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Failure to Notify Voluntary Sector Associate of Client’s Criminal Past

I tweeted last night about how i was contacted by someone i know works in the Voluntary Sector and whose charity has been subcontracted by a Work Programme prime. She was in a one to one meeting with a Customer. This Customer, when asked if he had any criminal convictions admitted that he had been convicted of rape and had told the Prime of that fact.

Naturally the advisor couldn’t raise an issue there and then, however, no where on the Customer’s case notes, both on paper and on the Primes’ computer database did it say that Customer had a criminal history and if it had not been for the Customer’s honesty, no one in the charity office (mostly women incidentally) or any of the vulnerable clients who visit the office (the charity does more than Work Programme activities) would be aware of this fact.

After the meeting, the advisor raised issue with the Prime’s local manager and even they seem to be surprised at this lapse of communication. He did however tell her that a full investigation will be launched and assured her that her staff and the charity’s clients safety were top priority.

This particular charity works with some of society’s most vulnerable people, taking a wide range of clients, from the elderly and long term disabled to younger people with no where to go and who need help. If it had not been for this Customer’s honesty, i would dread to think about what could have happened.

I will post more as the investigation continues.

For now, i feel it isn’t necessary to name the Prime involved till their investigation is complete.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Work Programme

 

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First “Appointment” Reccolections 2

I’ve had time to think about other things that left me feeling confused after my first “Appointment”. I have to admit, the Data Consent Forms were pretty much all i focused on that day and i have only just now remembered the rest of the induction. See my post, Wondering… where i ask an important question about networks of security and what provisions are in place to safeguard the Mentally and Physically Disabled on the Work Programme.

So, back to the induction.

For the first part to this tale of adventure, please see Double Agent:A…lmost.

The fourth red flag for me was the lack of a tour, which was promised at the start of the meeting. Not only would it show us where the toilets and water machines were, but it would also give us a clear idea of where the fire exits were, not just by waving your hand and saying “They’re over there” at the start of the meeting. This is also a breach of Health & Safety Regulations, now i think about it. I should have pulled her up on it.

This leads me onto the discussion of workshops and opportunities available to us whilst on the Work Programme. Sat in the middle of the table was one lonely, dog-eared, coffee stained catalogue of workshops. “Feel free to browse as i talk” She said. “Sure” we all said. It didn’t move at all. I can see the benefit of taking part in a workshop aimed at quitting smoking. I can also see the benefit of having workshops revolving around budgeting and penny-pinching. However, attending a workshop to battle alcohol and substance abuse borders on the dangerous edge for me. Luckily, the advisor said straight after “We sign-post the serious cases onto relevant organisations if the constraint is too serious for us to handle”. Sure mate, Alcoholism and Substance abuse is this area’s biggest problem, i cannot see a group of employment advisors successfully getting a hardcore alcoholic off the drink or a heroin addict off their “Constraint” as you put it in a couple of weeks to make him job ready. Thankfully, after looking into it, they mean it when they say they “sign-post” clients to get proper help if the problem is too big to handle.

We were advised, that since the number of referrals to the WP has increased so dramatically over the past few weeks, we would only have this advisor for the first four weeks for assessment. Then we’ll be shipped off to another advisor in the office after the four weeks were up.

During this explanation, i watched a workshop in the room next to me, i have no clue what it was about, however those moreish Lindt truffles were being handed out as rewards. The snide little voice in the back of my head whispered, “You see, it has it’s perks, welcome back to Middle School”.

A

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Unemployed Life, Work Programme

 

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Wondering…

I have been thinking something over since my group “Appointment”. I didn’t include it in my original blog about it, because i didn’t know how to tackle this kind of issue, as i’ve never had to tackle something like this before.

My view in creating this blog was primarily to focus on the Work Programme and how effective it is, however i’m beginning to notice that the WP is just a smaller wheel in a much bigger network of cogs (hence the gravitar lol).

Whilst waiting for my “Appointment” to begin, i noticed a young gentleman sitting next to an older woman. Nothing strange there. It wasn’t until this gentleman’s was called into the “Appointment” that i realised this woman was in fact the gentleman’s mother and his carer. As his name was called, he glanced at his mother, who uttered under her breath “I’m not allowed in, love, i’ll be right here, go on, you’ll be fine.”, the look of worry on his face was plain to everyone, but she smiled encouragingly at him and said he’d be fine once again.

We all got through the 10 minute “Appointment” without fault and left the building (something else that annoy’s me, we were meant to tour the office to find out where the facilities and fire exits were, we didn’t).

The reason why i am thinking a lot over this is because i know that in the past, people on programmes such as New Deal were assessed and given help based on their level of “Job Readiness” and so forth, with this, a culture of “Parking and Creaming” grew up, in which the “Customers” who were further away from being job ready were parked and not much assistance given and the “Customers” who were closer to be getting job ready were creamed for a faster result and pay-off. Apparently that won’t happen under this system as the providers are paid for a successful end result, i for one can see thousands being parked. Having worked with unemployed people being moved onto JSA from DLA, i’m wondering if there are any effective procedures in place to make sure that these people (many with hidden mental illness) are looked after and given the appropriate care whilst on the WP or if they should even be on the WP at all.

I’m wondering and i’m worried. If there are no provisions and networks of support in place for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, how far behind will they be before the Providers and the Government realise they’re lost?

Sorry if this makes no sense, as i say i’m constantly thinking about this and my minds all frazzled about it.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Welfare Reform, Work Programme

 

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Questions, Questions…

Since it’s still another two weeks till my actual one to one appointment with my advisor, I thought I’d fill my time in by producing a questionnaire asking WP “Customers” old and new what their experiences have been like on the WP. I am also doing this as views about the WP and their providers are varied and wide-spread around a number of sites, providing a questionnaire will bring many of these views in one place and allow us to see where the main flaws are currently in the way the WP is provided.

VERY IMPORTANT: The questionnaire is of course, completely optional, you DO NOT have to give your name, location or the name of the provider you are currently with or any other information in regards to the benefits that you receive.

Sorry, couldn’t resist adding an obvious “This is optional” disclaimer, though i mean what i say, you don’t have to give any information akin to that mentioned about, just your experiences on the WP.

Now, as a newbie in the “Customer” area, I only know of a couple of questions to ask so far. So I ask you, what type of question would you like to see on the questionnaire?

Send me a tweet @WorkEthic89 or email me, contact@alexworkblog.info, alternatively, reply to this post with the type of questions you’d like to see and answer.

Thanks

A

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Work Programme

 

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Double Agent: A…lmost.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the WP front the past few weeks. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but there were a couple of quite interesting things that happened to me recently, all related to the WP and the Prime that has me on their books as a “Customer”.

Continuing to look for work since my last blog post, i noticed that my provider was recruiting Advisors for the local office (that i have to go to). Having worked in employability before and having seen the wealth of information about my provider over previous weeks, both good and bad, i thought “Why the hell not, at best i can change people’s lives or if things don’t go well, i can tell the world about how the machine is really run and maybe expose a few things here and there.” Even though i was applying to work for them, i still couldn’t get the complaints and bad experiences from “Customers” and actual staff out my head.

Needless to say, i was unsuccessful, i would like to give away what happened in the recruitment process, however i don’t want to give away which provider i’m with, lest all the other providers recruitment processes be entirely different, though the more prudent of you may have worked it out.

This is not a complete loss to me however, i am still privy to tit-bits of information from inside the provider (such as; currently my providers advisors have a case load of 15+ people to get through in a day and that morale and quality of service is at best, weak). I also get to experience the WP from a “Customer” point of view, something i have been both dreading and wanting to get my teeth into. And it is now official, i am a WP “Customer”, ticker tape parade anyone? No?

My first “Appointment”

I put “Appointment” in quotation marks like “Customer” because that’s not what it really was. I arrived twenty minutes early. Upon entering the office, i was greeted by a pleasant receptionist, i gave my name and signed in…i wasn’t on the list of appointments for that day. “Ok, it’s definitely today.” i said. “One minute, i’ll check the computer.”, I really cannot fault the receptionist, i was on the list on the computer, but not the print out, she apologised, even though i wasn’t offended and made sure i was on my advisors diary. This is where i noticed first red flag. She was the only receptionist on the desk, when she had left to check my advisors diary, the phone rang off the hook three times and the computer was unlocked. I actually felt sorry for her. She came back and said everything was sorted and to take a seat which i did, there was around 10 of us waiting. Taking in my surroundings, i noticed there was no clear indication as to where the toilets were and after a long bus ride and adventure trying to find the office, i was in need to spend a penny. However, not wanting to disturb the obviously busy receptionist, i suffered. Looking at the seating area, i saw there were three empty paper cups on the table next to me all of which had dried coffee residue in the bottom of them. I know from personal experience as a teen, cups don’t get sticky and shiny residue in the bottom within an hour. Also on the table, there sat a very sorry-looking local newspaper, which only advertises around 10 jobs per week and most as Avon Reps and BetterWare reps.

The reception area is cordoned off by a half wall, the office itself isn’t really that big and this is where red flag number two raised, sitting at the other end of the office was an advisor with his “Customer”, the office was fairly quiet, only the odd ring of a phone and advisors whispering to each other. So naturally, my ears sought out the loudest thing, which happened to be this “Customers” full name, address, mobile and telephone number, her date of birth and her career history, i presume they were creating a CV. Back when i was working with the public, we used to have quiet 1-to-1 rooms set up in which to discuss such matters. I began to get a little annoyed, however the arrival of my advisor quelled any action.

Red Flag Number Three
This bit gets its own title, simply because i had to laugh and shake my head.
My advisor turned up with a clipboard and a bunch of papers, my name was called, then someone else, then someone else, then someone else and then someone else. This, as it turned out, was not a one to one meeting as i had been lead to believe, but instead a group induction…something was up and i had a fair idea what it was. We were led to a meeting room just off the reception. On the table were envelopes and two sheets of paper, having done my research, i knew exactly what they were, the infamous “Data Consent Forms”, oh yes. Now these consent forms have had a fair bit of evolution since the early days of the WP. The forms themselves are not mandatory and no one ever has to sign them. People with their wits about them in the past realised this and refused to sign to share information. Then things got tougher, yet workarounds were always there. However, tactics seem to have changed somewhat in getting people to sign these forms, influenced (possibly) by the influx of new WP “Customers” advisors are now unable to hold one to one induction appointments with their “Customers” (I THINK), so group inductions have been created. Now, let me ask you a question.

If you were given an option of sitting one to one with an Advisor, would you refuse to sign the Data Consent forms?
Yes? No?

Now, if you were in a room full of strangers and told to sign these forms (never being told it’s completely optional), would you be confident enough to raise your voice and refuse to sign these forms? Yes? No? I’d wager for most of you, who have never had to deal with companies’ and practices like this, you’ll say no. Not a psychology major or anything, but even i know that when you’re out your comfort zone, you’re more submissive and more likely to follow the rest of the group. Not to mention we all seemed nervous and only i seemed to actually read the documents.

Well, i’ll admit, i’m not very confident and so succumbed to signing the forms, though being pro-active, i already have the letters sent off to get my privacy back. (http://www.consent.me.uk/ <– extremely helpful website in regards to all things Data Protection and what rights you have).

After we ALL signed the forms, we were told about what practices are used and workshops provided within the WP and your time on it (which is apparently Two years and not the Seven i was lead to beleive…oh, wait)

I'll leave it here for the time being, i may add more to it later as things come back to me.
Everyone, please, make a stand for your rights, the 99.9% of people on benefits, out of necessity and who don't abuse the system, do not be afraid to raise your voice, you shouldn't be humiliated, talked down to and suppressed by these people, the Benefits are a right, not a privilege, you should never have to feel less of a person simply because you've fallen on hard times, lets all come together and make our voices heard.

Double Agent: A…lmost

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Work Programme

 

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Doing My Research

In my previous post i mentioned i had worked for a local unemployment charity, helping some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged people in my local area. A portion of my clients were long-term unemployed and had seemingly just given up and consigned themselves to a life on benefits. The bitterness toward the authorities involved with benefits and the whole jobs market as a whole was really discouraging.

The plight of some of these people, who had just given up all hope really affected me, so  myself and my colleagues vowed to do our best for them and to help them develop and grow. Working with our clients, we offered a system of support that gave the clients confidence and also provided a place for these people to come and relax, should they feel things were getting on top of them. Even these small gestures of support and encouragement we gave were rewarded by clients beginning to actively seek employment by their own means and showing their new-found confidence.

Obviously i would like to think that my WP Prime that i’ve been refered to will handle things in much the same way, providing a network of support and encouragement and at this stage, for me at least, time will tell. According to the glossy pamphlet i received at the job centre and judging from the flashy website, such provisions are indeed in place and are extremely successful.

Though it doesn’t take much digging to discover a whole heap of unhappy WP “Customers” and even Employee’s venting their frustrations via message boards and social networks. My Prime in particular seems to get mentioned a disproportionate amount of times than the others.

As ever, you always take opinions on the internet with a pinch of salt, surely it can’t be that bad, but then again, even employee’s are complaining, not just about their “Customers” but about the high staff turn-around, how some “Customers” are onto their fourth advisor.

In the same line, since the Work Programme was introduced, organisations have sprung up, fighting the injustices of the WP and all associated changed brought in with the reform of the Benefits system, i’ll link to them below.

http://www.workprogramme.org.uk – Archived website, relaunching soon. Providing an open forum for Customers and Employee’s of the Work Programme and also giving support to people who feel they have been wronged.

http://www.consent.me.uk – Dedicated to letting people know their rights in regard to Data Protection and how the Primes acquire and handle such information. Also provides information and assists with unfair and illegal benefit sanctions from all aspects of the benefit reform.

http://www.boycottworkfare.org – Focused on abolishing the Mandatory Work Activity and boycotting companies and organisations who benefit from the MWA “Volunteers”. Focus particularly on the Cait Reilly story as she seeks a Judicial Review of the MWA scheme.

http://www.indusdelta.co.uk – Welfare to Work Industry Community, the majority of WP staff comment on these message boards and makes for interesting reading.

There are other sites such as LinkedIn where discussions take place about the WP.

Having read the majority of threads on all of these sites this past week, the common theme is people seem unhappy with the WP, Employee’s and Customers commenting on lack of structure, support, facilities and money (£5 billion going where exactly then?).

I’m making sure i go into this with my eyes wide open. Anyone with any advice or guidance on how to handle this, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

A

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Work Programme

 

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A Bit of Background

It seems only fair that i give a bit of background into my circumstances before i start ranting and raving or singing and praising about my time on the Work Programme as i understand everyone’s circumstances are different in regards to this scheme and some things discussed may have little relevance to some or a lot to others.

I go by the name of Alex, i’m twenty two and have been unemployed for nine months, i have no dependents and i do not have any physical or mental difficulties, i am as they say, Job Ready.

Previously i was working as a Web Designer / Employability Support Worker within a local unemployment charity, however, this was through the Future Jobs Fund and once my 6 months was up, the charity had not been able to secure funding to keep my role within the organisation, i did however stay on as a volunteer working in a reduced role and signed up for Job Seekers Allowance two weeks after my contract had ended.

I have claimed JSA in the past and my experiences back then were, for want of a better word, dismal. Constantly talked down to, rushed in to sign and claim (Advisors only had four minutes of time allocated for each client, mercifully this has been boosted to seven minutes recently) and little to no assistance was given if i had found a job i was interested in.

This time round however, i found the Jobcentre helpful and understanding of my circumstances and i’m thankful to my advisors who encouraged and supported me through this turbulent time, both personally and on a wider, national scale.

I have been putting effort into my job searches and applications and out of the near 200 applied for, not one has resulted in an interview or even a call back.

I have only just been referred to the Work Programme and have yet to attend my first appointment.

With this Blog, i do not intend to use it as a wailing wall, bashing the WP or the Government left right and centre, i want to use it to share my experiences, delights and frustrations whilst on the Work Programme. I am lucky in a sense that i have just a marginal bit more insight into the world of Employability and i hope to use this to my best advantage as this field of interest is one i also wish to make my Career out of.

**UPDATE**

The initial contact stages with my WP Prime have not gone as smoothly as hoped. I was told by my JCP Advisor to expect a call about my first appointment and then a letter. The call came the next day, yet nothing was said. After answering and saying “Hello” to what sounded like an office environment for around thirty seconds, i got no response and just as i hung up, i hear “Hello Mr-“. I immediately rang back, however no one was available to take my call. Hopefully i will receive a call today about this appointment, i’m worried already, what if the mail doesn’t come and i miss the appointment?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Work Programme

 

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