“Way beyond broken!”
WORK PROGRAMME – “Way beyond broken!”
“A contradiction in its own title, perhaps it should be Work Less Programme…..”
In the last few days we have seen the release of the Lord Justice Leveson’s four volume report following a five million pound enquiry into the press; arguably the most important recommendations into the press for over 300 years. The politicians were given 24 hours to review these recommendations before discussing the Leveson points, but by then the press had been in full assault for weeks campaigning against compulsory licensing and membership of a regulatory body underpinned by legislation. But, the Leveson report did far more than recommend future self-regulatory practice, it acknowledged that the press on the whole were honourable, but spoilt by a few unscrupulous bad apples. These vile few that had put at risk a free press and quality of journalism that is standard setting for the world over.
But those few, many of whom broke the law and are now being prosecuted, also thrived on lies, intimidation, sensationalism without truth and literally persecuted victims of crimes who now had tabloid ink rubbed into their devastation. These sick, putrid few invaded, harassed, hounded and exposed the most intimate of lives – many lives devastated by death of a loved one, and they did not care of the effect they had, not on any level. Millie Dowler, the Bowles family with their 11 year old son, Sebastian, murdered, Maria Church, Jacqui Hames, Sienna Miller, Madeline McCann, all of whose lives were rocked to their very foundations in full public view whilst they were already living in hell. These are but the tip of an iceberg of wrong doing done by the few but also sanctioned by editors and proprietors alike.
Then the politicians did an initial debate and suddenly the Leveson report drives a four volume wedge between the Coalition with Cameron refusing statutory regulation as recommended by Leveson, with Milliband and Clegg becoming new bed partners demanding the recommendation being implemented in full. Within 24 hours in this House of Commons and Governmental split and spat, the families who were so horrendously disrespected and treated go after Cameron, led by Madeline McCann’s father, feeling Cameron had added insult to injury by refusing to consider legislative underpinning of a new regulatory press body. Language used was very offensive about the Prime Minister as families, celebrities and others felt so betrayed by his statements that they believed left the press to do as they wanted, once again – UNACCEPTABLE!
So with the storm gathering strength as two sides line up as warriors that will fight to the bitter end and to get their way regarding the press, it is not surprising that a couple of connected news items should slip by with hardly anyone noticing, but yet they are worthy of considering and noting for debate and discussion, as they are quintessentially at the core of busting this recession.
As the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepares his autumn budget statement, which no one is looking forward to as it is predicted to announce more cuts, cost rises and only the wealthy will be able to avoid and benefit (no surprise there), it will be received in Parliament in the context of the Euro Zone unemployment increasing yet again. The current level of unemployment is now at a staggering 18.7 million people, now 11.7% of the population, up by over 200,000. These staggering numbers are described as being highest in struggling countries such as Spain, Greece, Italy, etc, who can least afford the increased welfare bill and associated reduced taxation revenue from people working. This terrible situation is acting like a set of anchors dragging on any hope of Euro Zone recession recovery, with only Germany seeing a reduction in unemployment. The figures did not define long term unemployed or disabled unemployed, but it is a guarantee that these two groups will be in the millions and will be the last to find work due to prejudice, inequality, and lack of understanding and so on. It is the same in every country despite Equality Acts or discrimination legislation; those with disabilities or lack of work experience are nearly always last in the queue for jobs. Heck, most employers don’t even know what the social model of disability is let alone have any understanding of implementing it in the work place with a strong emphasis on equality.
This brings us to the second item that was washed away from view by the Leveson tsunami. Mid-week our own long term unemployed work programme figures, when I say ‘figures’, one could easily replace this word with ‘bloody slaughter’. With regards to a Work Programme the very title is the opposite of what was apparently happening, the Government’s flagship programme looked like a train wreck, an absolute blinking shambles. The facts speak for themselves. The target for the Work Programme’s first 12 months was only 5½% – a ridiculously low figure one might think – how wrong would you be:
• Less than 4% of those entering the programme maintained work for 6 months
• Out of 878,000 unemployed only 31,000 stayed in employment past 6 months
• This is a mere 3.5%
• Those maintaining work over 12 months dropped to 2.3%!
Mark Hoban (Work Programme Minister), was interviewed and he actually said how well the programme was doing. Even the interviewer asked him if he really thought this was good. He dodged and waffled but couldn’t get away from the statistics released from his own department:
• The programme achieved less than half its own target in year one
• The cost of the programme was a humongous 630 million pounds, that’s £ 6 3 0, 0 0 0, 0 0 0
But then came body blows that thudded home as if from a professional boxer, landing body blows followed swiftly by jabs to the Minister’s chin, that in a comparison group who were made up of the long term unemployed, and did not do a Work Programme, achieved an employment rate of over 5%. That’s right, for the first time in the history of humanity you were more likely to get a job if you didn’t go on a Job Centre Plus programme. REDICULOUSLY BIZARRE and at a price of £630,000,000
But that wasn’t all. Hell no, he said that it took time for the “Momentum of the programme to gather pace”, so the interviewer asked him if he was confident that the Work Programme would hit year 2’s and 3’s targets? The Minister looked extremely uncomfortable as it was announced that the targets were year 1 = 5 ½% (missed by a mile), year 2 = 20% (!!!), and year 3 = 30% (!!!). The interviewer wouldn’t let go when he was challenged that the Work Programme was not just broken but atomised into its constituent molecules. This was followed with another jab to his chin as it was reported the infamous A4E was only just managing to get 3.3% over 12 months!
After the Minister’s beating on Channel 4 News, the report also presented evidence of disabled long term unemployed who had been declared ‘work able’ by ATOS (you just know this isn’t going to be good when ATOS is mentioned), were sent to job interviews which were mandatory to attend on these Work Programmes, for employment as panel beaters, construction labouring, demolition labouring. Sound great, except the people concerned were wheelchair users and were completely unable to do most aspects of such heavy, physical jobs requiring maximum mobility – disgusting!
Now I know there are some good aspects of work going on to get the long term unemployed into sustainable work. Some were specialising in taking homeless people, helping them find housing supported by ‘life skilling self-care’ programmes, which move onto confidence building and then into supported employment. However, such wonderful examples of work that make a real difference to lives aren’t even funded by Job Centre Plus and rely on charitable donations. One reason given was that there were a couple of big players dominating the Job Centre Plus Work Programme, such as A4E, and they subcontracted these smaller organisations but take the lion’s share of the payment, leaving the smaller, often local provider with not enough to cover their costs even if they did all the work – somewhat unfair to say the least. But there is even worse than this practice to mention. I know several organisations and entrepreneurs that have written to the Department of Work and Pensions, including myself, offering to set up programmes and pathways to take the long term unemployed, develop their employability and work experience, and then get them into sustainable employment by creating companies and expanding commercial ventures. After all, who is best placed to create jobs and understand what an individual needs to be skilled in, than successful entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurs that have a track record of creating employment, creating sustainable commercial enterprises that grow and need ever increasing employees. In my own right I have created over 300 jobs across some of the most deprived areas of the North of England and not got a penny in support from the Government. Yet they can waste £630,000,000 and make millionaires such as the original founder of A4E who was paid over £8,000,000 from her company as a bonus in one payment alone.
I know for a fact that several successful entrepreneurs, experienced job creators, including myself, have written to the Department of Work and Pensions offering to help, offering to get involved in return for the Work Programme outcome payment, which has proved so lucrative to A4E. In response to these astute business people, commercial experts, employment opportunities innovators, We/I got nothing back. We were blanked, completely ignored and dismissed out of hand, the silence was insulting. One friend is creating 100’s of jobs in a new commercial venture in the middle of an unemployment black spot, and he is not getting a penny towards it even though he has offered to take on 50% long term unemployed. All he has been given by the DWP is silence, as they seem to prefer to funnel money to organisations that can’t even get 3% into long term employment. What is the DWP playing at? I even asked to have a meeting with some local MP’s to put forward out ideas and to positively challenge the current status quo (which isn’t work), none were interested in meeting and only 2 bothered to respond to tell me they were effectively too busy. Well, I kind of think, as a successful disabled entrepreneur and employment creator I am pretty well placed to help the government to achieve great things for the long term unemployed, along with other successful business men and women. But no, they would rather stick with a failing programme and would anyone want to bet that the DWP will hit its Work programme 20% target for next year? I think not!
Smiling Cat Ventures and Innovations Group
Smiling Cat Ventures Ltd (www.smilingcatventures.org)
Innovative Minds At Work Ltd (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)
Moments in Time Ltd (www.momentsinmind.org)
Innovative Business Consultancy Ltd (www.ibcv.org.uk)
Systems of Equality Ltd
Passport to Care Ltd (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)
Spiritual Inclusion (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)
Disability In Business Centre (in development)
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