> A whistleblower’s account of what really goes on…though I doubt it’ll come as a suprise to anyone who’s done time on the WP.
I took on a full-time job as a student in the summer holidays. The interview was fairly standard and the company advertised the role as a customer management assistant that helped people get back into work.
However, as I started my new job, I began to notice that it wasn’t the caring compassionate company that it had advertised itself as. My position involved taking calls from “clients”, these were both Job Centre advisors from over London and the South West as well as Job Centre customers who called us directly.
The calls were to make appointments to put the customers onto their first meeting with their work program advisors. Other calls from direct customers were either for this same reason, as they had been instructed to, or to cancel an upcoming appointment.
What I discovered however, as my time there ticked along, was that our company was paid directly from the government for every individual they successfully “engaged” onto the Work Programme (WP) – a rough estimate of £1000. For every six weeks that person was in employment the company would be paid another £300 to £400; in fact the centre had a completely separate section called In Work Support, solely to make sure that the customers employment was maintained.
At the end of twenty-six weeks in paid employment the company would then be paid another lump sum of at least £1000. This meant that for every individual successfully engaged into employment through the WP the company would be paid approximately £3000 to £4000.
Now, let’s just deal with that for a second.
This is one company of many. With roughly 100 staff over all departments. The question that I pondered constantly was how is it cheaper to fund these centres and its staff with its financial incentives, how is that effective and where could that money be dispersed for the greater good?
A second but more important point is the effect that the pressure of this had on people. I was called on one occasion by a man who had his JSA stopped. This man was homeless and currently living in a shelter, yet he had been contacted on his mobile by his job centre that were insistent that he make an appointment to see an employment consultant, before his money would be reinstated. Money that he picked up from the post office. I spent a relatively long time just speaking to him, getting to know his situation and trying to help him as best I could. A lot of the available appointments that we had on our books clashed with meetings at his job centre. He took what he was being made to do in his stride but I found it a pointless exercise. He was homeless yet this wasn’t a priority. Without a fixed abode he would not be able to start a bank account and without a bank account he would not be able to find legitimate employment.
Another gentleman called me, enquiring about his(ESA) claim. He had been sent a letter stating that he needed to attend this particular appointment or his money would be stopped, however he very calmly and politely told me that he couldn’t get to this specific date and time as he had to undergo dialysis three times a week. Dialysis! Yet he was being forced onto the WP with threats to stop his money [if he failed to do so].
I worked mainly with(JSA) customers, however on other occasions I did also deal with ESA claims. I had people call [me] in tears, telling me they didn’t know what to do or where to turn. These people were being blackmailed into the WP so that our company could receive it’s pound of flesh, it’s profit, it’s blood money.
We received weekly emails from the CEO who visited the centre on two occasions, encouraging us to engage the customers, giving us statistics on our success rate and constantly telling us “engage, engage, engage”, even with promises of bonuses. It was also discussed in these emails the bad press and statistics of those who had been forced on the WP and had committed suicide, it does happen and it is being ignored. Now, I wish I had saved some of those emails.
Eventually, when I saw it for what it really was, I decided I could no longer stay there. A few weeks previous to my leaving, I was taken into the manager’s office as she pointed out all the things I had done wrong; joking with the customers, not engaging them. I knew what I was doing. Soon after I handed in my notice, the job was to save up for my wedding but morally I couldn’t stay there.
I’ve never before seen such a vulgar display of capitalism exploiting the poor, the disabled and the sick.
The money that is poured into these centres I have no doubt could be put to better use. Training centres, volunteering, computer access. Why do these places still exist and yet the government are cutting welfare that will affect EVERYONE?
People are genuinely being pushed into stress, depression and in some cases suicide. This is real, this is happening! The WP needs to be either seriously reassessed or shut down.
I feel it is my civil duty to share my experience and to make you all aware that the work program doesn’t work!
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 January 2014