Monday, 14 February 2011

A Valentine's Gift to Current Welfare-To-Work Programme Contractors and Other Stories

Watching "Live Questions to The Work and Pensions Secretary and his Ministers" on BBC Parliament this afternoon I thought I heard Iain Duncan Smith say, in answer to a question from Dame Anne Begg MP, that the bidders for the new (future) Work Programme had been decided. In this I was mistaken as, according to Hansard, it was Chris Grayling speaking and he actually said that:

"...the Work programme bidding process closed this morning, and we have had a substantial number of bids, which is very encouraging. It looks as if the Work programme is going to go ahead according to plan, which is good news." (Question 18, Hansard: HoC 2.30pm 14.11.2011 )

Reading this relieved me of my belief that a decision had been made within hours of the bidding period closing; so, Good Times. Sort of. Since the new contracts for the new Work Programme were, I understood, due to start in April.

What shocked me was what he said next.

"I would also say to the hon. Lady that, shortly before the start of these parliamentary questions, I placed a written statement before the House, giving details of an extension to the welfare-to-work contracts under existing programmes through to next June." 

Shock and horror. That might sound dramatic (and might be so) but I know a few people who are currently making weekly or twice-weekly visits to the offices of at least two of the existing contractors. Those people are actually quite looking forward to the end of March, as the replacement contractors might actually have some idea how to help them find decent training or jobs. Or, indeed, any training or jobs...

And then there is the question of when, exactly, is 'next June'? I've tried but failed to find an online copy of the written statement so no help there. Is it 'the next June due' which would be this June, 2011. Or is it June 2012? I know not. But perhaps the existing staff will no longer be overheard on the telephone to employment agencies seeking new jobs for themselves. Or they'll go and be replaced by people who'll try harder to help those they are meant to be helping. It'd give me a break from a fair amount of the tear-drying, calming-down, making properly constructive suggestions and even setting up of interviews for training or work which I do for my friends and acquaintances. I don't mind doing it, when I have the spoons, but people and organizations are being paid vast sums of money for a "service" they appear incapable of providing. And they get their contracts extended...

In Other News

A great array of questions were asked of the Secretary and his Ministers regarding Work Capability Assessments, DLA, ESA, Universal Credit, the Mobility Component for people living in Residential Care Homes and Special Boarding Schools; all of which makes a full reading of today's report instructive and often jaw-dropping. 

In particular: during Topical Questions (at the end of the session's report) at "T:9" Atos rears its head:

"Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): Recently, a constituent contacted me regarding his Atos Healthcare assessment. Three specialists had considered him to be unfit for work, yet it was suggested that he could be a bingo caller or a car park attendant. My local citizens advice bureau has identified many such cases which are resolved in favour of the claimant after an expensive review or appeal. Are there any plans to review Atos Healthcare’s delivery of medical assessments?"

Mr Grayling gave an answer but did not answer the question.

This did not surprise me.

Quotations are taken from the Hansard report on the proceedings in the House of Commons, Oral Questions, Work and Pensions at 2.30pm on Monday 14th February 2011 which can be read in full here:

There are two pages and some of the questions do not relate to disability or sickness but all make interesting reading and there are some gems in there...


Anonymous said...

sorry to have to tell you this but Atos have got the job - see here -

god help us

RockHorse said...

@Anonymous: technically the consortium they have formed with The Shaw Trust and Pinnacle People had, in October, qualified to BID for the contract in 7 geographical areas by yesterday's date. The press release misleads, somewhat.

The decision on whether or not it is the Atos-led consortium which wins the contracts in any or all of those 7 areas is still, briefly at least, open to question. Mind you, it could be that no-one entered rival bids for all those areas in which case it will likely go to them by default...

Trying to keep a bit of hope, here ;-) Thanks for your comment and please stop by again.

Robert said...

I have been around a bit now nine years of looking for a job with the job center, then Shaw Trust and reploy and many many others.

The Shaw trust went in offered to shake hands, but she said ah no thank you. Later on she told me she did not like this job much because she saw a lot of sick people, two weeks later she was gone, a young chap of about nineteen offered to shake hands which he did then wiped his hand with wipes.

Then we spoke about work, he said to me employers around this area are refusing to even speak with us, I said even worse they are not employing people.

Then he said to me we have a meeting next week in office.

I went down three weeks later but the office was closed, went down the following week closed, phoned up the head office to be told they had left the area, I asked did you not think to tell us and the phone went dead.

I was then placed onto Remploy god forgive the young lady of about twenty or nineteen stated to me, she was working hard but found it difficult to deal with people who might have an illness, I said to her your OK I'm only disabled.

But she stayed her distance, I looked around the office nobody was over twenty five, no one person was getting the full min wage, the manager was about twenty.

In five years I was not found a single job, oh I had training, one training program about computers when I turned up the chap said did you bring a cheque, I said what for, oh he said did they not tell you this cost £1,600.

I did not pay it, nor did the others who turned up.

But hell you never know I might get a job with MI6 I'd be good at spotting charlatans.

RockHorse said...

@Robert: I'm HORRIFIED by the way you've been treated :-( FFS, the behaviour of those people you described is despicable - I mean, it doesn't take much for someone to say, "Forgive me if I don't shake hands but thank you for coming. Please make yourself comfortable." or words to that effect, does it?! And how on earth are uninterested, unmotivated people supposed to motivate and enthuse job-hunters (with or without disabilities) to re-double their own efforts???

And that's just on top of the fact that these Contractors seem to have no proper contacts in REAL training organizations or among employers but they take vast sums of money from The Treasury on what, in my opinion, amounts to nothing more than a pretext that they DO!

And they go on about disabled people and those with long-term illnesses lacking willingness to try to find work!!!

I'd just been reading this from Disability Rights Watch (link below) before I came to check for comments on my blog. It's an apparently ongoing call for evidence of abuse of disabled people's human rights - including bullying and discrimination. You might be interested in telling them what you've told us here...

Thank you so much for your comment - I wish I could say more than that I wish you the very best of good fortune...