It also allows Gordon Brown a few cheap sound bites to announce initiatives on training. So far three major initiatives in almost as many weeks. And it is said Brown lacks any understanding of recycling!
Brown's keenness, which extends beyond mere sound bites, to force people off benefits and into training should be seen in the wider context of an attack on the poor and disadvantaged, which includes the crass comments of a government minister to kick tenants out of their council homes and the policy to privatise disability claimants.
When criticism of CDG was first published by Indymedia UK, CDG were paranoid, the staff went around like headless chickens for at least a week. It is a pity that DWP did not at that stage send in a hit team and clean up the mess before CDG had the chance to recover from their initial shock. Unfortunately they did not. What they did though was to ask questions.
Last week, I am pleased to be able to report, a dossier dropped through my letterbox from the kind folk at DWP, a dossier that contained the response from CDG, a response that was as one client who looked at it thought was 'a load of bollocks', but if nothing else was a pack of lies.
The response is too long for me to address everything they say (a detailed response will be made to DWP), but I will try and pick out and address a few salient points, which highlights the extent to which CDG are prepared to lie.
As an aside, I will draw attention to some recent comments from clients of CDG that back what I am about to say.
CDG: False to claim 'most days would be best described as chaos'.
Truth: Clients arrive in the morning, sit around twiddling their thumbs, no-one has a clue what is going on. Eventually someone will say, do this do that, training, job search or whatever. There was a complete lack of structure.
CDG: 'CDG Basingstoke has been very successful in helping clients back into work.'
Comment: No figures provided to back up this claim, thus meaningless drivel. Clients serving their 13 week sentence not aware of anyone finding work. If anyone had found work, CDG would be claiming the credit and bragging about it.
CDG: Clients are not trained to give dumb answers to dumb questions.
Truth: Like training monkeys. So-called interview techniques, clients taught to parrot dumb answers to dumb questions. An insult.
CDG: Training sessions are regularly observed to review the quality and relevance of content.
Truth: Clients during their 13 week sentence at CDG have not once witnessed such monitoring.
Comment: For anyone with a modicum of intelligence, basic education or professional experience, CDG is a de-skilling exercise. When clients post comments that they had better help, support and training in prison than at CDG it should set alarm bells ringing at Job Centres and DWP.
CDG: Client feedback is regularly gathered which in the most part is extremely positive about CDG.
Truth: Clients sit around all day complaining how bad CDG is, cannot get out of the building quick enough at the end of each day, look forward with relief to the end of their 13 week sentence. Clients during their 13 week sentence have seen no evidence of feedback being gathered. Articles and comments posted on Indymedia UK from clients and staff, paint a very different picture to that falsely claimed by CDG.
CDG: Blocked Internet sites, if referred to IT department, are unblocked.
Truth: No attempt was made to unblock blocked internet sites. Blocked sites included: local newspapers, English Heritage, Equity!!!!
CDG: An admission that Internet access is being monitored!
Comment: Unless there is strong evidence of fraud or illegal activity, monitoring is illegal. This monitoring also appears to extend to reading the content of e-mails.
CDG: Claim that all computers have adjustable chairs, then blame the clients for taking them away if not there.
Truth: All computers did not have adjustable chairs. Keyboards had broken feet. Bad background fluorescent lighting. Old VDU monitors. Net result: bad backs, headaches, RSI.
Comment: The computers would not pass a DWP risk assessment that all Job Centre staff are required to carry out each time they sit down at a computer.
CDG: Manager works an extremely hard, 9-hour day, a 'dedicated manager' who is there 'to guide, inform and help both staff and clients'.
Truth: When not standing by the fire exit smoking, strides up and down as at least one client has commented 'like a peacock with a poker up its arse'.
Comment: Apart from the fact that it is an offence to smoke on the premises (and has been since last summer) and sets a bad example for the clients, it is an extreme discourtesy to the clients who have to walk through and inhale her foul smoke every time they enter or leave building. Clients are obliged to use the fire exit as they are not allowed to use the front entrance. And yet, 'see no evil, hear no evil', the manager failed to notice the bullying. This is like a headmaster who denies bullying is taking place at the school, until the fateful day when one of the kids is found hanging with a sad suicide note telling the world that their life was made a misery by the bullying to which the school turned a blind eye. A 'dedicated manager' who works a 'hard 9-hour day' but who fails to notice bullying, has a high staff turnover, low staff morale and who the clients identify as the principal cause of many of the problems. Get rid of her and the tutors not up to the job and clients would see a significant improvement.
CDG: Staff morale not low.
Truth: Staff openly complaining, highly critical of the manager, staff looking for other jobs, high staff turnover. In a short period of time of just a few weeks, three members of staff left. Clients who had been at CDG the year before noticed a complete change of staff. Both staff and clients have posted articles and comments referring to low staff morale.
CDG: Refute that few clients go on work placements, claim work placements offer full time employment.
Truth: During their 13 week sentence, clients noticed few inmates went on work placements. One of the few that did, was sent to work in a charity shop at least an hour's travel away from home. There was no full time employment on offer. The position was normally served by convicted criminals serving their Community Service!
CDG: Job placement are close to home, discussed with clients first as to suitability.
Truth: Clients instructed to go to a job placement. No prior discussion with client as to suitability, placement can be a long way from home.
Comment: CDG in a presentation to a business forum in Brighton bragged that they had highly skilled people on their books who would come and work for nothing!
CDG: One client's opinion that a tutor out of his depth.
Comment: CDG fail to explicitly support this or any other tutor or explicitly state they are not out of their depth, merely a vague statement they have support of clients. How many if any tutors have teaching certificates? They could not teach in school or college without.
CDG: CDG can see nothing wrong with telling clients to hand over passport, birth certificate, bank account details, National Insurance Number to a job agency.
Comment: ID theft, fraud, money laundering! Jeremy (petrol-head) Clarkson could not see what all the fuss was about, published his bank account details for all to see. Surprise, surprise, Direct Debits were opened for his account. No doubt the e-mail inquiries from Nigeria asking for bank account and other personal details are just the Nigerian way of being friendly, like asking how's the weather!
CDG: That clients were forced out of the building at lunchtime come rain or shine was for a trial period, under constant review, they could visit a shopping centre 2 minutes walk away.
Truth: It was not a trial. Clients were told to leave the building because the staff did not wish to be troubled during lunchtime. Who wants to be seen dead in a shopping centre? How long would it be before security be called if you are seen everyday to walk into the shopping centre and eat your own packed lunch and drink your own drink? CDG reversed this policy when it was exposed on Indymedia UK.
CDG: No CVs are lost. CDG then fudge the issue and do not directly answer the question that they have lost CVs.
Truth: Several clients complained that CDG lost their CVs.
CDG: CDG deny they receive £3000 for each jobseeker they force into work.
Comment: How much do they receive, is it more? They do not say. Publish the figures. Let us see the extent to which you are milking the system. Should we not be be told the level of state handouts, how lucrative is the gravy train? American companies would not be wanting a slice of the cake if all they were to get was peanuts.
CDG: Bullying does not exist and CDG has fully investigated allegations of bullying.
Truth: Bullying is rife. No attempt at investigation. Clients who have been bullied have not been questioned. Articles and comments posted on Indymedia UK give some indication of the extent of the bullying. Asked for a copy of the company code of conduct on bullying in the workplace, CDG were unable to produce a copy.
CDG: Clients not told they had to apply for four jobs a day, no threats of sanctions.
Truth: Clients told on an almost daily basis that they had to apply for a minimum of four jobs everyday, threat of sanctions, benefits stopped for up to 26 weeks, for non-compliance.
CDG: No threat to check up on clients, to phone every employer of job applied for, to follow up every interview with a phone call.
Truth: CDG backed down a couple of days later when it was drawn to their attention that this was a clear breach of Data Protection Act.
CDG: Not a breach of human rights, but useful to improve a client's performance at interviews.
Comment: Apart from the fact the statement is arrant nonsense, it shows a demonstrable ignorance of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
CDG: Jobseekers who are caught reading critical articles on Indymedia UK were not threatened with loss of benefits.
Truth: Jobseekers were told if they were caught reading these articles they would be removed from the course. Removal from the course can result in loss of benefits for upon to six months.
Comment: What are CDG afraid of, that more clients may find the courage to speak out when they see they are not alone in their criticisms of CDG? The last thing CDG wants is empowerment of their clients, for clients to discover they have rights, that they do not have to put up with the way they are being treated by CDG. If CDG have nothing to fear, why have they (as they claim to have done) blocked access by their clients to these critical articles, and by implication, blocked their clients from posting their own critical comments?
CDG: CDG deny clients were told not to wear jeans, but then contradict themselves by qualifying their statement.
Truth: CDG told clients they could not wear jeans. A few days later they were forced to back down by the clients.
CDG: 'No tutor shows any signs of being a coke head.'
Comment: A meaningless statement. Subject all the staff to a random drug test, including the manager (aka 'the peacock' as known by staff and clients), then tell us the results.
CDG: Jobseekers are never sent home early.
Truth: Jobseekers go home at 4pm or earlier, sometimes sent home mid-afternoon when the tutors cannot cope, but told to fill out their time sheets for 4-30. On a Friday so the tutors can go down to the pub (or so it is alleged), jobseekers sent home at 12-30, if not earlier, and told to put on their time sheets 'job search'. One day end of November, manager stood by the door handing jobseekers a note telling them not to come in the following Friday. Jobseekers learnt from tutors this was because they were going up to London for a party and wanted the day off!
CDG: 'not had any questions asked from the Jobcentre about the 'abuses' taking place'.
Truth: Local Job Centre has confirmed that CDG were asked questions and asked to comment. They were also asked by DWP.
Comment: Out of the extremely hard working 9-hour day, was time found to write on a whim several pages of comments on what had been published on Indymedia UK? Something maybe to do to fill out the 9-hour day? After all you have to show something for the hard working 9-hour day!
CDG: What is written here [ie on Indymedia UK] is not the truth, but a wildly inaccurate reporting of [... missing from copy ...] written in an emotive and provocative way to bring the company and staff into disrepute.
Comment: The response from CDG also included vicious personal attacks on myself and my integrity, the standard crude attempts to discredit and blacken the name of critics. These I have not lowered myself to respond to as I do not wish to join CDG in the gutter. Draw your own conclusions on where the truth lies, whose action is bringing CDG and its staff into disrepute.
There has to be a wide-reaching inquiry into these scam training courses by the National Audit Office or the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee before ever more taxpayer's money is poured down the drain. Until there is, CDG and their ilk will be laughing all the way to the bank at our expense.