Reposted from Kate Belgrave
I was talking very recently with a group of people who are on a 30-hour-a-week workfare Community Work Placement (CWP) at at Haringey charity. Their workfare provider is the G4S subcontractor Urban Futures, finder of these 30-hour-a-week placements on which people must work or lose their benefits.
Anyway – one member of the group made a startling revelation as we spoke. This person said that until late December 2014, they’d been on a CWP workfare placement in the Marie Curie charity shop in Highbury and Islington.
The thing with that is – Marie Curie supposedly abandoned participation in forced workfare schemes a couple of years ago as a result of successful Boycott Workfare campaigns (shoutout to the Void here who reminded me MC had left).
So I rang Marie Curie and sent through some questions asking how somebody on CWP had ended up on…
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> Another success story for privatisation….
The prison service is “a powder keg” and it’s only a matter of time before staff are seriously hurt, an MP has warned.
Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, urged Ministers to act over a dramatic increase in assaults on prison officer staff.
And speaking in the House of Commons, he highlighted staff cuts at HMP Northumberland, which was transferred to private management 12 months ago.
Sodexo Justice Services now runs the prison after winning a 15-year contract worth an estimated £250 million.
It comes after a number of MPs raised concerns about working conditions in the nation’s prisons.
Work commissioned by the Prison Officers’ Association and conducted by academics warned of high levels of stress among prison staff, and found 65 per cent of prison officers often thought about quitting the job.
A Commons motion warning MPs are “deeply concerned at the findings of the report” was signed by Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell and North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon as well as Mr Lavery.
The MPs urged the Government “to conduct an urgent inquiry into the prison system and the terms and conditions of those trying to professionally carry out an important public service under the most difficult of circumstances”.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Lavery said:
“The Prison Service is not only in crisis, but is a powder keg.
“Somebody must be held accountable because someone, somewhere will be seriously hurt in the Prison Service.
“Nine members of staff are assaulted daily, which means 3,400 a year, up 9.4 per cent.
“More dramatically, serious assaults on staff have increased by 36% since 2010.”
He highlighted the situation at HMP Northumberland, where around 50 inmates took over a wing in riots in March.
He asked Justice Minister Andrew Selous: “Does the Minister share my concerns about the situation at HMP Northumberland, which is in my area?
“When that prison was privatised, Sodexo immediately reduced the work force by a third, yet the prison population has been increasing.
“Have not prison officers who are left to carry out the work every right to be stressed? What will the Minister do about it?”
The Minister told the Commons:
“Those who manage contracted prisons absolutely have a duty to make sure that they keep their staff as well.”
The Government was taking action to protect prison officers, he said.
“We are working towards a new protocol for escalating matters when prison staff are victims of assault to the which rightly recognises the seriousness of these incidents.”
“The evidence that the Prison Service continues to provide a rewarding career in which staff are able to change lives is irrefutable.
“It is demonstrated in the commitment and tenacity that prison officers have shown in recent months in the difficult circumstances that I have described.
“It is also evident in the organisation’s ability to attract 1,700 new prison officer recruits.”
Sodexo Justice Services operates one prison in Scotland and three in England.
It is part of the French multinational Sodexo Group, which provides services including catering, cleaning and security.
The first jail to be transferred from public to private operation was HMP Birmingham, which is run by G4S.
Fourteen other prisons in England and Wales have been privately managed since they were opened.
Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has also expressed concern about staff cuts introduced by Sodexo at HMP Northumberland.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Dec 2014
A company is set to axe 139 jobs after workers were told contracts were to be exported to India.
G4S Utility Services, based at Cobalt Business Park in Newcastle, this week told administration employees their work was set to be outsourced to a company in Noida, in India.
Ninety agency staff and 49 contract workers will be affected by the move.
While bosses from the organisation say all staff will be reallocated within the business, angry workers say they are sceptical and have condemned the move as a “cost-cutting” exercise.
The company is a leading provider of meter reading services, providing readings to all major energy suppliers and data collection services to a wider portfolio of UK customers.
> So is someone from India now going to come round and read there meter ? !
One worker, who asked not to be named, said: “We weren’t expecting this so it was a shock when we were told what they were planning to do.
“The announcement received a very hostile reception from both the permanent and temporary staff who are set to be affected.
“We don’t believe there are enough positions to reallocate jobs to everyone, and these plans have been greeted with a huge amount of scepticism.
“Roughly 150 people will be affected by the changes.
“We have been told that the reasoning behind the decision is “future proofing”, meaning the long term survival of the business.
“However, experience tell us that outsourcing is never greeted that well by customers which means we can see no other motive than cost-cutting.
“The North East is suffering a lot when it comes to unemployment and we can see this is doing nothing but adding to that problem.”
The changes are expected to come into force from this month, with the transition process complete by March next year.
A G4S spokesperson said: “G4S Utility and Outsourcing Services (UK) Limited confirms it is entering into a contract with EXLService to outsource back office data provision for certain contracts. Staff will be reallocated within the business.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Oct 2014
A sick & disabled man attends Newcastle JCP to use the phones to make an enquiry when he was attacked by G4S guard for using his mobile when they refused his request. How is that acceptable? The JCP’s are now removing telephones which is another obstruction claimants now face, not every person has a mobile or a landline. It is now policy that you are intimidated BY G4S security to turn off your mobiles after many used them to film maladministration of JCP staff. So how are they supposed to get the information they require, when JCP staff are too busy to deal with a basic inquiry? They are supposed to be there to assist claimants with their enquiries and help them seek work. This should outrage most people and this man should apologise to the complainant and the claimant should be compensated. At the time of writing this blog a…
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In a statement on their website, updated on 14th July 2014, Age UK say: “Age UK, the national charity which includes our 453 shops, is not involved in the mandatory welfare to work scheme.”
This will come as a surprise to G$S who have recently announced that an Age UK training centre in Preston will be acting as Placement Brokers for the recently launched and very much mandatory Community Work Placements. Age UK’ have claimed up until now that only local branches, who are managed independently of the national charity, are involved in workfare. But according to the charity themselves these training centres are a division of the national organisation, they are not locally run.
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The criminal justice system in the North East is in chaos because of an “ideologically driven” drive to privatise public services and a series of “botched and expensive re-organisations”, a peer has warned.
Lord Beecham, the former leader of Newcastle City Council, hit out at the Government’s changes in a House of Lords debate.
He highlighted the Journal’s report that there had been a massive increase in the number of people representing themselves in family law courts, thanks to cuts in legal aid – leading to lengthy delays.
The proportion of North East parents attempting to make do without a lawyer in court has leapt from 34% to 53% of litigants since the removal of legal aid from family lawyers in April 2013. It means that proceedings are delayed as judges attempt to explain how the law works to parents.
And local law firms warn that parents taking part in child custody cases, and other cases involving the welfare of children, are failing to explain their case properly to courts.
Lord Beecham urged the Ministry of Justice to act. He said: “As many of us warned, the cuts in legal aid are having a serious effect on family and especially child-related proceedings.
“The Journal newspaper reported on Saturday a rise of 61% in people representing themselves, with the predictable result of serious delays.”
He also highlighted the riot in a North East prison which saw 50 inmates take over a wing at HMP Northumberland in March.
One inmate has written to prisoners’ magazine Inside Time to claim the riot was down to frustration at staff shortages which had put a stop to some workshops.
Lord Beecham pointed out that the prison, previously known as HMP Acklington, was run by a private contractor.
He said: “Also in the North East we have had the experience of a prison riot at the newly privatised Acklington Prison where 130 staff left, about a third of the total.
“The prison is now managed by Sodexo, one of those oligopolies assumed by the Government to be capable of running any public service.”
And the Labour peer, who led Newcastle City Council from 1977 to 1994, attacked proposals to split up the probation service.
Regional probation services will be replaced by a national service responsible for “high risk” offenders while private firms will run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) which manage lower risk offenders.
The Northumbria Branch of trade union Napo, which represents probation officers, had written to the Ministry of Justice to raise concerns about “job security, workload, increased management spans, reduced support from human resources and especially the transfer of cases and the split between risk categories,” he said.
“They are worried about the risk to public safety as a result of the split and point to bureaucratic delays in transfers, with existing users being transferred and high risk offenders going to new officers.”
And Lord Beecham warned that outsourcing of child protection services could cause further problems.
He said: “The Government launched a consultation, lasting all of six weeks about plans to permit local authorities to outsource children’s social services to the likes of G4S and Serco.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 June 2014
So scared are the DWP that charities involved in workfare will have their reputations ruined beyond repair that they are refusing to name the sub-contractors running Community Work Placements.
70 organisations have been handed lucrative sub-contracts which will see tax payer’s money shovelled into their filthy pockets in return for forcing people to work without pay for six months. Anyone who refuses will face punishing benefit sanctions which are known to have driven people to ill health, suicidal behaviour and homelessness. Many of these contracts will be managed by G4S, who yesterday violently removed human rights protesters from their annual general meeting.
Astonishingly some of the organisations involved in the scheme call themselves charities. Like the worst kind of Ned Flanders fucking do-gooders, these nasty pieces of work have even decided that forcing people to work without pay under the threat of homelessness and destitution is ‘helping them’. And…
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Unite Union Press Release:
The opposition of nearly 350 charities to the government’s new ‘workfare’ programme has ‘holed the scheme below the waterline’, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 June).
Unite has welcomed the news that 345 voluntary sector organisations, including household names such as Shelter, Crisis, Scope and Oxfam, have pledged not to take part in the Community Work Placements (CWP) programme.
This week was meant to be the deadline for organisations to start the new mandatory CWPs which require that jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants do six months work placement – or risk losing their benefits.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the voluntary sector, has branded the scheme as “nothing more than forced unpaid labour.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The mounting opposition from the not for profit sector has holed one of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship projects below the waterline. More waves of opposition will sink this scheme once-and-for all.
“This obscene programme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour.
“Unite welcomes the fact that so many charities have given this scheme the thumbs down as they can see that it is grossly unfair and a perversion of the true ethos of volunteering.
“Questions have to be asked about the government’s slavish reliance on the controversial private sector contractors, such as G4S, to implement the CWP programme.
“It was G4S and its security shambles that was the only blot on the London Olympics two years ago.
“We are against this scheme wherever Duncan Smith wants to impose it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.
“It is outrageous that ministers are trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits clawed back.
“What the long queues of the unemployed need are proper jobs with decent pay and a strong structure of apprenticeships for young people to give them a sustainable employment future.”
Unite is opposing workfare in local government and will be raising it as an industrial issue with local authorities which do not sign the pledge. So far, 13 local councils have signed up not to implement any workfare programmes – and more are actively considering doing so.
With so many council cuts, Unite is determined that workfare placements are not used to replace paid jobs.
Unite’s growing community section will be on hand to support unemployed people forced onto workfare schemes.
> This last paragraph looks interesting….
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 June 2014
The recent report from the Major Projects Authority, which revealed that Universal Credit is such a fucking disaster they had to invent a whole new category to describe it, also laid bare the astronomical cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.
Just under £11 billion is budgeted to be squandered on some of the DWP’s largest projects, and that figure doesn’t include Universal Credit. The cost of this hare-brained experiment is shrouded in mystery now it has been classed as ‘reset’, but last year the Major Projects Authority reported the that bill would reach £12.8 billion.
Even this is far from the whole story. Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion. The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures. At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed…
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> Modern Britain… everything’s for sale. Profit uber alles.
Fears have been raised that high risk sex offenders could pose serious danger to public safety as planned changes to the Probation Service go ahead.
Unions fear that privatising parts of the service this year could see inexperienced staff dealing with sex offenders – while one anonymous officer working for the Durham Tees Valley Probation Service fears victims could be at risk.
However a Probation Service spokesperson said that all staff dealing with sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, would be “fully qualified”.
Speaking to the BBC, an anonymous probation officer raised serious concerns that staff would only receive two days training to deal with sex offenders.
They said: “We are dealing with rapists, child rapists, paedophiles, people who have abused children. The staff are qualified but not with dealing with sex offenders.
“Because we are not equipped to deal with those people there is a fear we may not pick up on things… Our biggest worry is those people could reoffend and cause further harm to others.”
After May 31, the Durham Tees Valley Probation Service will no longer exist as a result of government reforms.
A smaller, national service will be created alongside 21 regional community rehabilitation companies – which will be sold to the private sector in October.
The local branch, based in central Middlesbrough, currently has a specialist Public Protection Team to deal with sex offenders.
However, according to Tanya Bassett, national official for the probation union Napo, these changes could see “generic” probation officers take on those cases.
“Durham Tees Valley were one of the last trusts to have a specialist team, but it has now been forced to hand out these cases to generic officers,” said Ms Bassett.
“It is not about how it impacts on the staff, and their case loads, but the fear of not seeing the risks from behavioural changes that those who are experienced in working with those offenders would.
“We are very concerned about these changes. We have taken strike action twice in the last six months – considering we have only taken industrial action five times in our 104 year history, you can see how strongly our members feel.”
A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Protecting the public remains our priority. All sex offenders will be managed by the National Probation Service by fully qualified probation officers. It is totally wrong to suggest otherwise.
“Introducing lie detector tests for high-risk sex offenders, with satellite tagging to track their movements, will give us one of the world’s toughest approaches to managing this group in the community.
“Together this will be vital in preventing sex offenders from leaving more victims in their wake.”
> Sounds like a job for some company with experience like, er, G4S ?
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 25 May 2014