard) - Witness Number 995 Continues - 12:14
    Trial (Part Heard) - No Event - 12:47
    Trial (Part Heard) - Case adjourned until 14:00 - 13:04

    its still being heard today..

    1. These people have been on trial for over two months!! Does anyone know how much they are alleged to have fiddled? Also, any details of what they said in their evidence?

    2. The trial is still adjourned. No details have been reported yet.

    3. What has happened? Cannot find the case anywhere now!!

    4. The jury retired on Friday. It's not listed today, and I can't find any sentence handed out.

  4. Hope all is well, Historian.

    I think hardship payments are still available but funding has been cut, therefore in practice, you are unlikely to get them.

    With reference to the DWP statement on sanctions:

    'Sanctions are a necessary part of the benefits system'.

    If that is true then why are they only applied to unemployment benefit and not other types of benefit?

    'They are only used as a last resort'.

    Not true. They are used as a FIRST resort as they use the threat of sanctions to force claimants onto meaningless courses, Workfare and low-paid work.

    '[Sanctions are applied] for a tiny minority'.

    Again, a lie. One million claimants have been sanctioned.

    '[Sanctions are only applied to those] who don’t follow the rules'.

    This ignores the fact that the rules are petty and applied without any common sense.

    'Hardship payments are available if people need them'.

    Again a lie. Hardship payments are being replaced by Foodbanks.

    Whoever made the above DWP statement is a liar and is deliberately misleading the British public.

    1. '[Sanctions are only applied to those] who don’t follow the rules'.

      This one is particularly apt as it applies to both sides of the fence. I have been following a case of an ESA.SG claimant that has had to fight sanctions following invalid benefit doubts raised by a WP provider. The provider and the DWP have failed to 'follow the rules' and will not suffer any sanctions themselves as a result.

  5. Hmmm, typed a post then it vanished.

    Anyway, the discretionary social fund (primarily crisis loans and CCGs) was 'localised' in April 2013 and the money given to councils. They set up a range of different schemes, generally combining limited access to cash with in-kind support (e.g. white goods and via funding to local food banks).

    Most of the schemes were poorly promoted and not particularly visible, and some local authorities (initially) set eligibility criteria that would have excluded vulnerable people in acute need - e.g. people who had been sanctioned, who had difficulty in budgeting or otherwise had chaotic lives - the underserving poor, in other words.

    Awareness of and access to these schemes was further complicated by JCP continuing to provide loans in some circumstances, and a tendency for JCP to send people to their LA, and LAs to send people to JCP.

    Helpfully, CPAG helpfully collated all the local schemes - available here:

    However, you'll have to be quick - current plans are that separate funding for these schemes will end in March, and research by the Local Government Association suggests that most schemes will be significantly scaled back or closed completely if that happens.

    CPAG and others to the government to judicial review. Consequently, the government was made to run a consultation about the schemes, but it only consulted on how to end funding, not whether to end it. We should find out the outcome next week, as it'll need to be done in time for Wednesday's Autumn Statement - 7 working days after the consultation closed.

    As for sanctions, a couple of observations. As above, the numbers appear to have stabilised (for JSA) but an incredibly high level - 7% of the JSA caseload per month are referred for a sanction. For ESA, it's more like 1% but the numbers are growing exponentially, with over 60% of ESA sanctions falling on people with mental health problems or a learning disability. As always, the Work Programme continues to result in more sanctions than job outcomes.

    The claim that sanctions are used as a last resort also doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. As I'm sure most here know, it's usually a case of sanction first and ask questions later; for many people, the first they know about it is when an expected payment doesn't come through.

    The Work and Pensions Select Committee has launched an inquiry into sanctions, and there are still a couple of weeks to get submissions in:

  6. I am a single parent on the work programme, A4e and have been terrified of being sanctioned, because boxes have been ticked on my UJM a/c `job doesn`t match my interests', without my prior knowledge or consent! which, according to info online, is a referral for a sanction. I made a complaint to Sheffield Head Office, who said they would reply with the outcome of their investigations.

    That was in March. I have carried on using UJM and it has happened again, so I plucked up courage to make a complaint. I am struggling with all of this and my mental health as suffered greatly.

    I commented that I was fully aware of the devastation, deaths, and suicides that have been attributed to the DWP/Work Programs. A4e wont deal with the complaint and are referring it to the job centre. Scared now that am in big trouble and trying not to crack up!

    1. Does anyone know how this could happen?

    2. If in doubt, change your password so that no one else can log in to your UJM account. Whilst you are at it, for heavens sake, uncheck the "allow DWP access" boxes. Start presenting your job search activities as hand written logs with printouts of emails/applications and screenshots of UJM - Should the JCP threaten you with a sanction for doing this, refer them to the Universal Job Match Toolkit (the DWP manual that every adviser should have read) - It quite clearly states that it is up to the claimant as to how job search activity is presented and you can not be mandated to allow access to your UJM account.

    3. Is this the 'Or tell us why you don't want to apply for this job'? Just ignore it. Just log jobs you apply for.

    4. I accidentally deleted the latest response, so here it is in copy and paste form: "I did all of this, which is why it`s so shocking, the hairs on my neck stood up. I ignored it, didn`t do anything about it. Then it happened again. Hence my complaint. No investigations have been made, I made another complaint. Against my better judgement, as have made a complaint before at j.c. and got put on weekly signing.

      Screenshots should have been taken. I know that now, but I don`t know anyone with an I phone. Can my comments that have been deleted, be retrieved by IT Expert?"

    5. To grab (or capture) a "screen shot" does not require an iPhone. You can do it simply by pressing the 'PrtScr' key to capture the entire desktop, or by pressing the 'Alt' & 'PrtScr' key combination to capture the current active window. The image will be saved to the clipboard which you can paste in to Paint or Word to save or print.

      If my description is confusing, do a search for "how to take a screen shot", and plenty of online tutorials will be found.

      As for the `job doesn`t match my interests' entry in UJM, I suspect it might be the default entry. If in doubt, always give another reason before looking at another "job" vacancy.

    6. Hello again, single parent here. I have had a ph call from A4e, regarding my complaints above. He has completely baffled me by telling me I need to contact the Manufacturers of UJM!!?? Also to contact my Adviser at the job centre. I tried to explain to him that I do not have an Adviser at the job centre, as I am on the Work Program. As far a I am concerned my Adviser is at the Work Program to deal with all my enquiries.

      I am currently on my 5th Adviser, and have had 3 different ones in the space of a couple months. My next appointment is on the 16th, and I have asked if I can see him to discuss this. I fear it will be a total waste of time as this ph call from him proves that I am going to be fobbed off and spoken to with ridiculous statements, and not going to get anywhere. I will state my time has been well documented at A4e, I am well aware of what is going on, and because of this I have tried to cover myself with emails, when I received ph calls from an Adviser, asking me where am I, when I have received no notification of an appointment.

      Please: Is there any way that my comments on UJM can be retrieved by
      IT Expert?

      I have also received email that a manager from A4e, will be dealing with the first line of my complaint!

  7. Yup, still checking the court updates daily. Witnesses are still being heard, although at least one of the defendants has been adjourned until next year.

    Found this about one of their whistleblowers taking them to tribunal


  9. The judge is currently summing up in the A4e fraud trial!

    1. Jury have just retired to consider verdict!!!

  10. How do you know the jury are out?!

  11. There's a drop down that you click on and it tells you what's happening in the current session in court. Jury retired at 11.16 this morning.

  12. Its been announced officially that Manchester College is taking over London OLASS contract effective from the 1st February 2015.

  13. Jury are still out considering their verdict!!


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