Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ho, ho, ho says Iain Duncan Smith

There was a debate in parliament yesterday on food banks.  You might have missed this, because only the Mirror and the Independent reported it.  The BBC ignored it completely - I wonder why.  The debate was forced by a petition started by blogger Jack Monroe which received 143,000 signatures; but the Tories treated it with contempt.  The Mirror's report is fascinating (start at the bottom).  IDS didn't speak, leaving it to Esther McVey (who is rapidly proving herself to be the most stupid person ever to become a minister).  Both of them left the debate after an hour, a departure noted as "unusual" by Speaker Bercow.  Tories apparently smirked throughout, bursting into laughter at stories from Labour MPs of the hardship forcing people to food banks.  Labour's Sir Gerald Kaufman described McVey's speech as the nastiest he had heard in his 43 years as an MP, according to the Independent.  All that effort put in by Monroe and others achieved nothing, because the Tories are impervious to criticism, and because the public didn't get to hear about it.
The Guardian's website yesterday carried an excellent, though depressing, article on the impact of all the government's austerity measures.
The latest Work Programme figures are out.  The headlines are a bit confusing.  They say that after 2 years around 22% had achieved a job outcome.  But then they say say that 1 in 6 "who had spent sufficient time on the programme to do so" had achieved a job outcome, and that's only 16.7%.  Use the tabulation tool to get tables.  A4e seems to have performed at about average.  We'll have to wait till January to see what effect this has had on A4e's finances.


  1. Hello watching a4e, sorry maybe off topic but maybe of interest. Over have posted that the government have short listed A4E to run probation for low medium risk offending. So its nice to know that they will be fucking up probation as well as the work programme.

    1. Anybody read -

    2. Agreed Historian. The reason I'm a fan of this blog is that however vile the topics of discussion may be, we all remain civil and polite- even when an F-Bomb or two may perhaps be necessary.

    3. I can just see IDS and McVey sitting in the commons with their fingers in their ears like 'la, la, la, la, la'. Childish.

      Ignoring problems does NOT solve them.

      BTW what is the definition of a job outcome, is it 7 days?

    4. Sick of the Work Programme19 December 2013 at 12:00

      I dread to think what it might be like if A4e are awarded any sort of contract to deliver probation services. An ex-offender who regularly attends the same jobsearch sessions as me has voiced his dissatisfaction on several occasions about the service (or rather lack of it) provided by A4e. A major frustration for him is that he knows that learning to drive could make a big difference to his prospects, but A4e will not fund that. I know of someone else who has been on the Work Programme with them who put himself through driving lessons shortly after getting some work in his immediate locality. Once he was qualified to drive, he was able to get more work outside his immediate locality, something which he no doubt could have been doing sooner if A4e had been willing to fund driving lessons for him.

  2. I am utterly certain that the latest work programme figures count sanctions among those who have 'had a job outcome.'

    After all, in the Hogwarts of statistics that is the DWP this would have been one of the first variables factored in to make the work programme appear more successful than it actually is. I was on the work programme myself for 7 months, only to be recently sanctioned for not applying for a self-employed catalogue distributor job where the 'employer' wanted £210 up front to cover her expenses.

    I then refusing to continue attending [why would I when I wouldn't have got any money for it] and last Fridat got a follow up letter from the provider notifying me that now I was 'in work' I was still under their remit for two years and if I had any problems in my new role I should get in touch and they could 'signpost' me to the appropriate support agency.

    To say that letter made my blood boil would be an understatement.

    1. I can imagine how angry this must make you, and I hope you're taking specialist advice about the sanction (if you need it, which I'm not assuming).

      But the figures don't include sanctions. There are some DWP figures (specifically off-flow) that probably do indirectly include people sanctioned, as a significant number of people sanctioned end up dropping, or at least, breaking, their claim.

      Off-flow will also include people who've ended their claim for any other reason, which could include starting work, but could also include (e.g.) moving abroad, dying or losing eligibility for some other reason. In fairness, I don't think it's due to DWP being uninterested, but largely a practical problem - DWP can tell when someone is claiming social security, HMRC hold the corresponding employment data. DWP and HMRC have done some interesting data matching to try to tie those two sets together, but it's been fairly small scale and cohort based. Universal Credit (let's assume it eventually works as advertised) should make that easier.

      If off-flow is a passive measure (i.e. the only thing that counts is that someone has stopped claiming a particular benefit) the Work Programme job entry rate is active (i.e. it depends on someone actually getting a job). The verification possibly isn't quite as robust as one would ideally like, and job entry says nothing about the quality of the job (and may well be fudged again as UC rolls out) but it's a more robust measure than under previous initiatives and doesn't include sanctions.

      There's a slight caveat that complex circumstances can't be entirely foreseen - e.g. if I'm reading your post correctly, it may be that as far as JCP is concerned you've been sanctioned, but as far as the WP provider is concerned, you're employed. I don't think the sheer amount of scam self employment 'opportunities' was envisaged when the WP was modelled.

      With increased conditionality and use of sanctions, these scams look even more pernicious - people who encounter them are, in effect, being asked to pay a fee to a crook (in your case £210) to avoid being sanctioned - nobody is under any misapprehension that anything like this will turn into a living.

    2. You get automatically signed off JSA when sanctioned, which means you have to 'rapid reclaim', which allows them to massage the figures slightly when a report is due.

    3. Strictly speaking, if it's a sanction rather than a disallowance that shouldn't be the case, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear that it happens. Either way, it would only affect the off-flow figures rather than WP job outcome ones.

  3. Here is the Hansard for the food bank debate in the HoC:

    McVey, starting at 4.23pm, blamed *all* of the UK’s ills on the last Labour govt, so its OK with her that increasing numbers of people now have to rely on food banks.

    It is not clear why she & IDS then hung around in the Chamber for a further hour, imho.

  4. They will do well in probation looking after some of their old colleagues. It's the new type of revolving door politics.

  5. The work programme's origins were in helping small numbers of unemployed people, during a low unemployment period, overcome specific minor impediments they had in competing with other unemployed people to get into employment. Even in the situation it was intended for, it could have no meaningful impact on overall numbers in or out of employment.
    Expanded to embrace everybody who was unemployed during a period of high unemployment as has existed since the credit crunch does not and could not conceivably do anything to effect the number of employed or unemployed people but does divert a lot of funds presumably labelled for 'welfare' into the hands of private business.
    I imagine the only effect of the work programme was an increase in the numbers employed delivering the useless programme.
    The length and depth of the unemployment crisis however even caught those I think of as scam artists who deliver the work programme by surprise leading to figures of those finding work much worse than they expected and hopefully making it unprofitable for them to continue with the unemployment shell game.

    1. "I imagine the only effect of the work programme was an increase in the numbers employed delivering the useless programme."

      A decrease, actually. I'd have to check the figures but from memory, the WP accounts for fewer jobs than its immediate predecessor programmes - FND, Pathways, Progress2Work and so on. Around a third lower, from what I recall, which is hardly surprising as it's a much cheaper programme - even if on target it'd be substantially cheaper per head than FND, for instance.

      It's a valid point though - the WP struck me from the start as being as near as this government could get to the Keynesian cliche of paying people to do work of no real value.

    2. Quite right. The WP creates no jobs (other than those working for the providers. Thus it does not reduce unemployment by even one person. So long as there are more employable people than there are jobs there will be an unemployed pool of labour. At best the WP just recycles this pool and takes a slice of public cash each time it sends someone through the revolving door of unemployment. A sort of macabre game of musical chairs is going on with the only winners being the WP providers.
      What we really need is a government that at least tries to provide the conditions that promote long term "real" jobs and provide the necessary training for people to fill those jobs. What we have is a (non-elected) coalition that drives down employment rights, wages and job security in order to enrich the 1% of vultures at the "top" of the food chain,
      The WP is just one symptom of this and could be seen by a cynic (moi?) as merely a way of funnelling public money into the pockets of companies and individuals that support and fund the ruling party.

  6. Having attending the jobcenter after leaving the work programme the advisor could not care less, signed me on and that was it.

  7. Final post - a briefing from CESI that presents the WP figures in a more user-friendly way:

    1. Thanks. All the figures one could want, but I'm not going to try to get my head round them at this time of night!

  8. In short:

    Of all clients starting the WP 14.8% have job outcomes
    0-12 month performance: 10.7%
    12-24 month performance: 21.9%

    I'd call that pretty poor, my experience with charities such as YMCA, BITC and Voluntary Norfolk is that most achieve 20% in the first year, so the work programme is half as effective as what the third-sector was doing under it's own steam anyway.

    1. 1.41 million customers have so far taken part in the programme with 219 thousand not achieving an outcome after 24 months.

  9. Oh and isn't that McVey person just vile?

    1. Gissajob, she is just that! She is, along with Smith and many of today's MP's in general a classic example of the Peter Principle. Someone being promoted to well in excess of their natural abilities.

  10. Off topic !
    I am not sure of the Blessed One's involvement in the Money Advice Service. But I do know that posters extolling its virtues are plastered all over A4e premises (including the loos). Apparently the MAS is "not fit for purpose": According to the Treasury Select Committee:
    Money Advice Service 'not fit for purpose'
    The service that is supposed to help those experiencing financial problems is "not fit for purpose", according to MPs.

    In a hard-hitting report into the Money Advice Service (MAS), the Treasury Select Committee said it had wanted to scrap the service completely but had been persuaded to grant a stay of execution because the Treasury has already announced an investigation.

    Critics said the predominantly web-based service failed to help people, many of whom needed face-to-face advice."

    "The MPs also said that the pay of the former chief of the service, Tom Hobman, was "excessive" and had undermined "the credibility of the organisation".

    Mr Hobman pocketed £350,000 a year before resigning in July 2012"

    Nice work if you can get it!

    1. See
      "A4e is contracted to deliver the face-to-face element of the Service." See also

    2. Thanks for that, I quote from the A4e site you provided the link for:
      "1.3 million people used the Money Advice Service in 2011/12 across all it’s advice channels."
      Call me a pedant but shouldn't these A4e people who purport to teach us the correct use of English know how to correctly use the apostrophe?
      And from the other link this explains A4e's enthusiasm for the MAS:
      how it is spent. Except, of course, that he is not really.

      A vast chunk of that money goes directly into the pockets of the increasingly controversial private business A4e, paid to provide a face-to-face money advice service to consumers.

      In essence, what we have is a transfer of funds from financial advisers and the industry itself, who almost certainly levy consumers for this money, directly or indirectly, passing briefly through MAS and then into the capacious pockets of Emma Harrison’s former company, helping to pay her a nice little dividend of £8.6m last year.

    3. I tend to assume that if I provide links to websites, I don't need to quote much directly from them.
      For a pedant, you are lax in your use of quotation marks around direct quotes, such as your last two paragraphs.

    4. "For a pedant, you are lax in your use of quotation marks around direct quotes, such as your last two paragraphs."
      Mea Culpa!
      But then I'm not creating publicity material for a website, merely commenting late at night after a glass or two of cheap vino. The standards are different.
      I do believe that your pedantry trumps mine!

    5. It's not a competition!
      Serious point - I get quite a few comments where people have simply quoted chunks from the link I've given, and I see no purpose in that at all. Some also quote chunks directly from my post; again, a waste of space. Let's assume that people can read.
      And I'd like to say again that, while I appreciate people drawing to my attention articles in the press, don't be upset if I don't publish the comment. I get the news alerts so I've almost certainly seen it, and I may well want to write a separate post on it.


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