The Work and Pensions Committee has grave concerns over the flagship Work and Health Programme

Same old system financed by reduced budget

The Work and Pensions Committee says it has grave concerns over both the challenges faced by Work Coaches in Jobcentre Plus (JCP), and the flagship Work and Health Programme

Committee Chair Frank Field said:

“The government is basing the future for the new Job Centre Plus advisers on too narrow a financial and administrative base. It is in danger of missing this opportunity to create a world-class first in respect of its job advisers, and a world-leading employment support programme for disabled people in Job Centre Pluses by not thinking through the demands to be made on what is, in reality, the same old system financed by a much reduced budget.”

Against the backdrop of a much changed labour market, the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit and the scaling down of contracted-out welfare-to-work programmes, JCP will be expected to provide employment support to a broader and more challenging caseload of claimants, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and the long-term unemployed.

Work Coaches

Previously, many of these claimants would have been supported outside JCP, through the contracted-out Work Programme and Work Choice. Whether the employment support that the Department offers to these claimants is successful will largely depend on its Work Coaches – front-line support staff. The Committee identifies several concerns about this approach:

  • Work Coaches will increasingly have to provide positive coaching and address claimants’ barriers to work, yet many claimants currently view Coaches as “policemen” due to their role in administering sanctions: two potentially conflicting roles
  • Work Coaches will be generalists who support claimants with a wide range of needs. However, addressing their claimants’ barriers to work requires specialist skills and knowledge that many Work Coaches currently lack, and have little incentive to develop
  • To compensate for their lack of specialism, Work Coaches will be increasingly required to identify and refer their claimants to appropriate external support: for example, from charities and third parties. This, in itself, requires a level of specialist knowledge
  • The requirement to refer to third-party support, alongside the more complex caseloads and extended support role, will place increasing pressure on claimants’ appointment times with Work Coaches

Manifold reduction in external support

The Committee is also concerned about the “manifold reduction” in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents. It will have a budget of £554m over its lifetime: substantially less than the estimated £1.5bn that was spent on disability employment through the Work Programme and Work Choice it replaces. Witnesses told the Committee that this reduction in programme capacity meant that many of those who might benefit from participating would be unable to access it. Given the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap, this is a disappointing development.

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The success of the Department’s approach will depend on supporting people who, in many cases, are long term unemployed or have substantial health issues back into work. Many of these may have seen Jobcentres as enforcement agencies, and their staff as police, and have been poorly served in the past. Instead of building on examples of successful programmes such as Work Choice, the Department is overseeing a massive reduction in the spending on the replacement Work and Health Programme. Compensating for this will require a massive cultural shift and practical shift in JCP, enabling it to become a place that supports real progress to, and in, work. We are not convinced that JCPs and Work Coaches will have the necessary resources, skills and expertise to do this, and especially not at the rapid and ambitious pace that the DWP is expecting.

The Government has expressed the need to reform capitalism, and to “make work pay”. We welcome the Department’s willingness to take a flexible approach to JCP’s services, and to try to support those who have been inadequately served by the current system. But we have grave concerns that shifting a raft of new, specialised demands and requirements onto JCPs, without significant training and preparation and with greatly reduced resources, is simply front-loading this brave new world for failure.

09 November 2016

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2015/future-of-jobcentre-plus-report-published-16-17/?platform=hootsuite

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Disabled jobseekers facing dramatic fall-off in support

Number of disabled people receiving specialist help to fall by 50% after 80% funding cut to new work programme

The number of unemployed disabled people given specialist help to find work will be halved under plans to be revealed this week, according to firms running the government’s work programme.

About 300,000 disabled people were offered help between 2012 and 2015 but this will fall to 160,000 between 2017 and 2020, it is claimed. This is a consequence of the government reducing funding for the new work programme by 80%, according to a major report to be published by the umbrella group for the companies on the programme. Anyone else seeking support will need to rely on the Jobcentre Plus system that the companies claim is already under significant pressure to deliver cost savings.

Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association (Ersa), which represents the employment support sector, said: “The size of the new Work and Health Programme means only one in eight disabled people who want to work will have specialist help to do so. As a society, we have an obligation to ensure appropriate support is available and today’s report shows that we are in danger of failing disabled people and their families.”

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/22/disabled-jobseekers-facing-dramatic-fall-off-support?CMP=share_btn_tw

Workfare Revisited : What Everyone Should Know About the New Work and Health Program

A punitive attempt at halving the disability employment gap which looks set to fail those it professes to help

…. Under the radar, with a new name; ‘The Work and Health Programme,’ It seems that mistakes are about to be repeated. This time however, it’s the long term sick and mentally ill who are finding themselves at risk from this punitive policy scheme.

Due to come into action at the beginning of next year, The WHP will not only inherit the same moral deficiency as it’s parent program (the now defunct Work Program) but has been loaded with the sensitivity of a sledgehammer with regard to provisions to tackle the complex needs of its intended participants.

At the beginning of 2015, the government set themselves a pretty lofty target. They vowed to halve the disability employment gap which currently stands at 33%. To achieve this target, one million people with a disability must be supported back into employment. I believe that the impetus for this new focus for workfare can be traced back to this ambitious aim. One that is fundamentally misguided in regard to how we should approach the betterment of those farthest from the job market; The unemployed long term sick and mentally ill.

read more here: https://www.tremr.com/amyfallon/workfare-revisited-what-everyone-should-know-about-the-new-work-and-health-program

Man With Cancer Told To Give Up Treatment and Join Work Programme To Keep Benefits

A Scunthorpe man has received a 40% cut in benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving him in serious financial distress during his battle with a disease that killed his father and brother.  To add insult the injury, the DWP told him that he could return to his previous level of benefits, provided he gave up treatment and complied with the Jobseeker’s programme.

Read more here: http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2014/05/02/man-with-cancer-told-to-give-up-treatment-and-join-work-programme-to-keep-benefits/

Ministers treating unemployment as mental problem – BBC news report

Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.

Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report. This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.

But the Department for Work and Pensions said there was no evidence to back up the “highly misleading” claims.

The paper, published in the Medical Humanities journal, says benefit claimants are being forced to take part in positive thinking courses in an effort to change their personalities.

They are bombarded with motivational text messages – such as “success is the only option”, “we’re getting there” and “smile at life” – and have to take part in “pointless” team-building exercises such as building towers out of paper clips, it adds.

‘Orwellian’

New benefit claimants are interviewed to find out whether they have a “psychological resistance” to work, with those deemed “less mentally fit” given more intensive coaching. And unpaid work placements are increasingly judged on psychological results, such as improved motivation and confidence, rather than whether they have led to a job.

The report’s co-author, social scientist Lynne Friedli, described such programmes as “Orwellian”.

“Claimants’ ‘attitude to work’ is becoming a basis for deciding who is entitled to social security – it is no longer what you must do to get a job, but how you have to think and feel.

read the rest of this BBC report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33060794#_=_

Workfare, Forced Labour and the new ‘Business and Community Wardens’.

Posted by Pete the Temp on April 19th 3015 on his blog at http://www.petethetemp.co.uk

 

Arriving at Finsbury Park station I came across a group of men people in high vis vests. Their vests read ‘Business and Community Warden’. I’ve learned to be suspicious of people who claim to be ‘public officers’ or ‘wardens’ so I went up to one to ask what they do. My mistrust quickly melted to sympathy. The man I was speaking to walked with a heavy head, sagging eyes and a narked expression.  His colleagues also looked seriously bored and disaffected.

He told me he is on a six month, 30 hour per week Workfare placement. The work is a compulsory condition for receiving his Job Seekers Allowance –  a meagre £240 a month to live off. Of this he has to pay his own travel (£88 a month) to get to and from his  unpaid work. That leaves him a grand total of £152 a month (or £38 a week) for food, bills, and any other services or contingencies needed to maintain his home and his health. I don’t imagine his weekends are particularly lively.

The frown on his face crept over my own as he told me that he they do not provide food so many days he can’t afford to eat at work. One day he was ill with a virus and needed to miss a day. He was told that “that wasn’t good enough” so he worked through his illness. If he misses a day of work he loses 1 month pay. If he misses 3 days he loses months of pay.

I was left wondering how much time he and his fellow unemployed colleagues  were able to look for work while they stood motionlessly and reluctantly outside the station waiting for members of the public to ask them directions. They told me that they “have a list of things to do” including patrolling local supermarkets (they have been dealing with shoplifters for both Sainsburys and Tesco) but mostly they have to just stand there. Why do these supermarkets (who have already dodged so much tax) get free forced labour from some of the borough’s most vulnerable involuntarily unemployed? Was it not these same corporations who lobbied so hard against the minimum wage and are now cutting costs on their own security? If they are benefiting from this labour then why don’t they, and not the tax payer, pay the Job Seekers Allowance ?

“How do I complain?” I asked the Warden.

“Phone the number on my vest and speak to Courtney Bailey, he’s the boss”

When I phoned I got through to The Finsbury Park Business Forum. This is an odd place to be directing a complaint about a body of public wardens, regularly briefed by the MET to carry out low level police patrol and ‘counter terrorism’ duties as a kind of forced volunteer unit of para- police. The Business forum’s website says that one of their duties is to ‘lower the perception of crime’ at the station. In helping the police clear the area of ASBOs this can be seen as the civilianisation of social cleansing. Poor people forced to police poor people on behalf of business.

Courtney Bailey met my complaint by quickly becoming loud, aggressive and insulting. When I pressed him on the scheme he accused me of being “wrong in the head”, “full of it” and “one of those anarchists” (he was at least right about that last point).

“Name me one person who is has no choice to work for us?!” he shouted.

“I’m not going to name them because you might report them to the Job Centre and they could lose their benefits” I replied.

He hung up.

Read the rest of this article here: http://www.petethetemp.co.uk/workfare-forced-labour-and-the-new-business-and-community-wardens/