Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Work Programme failure - and mutuals

A4e appeared in the news yesterday on BBC as reporter Mark Easton went to Liverpool to look at how the Work Programme is working there. It was a frustratingly short piece, but got the essence of the problem. There are far too many people chasing far too few jobs. Two clients appeared; a young man with a criminal conviction, and a woman with qualifications. The only work available for the young man was shift work via an agency in a factory where conditions are notoriously bad. Easton put the point to the A4e manager that providers would inevitably cherry-pick, ignoring the hardest-to-help. All credit to the chap, he said that they didn't do that because it wouldn't be fair.

Patrick Butler of the Guardian keeps on the case with a piece about the failure of the WP to involve the voluntary sector as it's supposed to. A charity called New Deal of the Mind has a very good track record of getting young people into work in the arts and media. It is now signed up as a sub-contractor of A4e. But it hasn't had a single referral from A4e. Butler hasn't managed to get to the bottom of this situation, but there's some evidence that JCP isn't referring many young people onto the WP. The voluntary sector is caught in the trap of not being able to invoke the Merlin rules (which is supposed to ensure that primes treat their supply chain fairly) because they don't want to destroy the relationship they have, or want to have, with those primes.

There's an interesting piece on the Public Finance website. One of this government's big ideas was to push groups of public sector workers into forming "mutuals" - companies owned by their workers - and bidding for contracts. That last bit was rarely mentioned. But now the predictions of many people are starting to come true. A health sector mutual has lost out in bidding for a contract to a private company. This does not please Patrick Burns, director of something called the Employee Ownership Association. "If you don’t do something with the commissioning environment, then in five or ten years time you will not be dealing with mutuals, you will be dealing with (outsourcing companies) Serco, Capita and Virgin. Not that they are bad companies, but it’s not the point." Someone from the Cabinet Office pointed out that there are "expert mentors" in place to help "pathfinder mutuals". These mentors include A4e. At some point this is going to bring about another interesting situation.


  1. So did he get the job in the factory?

  2. Here's the provider guidance for the new "Community Action Programme":


  3. Thanks - essential reading. Lots of publicity about this, and I'll be posting about it.

  4. From the above document:
    "9. CAP work experience placements must deliver a contribution to the local community and must not displace what would otherwise be paid jobs."

    -well that's self defeating as any 30 hour a week job surely is otherwise paid employment for someone?

    "12. If a participant has a part time job you will need to take this into account when arranging the placement. However, you need to ensure that time spent on the placement is as close to full time hours (up to 30 hours a week) as possible. You need to take into account the time the participant spends travelling to ensure that they can maintain their part time work."

    - so actual paid work is still no substitute or a means to avoid this slavery?

    "In addition to providing the 30 hours per week participation on a work placement you should maintain at least a minimum of weekly contact with each participant and have the flexibility to deliver up to 10 hours of additional provider-led jobsearch support each week."

    - and claimants will, after each slave session then have to travel to their provider to spend a further hour on a computer (which they could probably do at home anyway). THis is, at best, a logistical nightmare.

    "A participant who is absent from their placement (e.g. short term sickness, domestic emergency etc), will still need to complete 30 hours work experience in that week to enable you to count this period as one of the completed weeks. If you cannot make arrangements for them to complete the hours missed you will be unable count this period towards your completion fee."

    - if a claimant is sick, the provider won't get any money for that week if the claimant isn't ruched out to make up the hours at some point that same week. Lovely.


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