Monday, 4 February 2013

Let's have a proper debate

Ever since the publication of the dreadful performance data for the Work Programme, the media have been doing a demolition job on the whole fiasco.  I applaud that, and I'm happy to have helped, as, I'm sure, have other bloggers.  We don't mind providing information and contacts to journalists.  We don't even mind that we never get an acknowledgement of our contribution.  I also applaud the fact that the Work and Pensions Select Committee has been taking evidence.  But last Sunday's R5Live programme demonstrated one of the problems.  There may be someone representing the providers, but the presenters don't always have the knowledge to challenge a misleading or inaccurate statement.  And if no one from the government will turn up (and they never do) we are left with a bland response which is not open to interrogation.  The same happens with newspaper articles.  A "DWP spokesman" gets the last word.
It's time for a genuine debate, a confrontation between those responsible for the Work Programme and those who know what's wrong with it.  Leave out the opposition politicians.  Labour has nothing to contribute to this debate; the Work Programme is in many ways simply a continuation of their own Flexible New Deal.  Leave out the civil servants.  Let's have Iain Duncan Smith or Mark Hoban and a representative of the providers facing someone like me (yes, I'd do it, but there are plenty of other people who could) and someone who has been on the receiving end and is knowledgeable and articulate enough to engage in the discussion.  If the government or the providers won't do it, then leave two empty chairs and let the other two relate the flaws in the scheme.  Don't read out a written statement.
It won't happen, I know.  The media have got used to a particular format, and whistle-blowers make good telly, they think.  But maybe .....


  1. A famous scientist refuses to be seen in a public debate with advocates of the creationist view of mankind. He takes the view that being seen on a platform with implies that there is a debate in the first place, when there isn't

    The Work Programme is obviously failing miserably to achieve any of its stated public objectives, and yet the government continues to throw money at the providers at a time when virtually every area of public spending is being cut.

    But is the Work Programme really about work for the unemployed, or does it have another purpose? The governments new Universal Credit will soon require all those claiming state benefits to account for how they spend the majority of their time, and will also carry draconian punishments for those who fail to comply with virtually any demand made of them.

    Is the Work Programme really about employment or is it it the nucleus of a system of social control?

    All indications show that there is an ever increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. In the absence of any evidence that this scheme is having any success in meeting its stated objectives, the only logical reason for continuing to spend billions on it is that it has another, unstated objective.

    1. Yes, I agree that there is a strong element of social control which I experienced being reflected on how my W2W provider treated me during my first meeting with them... and now that it is publicly known they have failed, the way I am being treated now. It would have been cheaper all round NOT to spend money on Work Programme providers in the first place... instead to give claimants free photocopy, postal and newspapers via the JCP offices (more helpful than Work Programme non-help)

    2. You have made some very good points. I have also seriously wondered what the real purpose of the Work Programme is - as others have also suspected, perhaps its main purpose is to push people off benefits by any means necessary. In November several national newspapers highlighted the fact that none of the Work Programme providers had reached their targets for getting people into work, but I would seriously question why the target was only 5.5% ?! Even if they had met their target, how can it be acceptable to keep on pumping billions of pounds of taxpayers' money at the providers for that sort of 'return'. There would be a public outcry if schools only had a target of 5.5% of pupils passing GCSEs, or if hospitals had a target of 5.5% of patients receiving a good standard of care, yet somehow it's acceptable for the public-funded Work Programme providers to have such a low target.

      The Work Programme is clearly a huge waste of taxpayers' money. Instead of throwing money at Work Programme providers, the Government could be creating jobs (as people have suggested before), or the money could be allocated to claimants to enable them to do training and education courses which lead to recognised qualifications. If the courses were at local colleges, the Jobcentre could arrange payment, or the claimant could pay for a course using money given to him/her by the Jobcentre, then be required to produce receipts to show that the money had actually been used for that.

  2. Count me in! I'd be more than willing and harpy to join in any debate against Smith or Hoban.

    Oh, they will use the fact that they make visits to branches of A4e, Working Links, G4s, Ingeus, Serco, et al. They will say they speak to staff. They will even claim to speak to clients. All stage managed and sanitised of course. They will use this to dismiss criticism and close down debate in the way the former Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, Tony McNulty (Labour) tried to with me on a phone in on Radio 5 Live a few years ago.

    And when the figures for their pet projects such as the WP inevitably show a poor result, they will delay publication and in the end use another set of figures to justify 'success', no matter how irrelevant.

    However, what ministers such as Smith, Hoban and their predecessors will never have is firsthand experience of W2W providers. Clients are increasingly backing up their experiences with written evidence and voice / video recordings.

    Ministers and the W2W sector do not want debate. Look at how the increasingly angry and frustrated Smith, Greyling (Hoban's predecessor), and Cameron attacked those opposed to workfare / MWA. They were called EXTREMISTS! Putting them in the same bracket as Abu Hamza and Abu Quatada?

    And just where was Smith or Hoban on Sunday? W2W providers offering potentially fraudulent advice is serious. The WP is THEIR responsibility. And yet they could not even have the basic decency to explain, apologise and act on the evidence uncovered. Under these circumstances, I too do not hold out too much hope of a debate any time soon.

  3. IF there was a proper discussion/debate then I would be up for it, I would even use my real identity. However they will never do this because they know it doesnt work.

    They are afraid of meeting those people they are sending there,because they have never had the experience and dont want to know what its really like. The fact that even an MP cannot just drop into these providers, that they are not monitored by any agency, gives them chance to set a stage. I dare any MP to just turn up to one of these places.

  4. You feel you have contributed to making this an issue that is being taken seriously, i read your blogs and often feel it is being written by someone that is trying to protect them selves and their benefits, can you please clarify your employment status! and more to the point what would you do given the chance, it is very easy to sit back and criticise without the answers. This is not meant to an attack on you but it is how i feel.

    1. You clearly haven't read enough of this blog to know the background, or to know how many times I have set out what needs to be done. When I am cautious about what I publish it's certainly not about protecting me (I'm retired) but about not posting unverifiable accusations or anything which would jeopardise the person making the comment.
      I don't intend to keep re-stating what you call "the answers", or to justify myself.

    2. Whats employment status got to do with free speach?

    3. Anon (5 Feb 2013 00:43) And just what are YOU trying to protect? What is YOUR employment status? Do you work for a W2W provider for example?

      And asking someone what they'd do is pretty lazy and pointless at this stage. Simply because it fails to address the fundamental problems at the heart of the WP (and previous schemes) and appears to make excuses for poor practice.

      Of course, one could say not having the WP would be more effective than the if it existed according to the recent published figures. There in part lies your answer!

    4. If Anonymous is hungry for facts, s/he can feast on the first-rate fact-fest here:

    5. My employment statusis full time and I have have worked delivering the Work Programme so I feel that my comments are justified and a valid contribution to this blog based on fact and first hand experience thank you very much!!

  5. With regard to The Five Live programme, the BBC journalist who led that (and who also led the Work Programme edition of The Report on R4) is (particularly by the standard of journalists who necessarily cover a broad remit) extremely wll informed and takes the time to speak to a range of people who have experience or insight into the WP. I've no idea if this has included historian, but do know that she's aware of this blog.

    I suspect the BBC's inherent wish to provide balance and not to drift into making assertions that can't be backed up by evidence means that the end result may be less forthright than many of us would like to see. I'm sure everyone is conscious that the BBC isn't a campaigning organisation, but I'd welcome a slightly less timid approach to a range of issues.

    As Historian writes, part of the problem with this is that DWP ministers (IDS in particular) rarely engage in anything like this and only occasionally put their head above the parapet, and then only in carefully controlled situations. Hoban plus officials will be giving evidence to the Work & Pensions Select Committee fairly soon, which will hopefully be an opportunity to get a little more than the pat responses that DWP produce as a matter of routine.

    Having said that, whilst I have a huge amount of respect for Dame Anne and some of her colleagues, I'm not convinced that this committee is as effective as some others, nor (I assume) will the current remit allow it to look more deeply into things, for example whether the Work Programme as a supply side intervention is the right sort of thing to be doing at all when the main challenge facing the job market is a shortage of demand. Considering what the cost of the Work Programme is - opportunity and in terms of cash, there are a range of potential alternatives that could have been considered.

    1. With regard to your first paragraph, I hadn't intended any criticism of the people who made the programme (and yes, I did speak to them). They were better informed than most. My point was simply that they couldn't respond to every bit of misinformation, such as the assertion that it's not the providers who "sanction" people.
      The rest, I completely agree with.

  6. IN response to Imatt, my current employment status is unemployed! Also i did used to work for a w2w provider and i agree the practice is poor, the service is poor and the previous and current payment models only push staff to earn income for the company not to deliver an effective service. Also they do as the Gaurdian stated only a few days make honest people "tell lies"

    I strongly beleive policy needs to be created locally and specifcally by local councils in response to their local issues, not 1 cap fits all.

    I do not want to attack anyone but i do feel for current w2w staff and would like to see more constructive action taken by the historian such as web based petitions, possibly a peacefull demonstration, I am remaining anon for personal reasons but i sometimes feel the historian with all his energy for the subject to start the charge!!

    1. You really have a nerve! There are petitions out there, including on the government's website - find them. There are demonstrations from time to time by activist organisations. I'm doing my bit. What are you doing?

    2. I could also say in response to Anon (5 Feb 2013 06:32) I am doing my bit too! I could go into details but won't just yet. Many others here and elsewhere are doing their bit too!

      If as you say you used to work in the W2W sector, and you agree the service is poor, what are you doing to get things changed, reformed or scrapped? I know realistically you can do little on your own. However, now is the time to make alliances with like minded peoples.

      As Ghandi famously said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world".

  7. Here's how it all works:

    1: Banker's donate larger amounts of money to fund the Conservative Party.

    2: The current government includes the Conservative Party.

    3: The banker's own many of the Private Providers such as Ingeus (owned by Delotte - a group of banker's in 'The City' of London).

    4: The Government pays large amounts of money to the bankers through the Private Providers using them as an excuse to make it look like their trying to find people work - (a front if you like - I'd call it money laundering).

    5: The poor sap's caught inbetween are the unemployed and disabled.

    There you have it, a vicious little circle, I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

  8. Simple question,that after a year still remains unanswered,what is available for the client? I have asked written and the replies are never forth coming.The front line staff on this programme are also the people that have to deal with the client face to face and from my experience are also shocked that their is little or no training available.A senior staff member attended a meeting between myself and my last adviser and his attitude was "No point in training as their are no jobs out there"

    1. mkmky:

      It's not about the client or finding people work, it's soley about making money.

  9. Historian i do not mean to offend you, i am clearly ill educated with the work being done and i will do further research, and in answer to your question what have i done, up to now very little. I ma however prepared to join forces with any like minded people to bring about change.

    I do have to say though, hotgirl 1 has it right, Thats why i think it should be brough local to try to avoid this. The governement see this as killing 2 birds with one stone, having an active policy(to publicise) to tackle unemployment, whilst lining certain pockets not only to the detrement of the job seekerdisabled claiment but to the staff these providers employ.

    I have done little untill this point for this cause but i am prepared too moving forward, I shall do some research and will let you all know my findings.

    Historian please accept my applogies, in essence i agree with you, i think we just maybe have a different way of communicating our beliefs.

    I think i could give you some very interesting information about certain behavours within w2w, Not to attack certain individuals but to further highlight a corrupt system.

    1. A couple of small details before I get to the meat of what you're saying.
      1) Can you give yourself a pseudonym to use on here. It's easy, just go to the drop-down box when you've typed a comment and hit Name/URL. Give yourself a nickname. It makes it so much easier than everybody being "Anonymous".
      2) Can you please hit the shift key when you type "I" so that it doesn't come out as "i". A minor irritation, but humour me.
      3) When you reply to a comment, can you do it by hitting "Reply" immediately under the comment. Otherwise it's difficult to follow an argument.
      Okay. It's very difficult to organise unemployed people. They've done it in Edinburgh, and in Ipswich, I think, there's a small band of demonstrators. A larger group organised quite quickly against workfare, as you remember, and got some changes. But how do you organise? Even printing fliers costs money. I believe that the activities of bloggers has actually been effective. I've had contact over the last few years with a number of journalists and researchers, and I know I've pushed things on by supplying contacts and background information. I know that both journalists and politicians read what's on the internet. The campaign has to be national.
      Any information you want to give us we will happily read. Just leave out anything that would identify a particular office or individual.

  10. I have a few moderately off topic but important questions.

    It's about personal security while on A4e premises.

    Does A4e run its Work Programme along side its work with ex-offenders on the SAME premises ?

    If so

    Does A4e and the government not have a duty of care to -
    a) the Under 25s who are on the Work Programme and the possible ramifications of influence of associating with ex-offenders?
    b) the ordinary members of the public participating on the Work Programme ,the Jobcentre brissels with security to both protect staff and members of the public if anyone 'kicks off' yet no such security is present in A4e premises.? This seems quite strange.

    If your future job requires you to have a clear and secure past then this assocation in some instances could compromise your position.

    1. So, according to you, it's dangerous to associate with ex-offenders? They should be separated from "ordinary members of the public"? Think about it before you post such silliness.
      As for visible security staff, I don't know. It's up to the managers whether they think it's necessary.

    2. The A4e premises I am obliged to attend to
      bristles with CCTV cameras, including cameras in the toilets. The latter is not illegal but guidelines state that signs should be displayed warning people of their presence. There are no such signs.

    3. Historian, sorry you have actually missed my point. I had been at a course where one chap kicked off and I discovered through the discussions that a good percentage of the attendees were ex-imates. That is an uncomfortable position to be in when you have been mandated to attend a course. The discussions mainly focused on ways of beating the system. In some ways that was encouraged by the instructor. Why is this acceptable ?

      CCTV can only deal with matter of the fact. It does not deal with issue that happen in realtime. CCTV does not protect it only records actions.I dont think the staff will be trained or licenced to deal with security problems.

    4. We had this discussion some time ago. The fact is, you could be sitting in any group of ordinary people without knowing that some of them were ex-offenders. And the point is that they are EX-offenders - they have served their sentence. To segregate them would be entirely wrong.
      If you feel that your experience is being distorted or harmed by the presence of some individuals, you could make a complaint.

  11. You may be interested to know JontyOC and a4e and others are planning on Work Programme 2 he said on twitter, how it will only be by payment by results Jonty Olliff-Cooper‏@JontyOC

    Getting stuck into creating our policy proposal for #WorkProgramme2 this week.

    1. Shoot me. Just shoot me now and end the suffering!! :(

      If they make a new WP you can bet your bottom... penny that they'll bring out a new raft of sanctions to go with it. Just you wait and see. The current WP has failed miserably and now they're going to award the providers with ANOTHER WP?!

      Sounds like a no-brainer to me. If they can't make the current WP work, they shouldn't even think about making another one.

    2. Hi The Anonymouse

      Surely Jonty O-C is too busy for all this? Surely the Tory High Command will have chosen/will choose Jonty to be their official candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Eastleigh?

      Last September, when I was bothering to follow young Jonty's Twitterings, he Twittered that Winchester is his "home town." Certainly, he is an Old Boy of Winchester College, which definitely rivals that other Great British Public School Cretinby.

      Winchester is only about 5 miles from Eastleigh, so Eastleigh would do very nicely for young Jonty, it seems to me?

    3. So a WP 2.0 is getting ready for the off long before they've sorted the bugs in WP 1.0! Unless of course WP is a mere service pack.

      On a more serious note, this is not entirely surprising. Is this not what was done with the equally disastrous New Deal turning it into the Flexible New Deal? Did many clients see an improvement? Of course not.

      If Smith and Hoban decide to go down this path, they should be made to explain why the WP in its current form needs modifying / tweaking.

    4. He said it will only be payment by results, and no doubt it will mean more money. Judi, this is a policy document for the government written by a4e/Jonty

      @JontyOC How come I have a feeling of dread when I hear that. I wonder how much money they will get to provide nothing.

      6mJonty Olliff-Cooper‏@JontyOC

      I will be arguing for zero @greenwoods4727, as I would suggest it should be fully paid by results


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