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.