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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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So I’m a Job Snob?

I am angered and upset.

According to the Employment Minister, Chris Greyling, I am a “Job Snob”, defined as a person who is able to work, but is particular in which vacancies and jobs interest them. I.E. Selective. Well, forgive me for having an idea about which career I want to excel in. This doesn’t mean I’ve been passing up opportunities for other types of work. My daily job search ranges from Cleaner vacancies to Web Design (even though I can do it, I have no qualifications to go with it). With this broad range of search, time and time again I come up with the same barriers which stop me from actually applying to some posts, the top three being:

1) MUST HAVE OWN CAR AND FULL UK DRIVING LICENSE NO POINTS. I don’t know how to drive.
2) ENHANCED CRB REQUIRED. Now this one is strange, because in my experience, CRB costs are usually met by the employer. However more and more jobs which require CRB are asking for the payment to be met by applicant. I can’t afford it.
3) Not enough hours compared to the cost of transport to get to work making my potential wage suffer OR the location of the job is within my 90 mins travel to work area, but would mean having to get three buses or two buses and a train, which would mean I’d spend a hefty amount of my potential wage on transport costs and would be no better off.

Luckily, however, my town is pretty much central to three other major towns in my area and the city which is only one bus ride away.

To get to the main point of why I’m writing this.

Chris Greyling has branded anyone against the Mandatory Work Activity, Workfare and Work Programme a job snob. He is confident in the fact that he has many high street retailers working with him on providing work placements for thousands of unemployed people, yet large national companies and charities are beginning to leave the scheme, what’s now a trickle could become a flood. Tesco have asked for clarification that the schemes are actually voluntary in response to vast public pressure to get the company to leave the Workfare scheme.
Critics of his schemes have compared them to “Slave Labour” , an accusation Greyling has vehemently denied, maintaining his stance that the work placements will help thousands of people back into work and is aiming to increase such placements to 100,000 by the end of the year, whilst failing to realise that a DWP Report into other schemes like the ones under way in the UK are more likely to REDUCE the likelihood of gaining employment.

I am not against the idea of Work Experience for young people. Any teenager or school leaver who willingly approaches an employer and asks for work experience should be given that opportunity. I am not against the idea of Volunteering. People who want to better themselves by Volunteering for local and national causes should be hailed as honourable and valuable members of their communities. However I am against the idea of people working for their benefits. Being paid what the need to live on for doing the same job as an employee of a company for less than minimum wage. Every story, anecdote and newspaper article I read of peoples experiences on Workfare bring images of Victorian-esque poverty, family’s forced to live in one room of a house because they had the “luxury” of a spare room and were made to move. Disabled people being hidden away for their own safety and dignity due to high media propaganda that paints these people, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, as benefits scroungers, someone on the train the other morning actually said “If you can move your arms, you should be able to work”. That is ultimately the way we are headed and it won’t be the romanticized, abridged, HD ready Dickensian poverty we see on TV.

Finally, I ask, what is the government doing to actually create jobs in the UK? All I have seen for the past six month’s is an attack on people claiming benefits and the NHS, I haven’t once seen anything to actually create a job in local or national press. At the same time, I wonder that if companies like Tesco, Argos, Matalan and Burger King can find space for Workfare “Customers”, then why not offer these people a job instead of throwing them back into the system at the end of their placement? Or are you reaping the benefits of a conveyor belt of unpaid staff?

I dunno. Confusing.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Unemployed Life, Welfare Reform, Work Programme

 

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The Benefits of Volunteering

“Volunteering? Uhm…Alex, you’re against the MWA and Workfare aren’t you? Why are you promoting Volunteering?”
Indeed, i am against the Mandatory Work Activity, Work Fare and the Work Programme to a point. However, i am not against good honest, community spirit inducing volunteering. And i’m also worried that, with people being placed on these activities through their providers and job centres, Volunteering will come to be seen as being associated with the Unemployed and, to use a buzz word, “Scroungers” paying back to the community what they take away in Taxes (we still pay VAT, so even the Unemployed aren’t exempt from some form of Taxation).

The way the MWA, WF and WP works, you get little say in the type of thing you’ll be doing, however, when you make your own conscious choice to volunteer in a place that interests you and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, then, my friends, i have nothing but praise and a sense that there is hope for humanity. Volunteering shouldn’t be seen as work, in my opinion. Volunteering should be seen as helping your local community, you’re providing a service, for free, using your own time and energy to ultimately make someone or a group of people’s lives better.

I’m scared Voluntary work will suffer greatly when the introduction of all the activities mentioned above takes place. Vital local and mostly charitable services, such as support for the disabled, local youth football teams or even just a friendly ear and a hot cup of coffee may have to face the stigma of having “perverse” single parents volunteering with them, or “feckless” benefit bums working with them, all because of the stigma attached to the WP. Services may have to be reduced and costs cut back even more as people may start thinking “Well, they’ll get the people on the dole to do it, i don’t need to”.

I know i may sound rather blaze and a bit hysterical, but i don’t want these services of good will and support to diminish and eventually disappear. If you’re interested in Volunteering, or if you’ve considered it but never really done anything about it, here’s a couple of websites with some more information.

VolunteerEngland

Third Sector

Groundwork

Do-It.Org – Voluntary vacancies around the UK

It’s pretty much widely known now that Volunteering does improve your CV and Employment prospects, however, would you rather doing something beneficial to you and your community at large, or would you rather work for your benefits?

There are benefits in Volunteering and they’re better than the ones you are given. Volunteer for your own gratification, not for your money.

A

 
 

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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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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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