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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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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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