'We want to help people, not punish people - this is about giving people opportunities. -- Peter Hain, Work and Pensions Secretary
'The inactive should, wherever possible, be preparing and training to get back into work.' -- Gordon Brown
New Deal for the unemployed was introduced with much fanfare by neo-Labour when they came to power a decade ago. Not to be confused with New Deal for Communities or Pathfinder programme that is destroying tens of thousands of homes in the North, social cleansing under any other name.
We hear much from the government on New Deal, how they are spending millions on helping the unemployed. What we do not hear or hear less of is how they are pouring taxpayers' money down the drain and creating a gravy train for private training companies, some of which have managed to milk millions of pounds out of the system.
What is New Deal, is it of use to the unemployed, or just more spin from neo-Labour and a further excuse to beat the unemployed with a big stick, hit some of the most vulnerable in society to scrape a few Brownie points out of the right-wing tabloids?
Those who are unemployed, after a minimum period of unemployment, will be placed on New Deal. This means they get special attention, for 'special attention' read 'harassment', and will be allocated a New Deal adviser.
If you are lucky, your adviser will be supportive and helpful, but could be if you are unlucky, unsupportive, bloody-minded and obstructive, and whose role in life appears to be to make your life a misery. Periodically you will find your benefit is arbitrarily stopped, seemingly on a whim. The first you will know of this is when your money stops, as they lack the courtesy to let you know, let alone give reasons why. And then you will have difficulty extracting the reasons why it has been stopped.
If your Jobseeker's Allowance is stopped, it has a knock on effect of stopping your Housing Benefit. Hours of unproductive time then has to be spent sorting out the mess that is not of your making. More costs to the taxpayer.
If benefit stops, always appeal to a Tribunal.
Favourite grounds for stopping money, is 'not actively seeking work', at least in 'their' opinion.
You are probably fully compliant with the law, so check, or seek legal advice.
The relevant legislation is The Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 (Statutory Instrument 1996 No 207)
and in particular Section 18 - Steps to be taken by persons actively seeking employment
You are required in any one week to take more than one step (ie two) and the steps to be seen to be taking are laid down in law.
(1) For the purposes of section 7(1) (actively seeking employment) a person shall be expected to have to take more than one step on one occasion in any week unless taking one step on one occasion is all that it is reasonable for that person to do in that week.
(2) Steps which it is reasonable for a person to be expected to have to take in any week include —
(a) oral or written applications (or both) for employment made to persons-
(i) who have advertised the availability of employment; or
(ii) who appear to be in a position to offer employment;
(b) seeking information on the availability of employment from-
(ii) persons who have placed advertisements which indicate the availability of employment;
(iii) employment agencies and employment businesses;
(c) registration with an employment agency or employment business;
(d) appointment of a third party to assist the person in question in finding employment;
(e) seeking specialist advice, following referral by an employment officer, on how to improve the prospects of securing employment having regard to that person's needs and in particular in relation to any mental or physical limitations of that person;
(f) drawing up a curriculum vitae;
(g) seeking a reference or testimonial from a previous employer;
(h) drawing up a list of employers who may be able to offer employment to him with a view to seeking information from them on the availability of employment;
(i) seeking information about employers who may be able to offer employment to him;
(j) seeking information on an occupation with a view to securing employment in that occupation.
If you have checked out a job advertisement in the local paper, inquired about a job at an employment agency, spoken with an employer, fiddled around with your CV, then you have more than met the requirement that week to be seen as actively seeking work.
A booklet available from Job Centres, also downloadable off the net, entitled While claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, tells you in non-legal terms, what you have to do to be actively seeking work. [Ref No. WCJSAA5JP version 1/06 ISBN: 1-84388-709-6]
'You will normally be expected to take at least three steps each week while you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance. This could include drawing up a CV – a short description of you and your work experience, skills and qualifications. It could also include more direct jobseeking activities like contacting employers.'
The booklet is incorrect when it says you have to take at least three steps. You are compliant with the law if you take more than one step, and the steps are defined, in any one week. But apart from this one glaring error, it gives a general idea of what you have to do to be seen as 'actively seeking work'.
The next stage is to send you to a New Deal boot camp, oops a training course. If you have a modicum of basic education and intelligence, this is a de-skilling course. You will also be expected to go and work for a company for several weeks for no pay, slave labour by any other name.
Most of these training courses are at a best a scam at worst outright fraud. If taxpayers are concerned at waste of taxpayer money, this is where they should concentrate their attention, not on the unemployed.
One such training organisation is CDG, also known as CDG UK or Careers Development Group.
They have dozens of training centres across the country with their head office in Wimbledon.
CDG are a registered charity, they claim to be a 'professional' charity. Something of a non sequiter as all charities have to be professional, otherwise they fall foul of the Charity Commission.
It begs the question: should CDG even be a registered charity?
A typical day at CDG is divided into morning and afternoon. One session will be devoted to 'job search' the other to 'training'. Most days would at best be described as chaos, with no one seemingly knowing from one day to the next what anyone is supposed to be doing.
During training you will learn how to give dumb answers to dumb interview questions, how to fill out an application form. Training monkeys.
A typical training session would be filling out an application form, or answering a multiple choice questionnaire on applying for a job, then walking blindfolded down a room!
The latter was to encourage team work and communication.
Ah, team building, The latest management buzz word. Few jobs require team work. You may even be sent out to practice guerrilla training, spray around a few paint balls, trash a few ancient woodlands.
What is never emphasised or even spoken of is cooperation.
But please do not try this if you are a Muslim youth group, as you will be arrested, charged and found guilty of terrorism offences.
Indeed if you are a Muslim, do not even read the wrong literature, as again you will be arrested, charged and found guilty of a terrorism offence.
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four draws ever closer.
During 'job search' you are expected to find and apply for a minimum of four jobs a day! You are 'helped' in your job search by the threat that benefits could be stopped for up to six months for failure to comply.
For most people, this is impossible, a situation not helped by the fact that CDG block Internet access to local newspapers and many potential employers. Even job sites are blocked! Local newspapers are not available or if they are available, days old when all the jobs have gone.
Few jobs are advertised, even fewer jobs are put through agencies. Most jobs are found through social networks, the better your social network, the better the chance of finding a job.
CDG blocks access to many potential employers, to news sites including local papers, even job sites are blocked.
But do not show any form of personal initiative, if you do you will receive a verbal warning. Job search at CDG is narrowly defined as looking at situations vacant, nothing more.
One Jobseeker was issued with a verbal warning for 'looking at an inappropriate website', ie BookCrossing!
No advice had been given that this was an 'inappropriate' website, proper procedures were not followed, no warning given that this was to be a disciplinary meeting, no indication that a third party could be present.
How did they know? It appears they had been monitoring Internet activity, which in itself may have been illegal as no notice was given that this was being done.
The computers are using old style monitors not flat screens, background fluorescent illumination and many chairs with non-adjustable heights and backs.
A clear breach of health and safety with users suffering backache and headaches by the end of the day.
Jobseekers at CDG very quickly learn to play the numbers game. The search for work becomes not finding work, but meeting the daily jobs quota.
This is to waste everyone's time, including employers who find they are being swamped with applications from unsuitable applicants.
Many people are being sent to a New Deal boot camp that is not near their home, often involving a nightmare public transport journey with multiple changes and taking door-to-door up to two hours each way. All the more ridiculous when there is often a New Deal boot camp nearer to home.
One jobseeker would have had a nine minute train journey to her nearest town, instead, three different trains, two changes, a journey of almost two hours.
Yet another example of waste of taxpayers' money, as the taxpayer foots the bill for travel expenses.
Those attending the boot camp get their travel expense paid, except the first four pounds of a travel claim in any one week is deducted. This has to come out of their own pocket.
Lunchtime, rain or shine, the jobseekers are kicked out on the street for an hour.
Lunch is not paid for or provided, putting jobseekers further out of pocket.
Jobseekers are allocated an individual tutor. Most tutors try to be helpful, and they do give helpful advice, for example when individuals are struggling to type out an application letter.
One tutor, lacking in people skills and the ability to communicate, was clearly out of his depth. He made up for his inability to cope, with aggression, which included shouting and swearing at jobseekers and bullying behaviour. When he got a reaction, he complained of 'attitude', lack of respect, and as a last resort threatened to have people sanctioned, ie their benefits stopped. He failed to understand that you do not get get the best out of people by treating them as children and riding their backs all day, especially when they resent being there in the first place, forced to participate in a farce.
With a couple of people, who at the end of the day, had fulfilled their daily job quota and were relaxing and having a chat, he practically accused them of shirking and wanted to know why they had not done more. Not, well done and hope you manage to achieve the same the next day. But worse, he went over to one person, pulled on his laptop so he could see what was on the screen. Had he inquired, he would have learnt they were discussing jobs in their local area and job placements.
He eavesdropped on private conversations, then went off half cock with the wrong end of the stick.
The same tutor spent the morning scouring the net for information on discrimination. He then gave a training session in the afternoon on discrimination. At the request of the jobseekers, the training session had to be adjourned for a break to give him the opportunity to mug up on what he had downloaded that morning.
One jobseeker was forced to do a first aid course, even though he had only successfully completed a first aid course a couple of months before. He was threatened with being sanctioned, ie benefit withdrawn, if he refused. He wanted to make better use of his time in revision for his driving theory test as he had a job lined up which was dependent on him holding a driving licence.
A few days later, the same jobseeker, tried once again to revise for his theory test, only to have the same jumped up bully of a tutor with a permanent chip on his shoulder give him grief for 'not looking for work'. No attempt was made by the tutor to check whether or not this was worker related, whether or not having a driving license increased the prospect of getting a job, let alone whether the jobseeker had a job lined upon that was dependent on passing the theory test.
A useless manager who does nothing other than strut up and down all day like a peacock.
A manager who fabricates a pack of lies to have a Jobseeker kicked off the course for gross misconduct.
It comes as no surprise, staff morale at CDG is low, staff turnover high. Staff freely admit they would rather be elsewhere.
Jobseekers may be on a Gateway Course for two weeks or IAP (Intensive Activity Period) for 13 weeks, or if they are really unlucky, one follows the other. And if they are really, really unlucky, one IAP follows another!
During IAP, jobseekers are meant to be placed with an employer for several weeks where they are expected to work for nothing. This is called 'gaining work experience'.
Few, if any, are being placed, because CDG does not have willing employers. Few, if any, of the Jobseekers wish to work for nothing, not unless it is voluntary work for an NGO, and surprise, surprise, voluntary work is excluded.
More than one jobseeker, who had found their own work placement, when asking why nothing was happening, were told to shut up and stop pestering staff!
One unlucky jobseeker, sent to a builders yard for administrative work, found himself out in the yard shifting heavy loads, no protective gear, no high visibility jacket, no training.
It would appear no lessons have been learnt from the death of Simon Jones.
The unemployed are not only to be treated as second class citizens, it would appear they are expendable.
The advice CDG is giving employers makes interesting reading. They have on their books, doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants and IT people, all available to come and work for you for nothing!
The statement made by Laura Hampson of CDG to Brighton & Hove Business Forum, says it all:
'This is a Government funded charity that provides training programmes, careers advice and work placements to a wide variety of people with varying skills and skill-levels ....'
'Because of their links to the Jobcentre, highly skilled trainers, and a network of local businesses they have a high number of capable clients looking for work placements. CDG can be used by local businesses to source enthusiastic, skilled workers at no cost. In addition to sourcing the right person for a particular employment they support the client during the placement so that both employer and employee benefits are maximised.'
'As part of their training some of CDG’s clients complete a 13 week voluntary work placement in a variety of fields. CDG provide businesses with experienced employees for an express need, or short-term workers who have the capacity to be retained in full employment after the 13 week period. This has proved to be a highly effective recruitment method as it ensures that the employee is both experienced within the business and is motivated by it.'
The key phases being 'CDG can be used by local businesses to source enthusiastic, skilled workers at no cost' and 'CDG provide businesses with experienced employees for an express need' and 'has proved to be a highly effective recruitment method'.
Laura Hampson incorrectly states participation is voluntary. It is not. It is mandatory and if you refuse to participate your benefits can be stopped for up to six months.
One day a mentor appeared at CDG to give a pep talk to the troops. He was from TNG, yet another training organisation. Quite why he was there was not clear, maybe he was touting for business.
He talked of empowerment, the facilities and resources being offered by CDG and how lucky everyone was to have this opportunity. Err, sick joke! He talked of the marvelous job opportunities that were on offer and the career advancement this led to. He gave examples: a cleaning job with Southwest trains (it could lead to being an engine driver), working at Burger King (this was the route to senior management). He was at a loss to comprehend the lack of enthusiasm for the McShit jobs on offer.
He then let slip he had been at other New Deal boot camps to give his pep talk. This confirmed that there were camps closer to home. What was he going to do about it? The only advice he could give was talk to your local MP. When told the local MP was an arsehole, he decided his allotted time was up, and he would let the Jobseekers, or clients as he called them, carry on where they left off.
So it was back to the blindfolds, tie yourself to a partner, crawl under and climb over obstacles. Maybe this is what he had been referring to when he talked of overcoming obstacles to employment!
As a consequence of this 'training exercise', one jobseeker damaged his back and had to pay a visit to his doctor.
Another day two women from a job agency came to visit. They wanted birth certificate, passport and bank account details. More than enough for ID theft, identity fraud and money laundering. They were unable to produce a business card (it's at the printers) and when asked what jobs they had, they were unable to say other than they had hundreds.
This was the day that 25 million records from Inland Revenue went missing, lost somewhere in the post.
The New Deal boot camp is seen by those who are forced to participate, you have no choice, it is mandatory and if you refuse benefit is stopped, as nothing but a farce.
A few examples serve to illustrate:
- CDG has now tightened up. Last year, those that attended the boot camp sat around playing cards all day until it was time to go home.
- At other boot camps, once the initial few weeks have passed, Jobseekers make an appearance once a week, sign their name, have a cup of tea, chat with their mates, then go back home.
- One lady on a New Deal boot camp was within a couple of weeks of reaching retirement age.
- Screaming, shouting, music, playing football during job search.
- Jobseekers sent home at midday on a Friday so the staff can go down the pub.
CDG are running what amounts to little more than a fraudulent operation to obtain government funding. The government should mount an investigation and shut them down.
Next time you hear that neo-Labour has launched a new initiative to help the unemployed, look beyond the headlines and spin, and when you do, you will see it is yet another scam to waste taxpayers' money and to punish the unemployed.
The reason there is unemployment is because there are no jobs. A situation exacerbated by an influx of 2 million migrants from Eastern Europe since 2004 when the new accession countries joined the EU and probably at least the same number again of illegal immigrants.
A situation the government deliberately maintains to encourage worker flexibility and mobility and to hold down wages.
Government statistics published in 2002, showed New Deal sanction rates to be highest in areas of chronic job shortage and high unemployment, such as the north-east. Those suffering most from state penalties are those already suffering most from the market economy. The welfare state if it had any underlying philosophy was the recognition that unemployment is caused by the vagaries of capitalism, not the unemployed are a bunch of work shysters and scroungers to be punished. Withholding benefits as a means of controlling the behaviour of the class hardest hit by these vagaries is unethical and merely serves to punish an underclass for the very act of being the underclass, as though this will make the underclass vanish under the wave of a neo-Labour magic wand.
What neo-Labour are doing with New Deal would be like trying to improve the nation's health by withholding treatment from those on poor diets or who smoke, and demanding, as is already required of jobseekers, that they sign a 'healthseekers agreement', and once signed, health provision would be withheld as a sanction for non-compliance.
Neo-Labour would not do that, would they?
What is happening is a numbers game, a massaging of the unemployment figures. Jobseekers at the New Deal boot camp receive their P45s. The numbers of unemployed go down as they are counted elsewhere, at a stroke, the long-term unemployed are eliminated. When they are discharged from the New Deal boot camp, the New Dealers sign on as new claimants!
New Deal does nothing for the unemployed. It has though at taxpayers' expense created a multi-million pound gravy train for training companies.
Evey independent investigation into New Deal shows that it does not meet its stated objectives, that it is a waste of public money, and yet the government still pours in millions.
Jobcentres make no attempt to debrief jobseekers who have attended a New Deal boot camp to see if they offer value for money, whether or not any benefit has been achieved. Not that they need to as they are receiving plenty of complaints from those forced to participate. And yet, the Jobcentres still insist on sending jobseekers on to these boot camps, often to the same boot camp more than once.
In a speech to the CBI (Monday 26 November 2007), Gordon Brown spoke of the need to make training mandatory for all welfare claimants, with benefits withheld to those who refused to go on training courses.
If Brown is to make training mandatory, then he has to improve the existing training courses, not pour more good money after bad.
Few would disagree with training that provides basic skills, that adds to existing skills, that provides transferable skills, but that is not what is happening.
Brown's statement that there would be a stronger role for private and voluntary firms in helping people move from benefits to work, was heavily criticised by trade unions. A spokeswoman for Unison said:
"Study after study shows that the private sector does not deliver good value for money and walks away from contracts when the going gets tough."
Mired in sleaze, the banking system on the point of collapse, missing data, was Brown attempting to bury bad news, trying to claw back a few points in the opinion polls, by lashing out at the unemployed?
Anyone who has any remaining doubts should consider the response of a New Deal Adviser when asked what the success rate was. She did not know! She was though more than happy to continue sending people on New Deal training courses even though by her own admission she had not a clue whether or not this was public money well spent!
New Deal blogs
Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996
Jobseekers Act 1995
Social Security and Child Support (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 1999
Social Security Act 1998
Nick Assinder, Brown's welfare re-launch, BBC news on-line, 26 November 2007
Brown outlines 'long-term' plans, BBC news on-line, 26 November 2007
Charities make millions out of the unemployed/disabled, Indymedia UK, 3 July 2006
Charity balls, SchNEWS, 3 February 2006
Frank Field, Peter White, Making individuals agents of their own change, Reform, November 2007
Free Lunch Paid For By New Deal......But We're Not Invited, Indymedia UK, 29 November 2004
David Hencke, Government turns charities into multimillion-pound businesses, The Guardian, 3 July 2006
Richard Jonson, How Legal is the UK New Deal for Employment?, South Coast Indymedia, 9 June 2007
Most London firms hiring overseas, BBC news on-line, 16 November 2007
New Deal job scheme 'a failure', BBC news on-line, 14 May 2007
Keith Parkins, Careers Development Group, Indymedia UK, 27 November 2007
Keith Parkins, Local Housing Allowance, Indymedia UK, to be published
'Skills check' for single parents, BBC news on-line, 26 November 2007
Skills drive 'to boost workforce', BBC news on-line, 16 November 2007
Tougher work tests for disabled, BBC News on-line, 19 September 2007
Judith Williamson, Work for a pittance - or else, The Guardian, 26 April 2002
Will Woodward, New Deal fails most youngsters, The Guardian, 31 July 2002
Work for a pittance: unemployed to be forced into work, Indymedia UK, 26 April 2002