Ingeus ? Oh dear… having experienced two years of them on Work Programme, I can only say that they couldn’t organize a… well, couldn’t organize anything much beyond diverting publish cash into their own coffers.
While there, I experienced one of their psychological tests. It was a case of ticking boxes, many of which didn’t match my situation and there was no “none of the above” option.
Answers were given points which, when added up, told you what kind of animal you were. Yes, what kind of animal… it seemed more like a test for 10 years, indeed might actually have been designed by 10 year olds.
Just for the record, I was a Tiger… albeit only because I got fed up after the first two questions and thereafter just ticked boxes randomly. I’ve absolutely no recollection of what jobs tigers were supposed to be good at.
I do remember that another possible animal was the Sloth. Presumably if you were one of them you got sanctioned on the basis that you must be lazy. That’d fit in with Ingeus’s simplistic worldview.
Last December Sue Jones and I wrote an article, The Just World Fallacy, considering the purpose of the Governments Nudge Unit; therein we demonstrated how unemployment is not caused by psychological barriers but by Governments failure to invest in appropriate growth projects, and how the aforementioned Nudge Unit works to spread the Tory mantra- the fault of worklessness lies firmly with the claimant.
Yesterday Esther McVey announced the latest ‘ psychological test’ for unemployed people, an attitude profile of their ‘psychological resistance to work’; an assessment to identify if they are “determined”, “bewildered” or “despondent” about seeking employment.
This latest scheme well named the ‘segmentation programme’, as it will determine the future hoops claimants must jump through to access benefits, is based upon the work of Australian Therese Rein, founder and Managing Director of Ingeus. Ingeus, in partnership with Deloitte, also happen to be, the “preferred supplier for seven of the DWP ’ 11 Frameworks…
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So there I am with an invitation to attend an interview with a Jobcentre personal adviser as part Post Work Programme Support (PWPS).
“Now you have completed your time on the Work Programme” I am informed, “your personal adviser will assess the support you will need, based on your needs and skills, to help you find work and stay in suitable work.”
Readers may wonder what the hell the point of the previous two years of Work Programme (WP) had been, if not to “assess the support you will need, based on your needs and skills, to help you find work and stay in suitable work.” Apart, obviously, from making money for a bunch of private companies (Ingeus in my case) who couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.
Anyhow, off I trot to the Jobcentre. I always think it’s a good idea to play it cool on these initial interviews, let them take the lead. There are good reasons for keeping your powder dry during these early encounters. For one thing, you might be lucky enough to have drawn a decent human being as your adviser – it can happen.
My previous Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg) had been drawn up prior to my starting WP by one such decent adviser, who listened to my points, agreed they were fair enough and we quickly put together a JSAg we could both live with. Everyone was happy, no conflict or stress.
Thinking about it, I realised that I hadn’t seen him around the jobcentre for some considerable time, so perhaps he was sacked for not sanctioning enough people, or perhaps quit in disgust at the way things were going. He was a gentleman, and there are all too few of them in the DWP.
So, as I say – hold back at first, see which way the cookie crumbles. If your adviser is a wrong ‘un, they’ll think you’re another subservient sanction-fodder and will start to take liberties. Give them enough rope now and later you’ll be able to, if not exactly lynch them, at least give them some severe rope-burns to remember you by.
So I sat and watched him instantly tear into my existing JSAg, took notes and laid my plans accordingly.
He didn’t like anything about it, starting with the three “types of job I am looking for”. Now this bit always annoys me – we’re constantly being told that we must be flexible, willing to consider all types of jobs, etc… then they demand that you limit yourself to three ! Where’s the logic ? I always point this out to the adviser, then put three jobs I have done and feel confident that, if I should get an interview for one tomorrow, I could go along, walk the walk, talk the talk and generally appear to actually know something about the job.
Not good enough for this guy, though. He immediately erased one of my choices and replaced it with ‘Assembly’. I pointed out (meekly, still playing that role) that I had no prior experience of assembly work and indeed wasn’t even quite sure what it entails. Not important, apparently. He wanted Assembly on there, and that was that.
At this point it might be useful to refer back to an article in the Guardian a couple of years ago in which a DWP whistleblower lifted the lid on some of the tricks advisers use to sanction people. In particular –
He said staff had different ways to ensure they could stop benefits for a set amount of people. “So, for example, if you want someone to diversify – they’re an electrician or a plumber, they may not want to go into call centres or something. What you do is keep promoting such and such a job, and you pressure them into taking it off you, the piece of paper. Then in two weeks you look at the system, you ask them if they applied for it … they say no – you stop their money for six months.”
I think that was what this adviser was up to. (Read whole Guardian article here – http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions )
Of course, the joke is that my CV is probably one of the most diverse you’ll find anywhere. Starting with A for Archaeology and working through the alphabet to W for Warehouse (my dream job would be in a zoo, so I could really claim an A-Z of job titles) – although it should be pointed out that at no time did this adviser enquire about previous experience or ask to see my CV. I might well be able to work in assembly (whatever it is) for all I know, and I’m not ruling it out you understand – but replacing a job I have a track record record in with one I know nothing about, well it just doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it ?
Except, of course, as an instrument of sanction.
And so it continued – he went his merry way, changing just about everything, ticking boxes, all with no discussion with me. I sat back and watched him have his fun.
Then it was my turn. He printed off two copies of the revised JSAg signed them, then gave them to me to sign. I took a minute or two to read through it, then said:
“No, sorry, I can’t sign these.”
Wonderful ! You’d have thought I’d just punched him in the face (something I had admittedly been thinking about while watching him deconstruct my JSAg). I think these bullying individuals have become so used to pushing through these dodgy JSAgs that it comes as something as a shock when somebody tells them “no”. Playing the meek role encourages them to over-reach themselves, as they feel there’s nothing to stop them.
The interview time was just about up by now and his next victim was waiting, and so, after a bit of huffing and puffing he said we’d have to continue this at our next meeting.
“Fine,” I said, “Look forward to it”. He looked less than enthralled at the prospect.
As I was walking away I remembered something, so turned back.
“I assume that my original JSAg is still in force ?”
He didn’t seem sure, but then decided “No, as you haven’t signed the new one, you have no JSAg at the moment.”
Hah ! Caught you in a lie !
In fact, until such a time as a new JSAg is signed by both parties, the old one remains in operation. It’s worth remembering that, and asking them the same question. If they tell you no, then that’s something to note down for use in a future appeal.
To be continued…
An extremely interesting article originating from Durham University…
In this post, Lynne Friedliand Robert Stearnlook at the role of psychological coercion, notably through the imposition of positive affect, in UK Government workfare programmes. There has been little or no debate about the recruitment of psychology/psychologists into monitoring, modifying and/or punishing people who claim social security benefits. This silence raises important ethical questions, including about the relationship of psychology to the medical humanities.
Whistle while you work (for nothing): positive affect as coercive strategy
– the case of workfare 
The growth and influence of discourses of positive affect in systems of governance and ‘technologies of the self’ has been widely observed. ‘Strengths based discourse’ is a significant policy imperative in health and welfare reform and underpins ‘the application of behavioural science and psychology to public policy’ via the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) or ‘nudge unit’. Positive affect plays an important supporting…
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Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.
Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike…
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Whoopee ! I have now completed my two-year stint on the Work Programme (WP).
Looking back, my initial reaction is: “what the hell was the point of that ?”
It is pretty difficult to see much point to it, either personally or on a wider level. A 2012 report found that only 18,270 people out of 785,000 people enrolled on the WP had held down employment for six months or more – a success rate of 2.3%.
Given that 5% of the long-term unemployed would be expected to find employment if left to their own devices the WP can be considered less successful than doing nothing at all.
“Less successful than doing nothing at all.” That says it all, really.
Of course it was always doomed to failure, simply because it was based on unrealistic expectations – that the only reason people are unemployed is because they are lazy / stupid / feckless, and all they need is a kick up the arse.
There was a fatal flaw in their plans – simply that there is something like 2.5 million unemployed and only 500,000 vacancieas. You can kick arses until your foot drops off, you still can’t fit a quart into a pint pot.
Mind you, my expectations weren’t very high anyway.
Prior to WP was New Deal (ND), and in this city we had two companies providing it. I had the chance to sample both, and found both to be pretty useless.
When I turned up for my WP induction I amused myself by spotting familiar faces – just about all of the staff in this new organization were formerly with one or other of the two crap ND companies that preceeded it.
And that’s how it works. A new company wins a contract to provide WP or ND or whatever, but doesn’t actually have any staff or premises. So they rent some cheap office space and re-employ all the crap advisers from the failing companies they replaced, and so the vicious circle starts all over again. Its the same old people, same old ideas (or lack of), same old same old…
The new WP provider with all the old faces in our town was called Ingeus. I was never quite sure how it was pronounced (in-ghee-us ? in-jhee-us ?) but it’s a suitably ugly name for an ugly organization.
All these WP providers are for-profit companies, and you, the unemployed, are commodities. You might be the most wonderful, talented, compassionate person but your value to them is purely financial. Get you into a job, any job, get paid for doing so.
Getting paid being by far the most important part from their point of view.
It has been argued that payment-by-results whereby companies only get paid for finding people work has meant that they focus on the “easiest” cases among the long-term unemployed with the most “difficult” effectively sidelined.
The term “creaming and parking” has been used to describe this process. The Department for Work and Pensions have denied that “parking” is an issue, but then they would, wouldn’t they ?
A study by the Third Sector Research Centre at Birmingham University found widespread “gaming” of the Work Programme by private sector providers. They argue that because providers are not paid until an unemployed person has been in work for two years it makes little economic sense to concentrate on the most “difficult cases”. study also found that the largest private sector providers known as “primes” were guilty of passing more difficult cases onto sub-contractors.
Furthermore “parking” means that charities are not getting referrals under the Work Programme as such customers are not considered likely to result in a payment for the provider.
One interviewee told the study:
“It’s not being PC but I’ll just say it as it is … you tend to get left with the rubbish; people who aren’t going to get a job … If the [prime] thought they could get them a job, they wouldn’t [refer them to] someone else to get a job.”
I got parked. At least I assume that was the reason why I heard nothing from Ingeus for a period of 10 consectutive months in the middle of my 2 years. It goes without saying that that was probably my most productive time on the WP.
When I returned it was with a bang…
To be continued…
Figures from November last year to June show payments were suspended as a result of benefit sanctions 33,460 times across the North East – 17,470 of those were in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and the remainder in County Durham and the Tees Valley.
On Wearside, a total of 3,720 sanctions were put in place, with 2,150 in Sunderland Job Centre, 780 in Southwick Job Centre, 400 in Houghton and 390 in Washington.
In South Tyneside benefits were withdrawn on 1,430 occasions for claimants registered at South Shields Jobcentre and 600 times for clients at Jarrow Jobcentre.
Across Durham and East Durham, a total of 2,820 sanctions were put in place, with 1,060 of those in Peterlee, 810 in Durham, 540 in Chester-le-Street and 410 in Seaham.
Couldn’t find the figures for Newcastle, Gateshead or north Tyneside – if you know, add them to the comments section.
It should be remembered that although the final decision on whether to sanction is made by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) many of the cases are actually raised by the private for-profit Work Programme providers, as happened in my case – thank you Ingeus, Sunderland.
Comments from local politicians seem to be a bit thin on the ground (hello Labour MPs ! Anyone awake there ?) although South Tyneside councillor Jim Foreman, a critic of welfare “reforms” was quoted as saying : “If you walk into South Shields Jobcentre, there is generally 700 to 900 vacancies available.
“How many people do we have on the dole in the borough, 6,000 to 7,000? Those are telling statistics.
“The Government makes great play about the work-shy, but people need more support to fill out the complex forms they need to.
“There are many people who are not computer literate, who are not numerically OK. These people are in a lose-lose situation.
“They are at risk of having their benefits cut and falling into the hands of loan sharks. It’s a never-ending cycle.”
You dont have to be too numerate to be able to work out that 6000 – 7000 unemployed into 700 – 900 jobs just wont go. You just cant fit a quart into a pint pot.
Unfortunately this basic fact escapes those responsible for these draconian tactics. Minister for Employment Esther McVey for example, who stated: “This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work.
“We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.”
Uh, pardon me ? I’ve been involved in the often less than wonderful world of work since before Ms. McVey was even born. I dont know how much I’ve paid out in National Insurance contributions over the years, but I did so on the understanding that by doing so I’d be able to claim help in hard times such as these, and also that others in need would be helped, regardless of whether they’d paid as much NI as me.
So something for nothing ? I don’t think so. And it certainly pales in comparison with MP’s expenses claims. Now that really is the something-for-nothing culture.
McVey, we are told, has worked in the family business, which specialises in demolition and site clearance.
How appropriate. Now she’s focusing those skills on the poorest in society.