Sunday, 15 January 2017

Welfare to Work Cuts

Here's an article in the Guardian that confirms yet more bad news for the criminal justice sector and the chances for many probation clients gaining employment:-  

Thousands of jobs to go in government shakeout of welfare to work sector

Thousands of experienced employment coaches are expected to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as ministers trigger the first stage of a massive shakeout of the government-funded welfare to work sector that will see it shrink by 75%. The employment services industry is preparing for what one insider called “a bloodbath” as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moves to replace the work programme with the much smaller work and health programme.

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal that seven of the 15 work programme prime contractors, including big private sector names such as Serco and Maximus, have not made it on to the initial shortlist for the new scheme. The work and health programme shortlist, which is to be officially announced next week, begins a process in which the remaining eight work programme firms will compete with three new entrants for just six new regional contracts.

The final outcome, expected when contracts are awarded in late spring, could result in some firms being forced to abandon the market, or diversify into other contracted out public service areas, such as criminal justice or apprenticeships.

“This decimates the welfare to work industry. It represents the unravelling of nearly 20 years of unemployment support experience,” one industry insider told the Guardian. Work coaches provide long-term unemployed clients with help to acquire a range of employment and life skills designed to increase their chances of finding work, such as CV writing, IT skills and literacy, as well as liaising with potential employers.

Thousands of work coach jobs are expected to be lost. “This means large job losses among really experienced frontline advisers, the majority of which are in charities,” said Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association.

The work and health programme is expected to start in the autumn and aims to provide specialist support for long-term unemployed people, especially those with health conditions or a disability. Funding will be about £100m a year over four years. This is about a quarter of the current annual spending on the work programme, which closes at the end of March, and work choice, which will continue for a few months longer.

Ministers have been warned that the cuts will undermine the government’s ambitious commitment to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, which requires it to find jobs for about 1.2 million people with disabilities or long-term illnesses able to work.

Ministers are understood to believe that rising employment levels, coupled with the provision of extra disability employment advisers in Jobcentre Plus, means that recent high levels of investment in employment support are no longer needed. But the Commons work and pensions committee warned in November that the scale of the cuts to the work and health programme meant that many disabled and ill claimants would be unable to access support.

Tony Wilson, the director of policy and research at the Learning and Work Institute thinktank, said: “The work and health scheme will support far fewer people and it would not be able to deliver services to the extent that could be done previously. Our assessment is that this scheme will make a vanishingly small contribution to the halving of the disability employment gap.”

Of current work programme contractors, Serco, Maximus, Seetec, Interserve, Learndirect, NCG and Rehab Jobfit are not on the work and health programme provider shortlist. The following firms have made it on to the shortlist, known as the framework: PeoplePlus (shortlisted in all six contract regions), Shaw Trust (5), G4s (5), Ingeus (3), Reed (3), Working Links (3), Pluss (2), Prospects (1), APM (1), Remploy (1) and Economic Solutions (1).

The regions covered by the framework are: central, north-east, north-west, southern, home counties and Wales. London and Greater Manchester will run their own devolved work and health scheme.

The work programme – which was launched in 2011 by the then secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith – achieved mixed results and was fiercely criticised for the low numbers of disabled and chronically ill people it succeeded in supporting into work.

It was also dogged by controversy over alleged misconduct by work coaches, and the high salaries earned by top executives. Emma Harrison, the founder of A4E, was criticised for paying herself dividends of £8.6m in 2011, on top of a £365,000 annual salary.

Harrison, who had a brief spell as former prime minister David Cameron’s “families tsar” sold her personal stake in A4E to Staffline group in 2015 for a reported £20m. The relaunched company, PeoplePlus, is shortlisted in all six work and health programme areas.

Industry insiders expressed surprise that Maximus – which has gained notorietyas the provider of the DWP’s controversial “fit for work” tests – failed to make the shortlist as it had been seen as one of the best performing work programme providers in terms of getting long-term jobless people into sustainable jobs.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our new work and health programme – which our providers will help us deliver – will allow us to give more tailored support for jobseekers and there will be an overall increase in funding for people with health conditions and disabilities. Work coaches play a crucial role in supporting people into work and these changes will allow us to do more through our Jobcentre Plus network.”


  1. If working links are in the Running they will be more than happy to sack yet even more staff for the government.

  2. The only company helping people into work which has ever had any direct success of getting work for any of my service users ever over the 17 years I have worked in probation is Blue Sky. The only other observation I have about my service users getting into work is this: many of them find themselves as fodder for exploitative employers at the bottom end of the market. Many become "self employed", find they have to work themselves into the ground to make a modest living and in the end find it hard to sustain over the medium or long term. The bureaucracy around applying for top up housing benefit or working tax credits are a logistical nightmare doubly so for people with few it skills and resources. Most if not all getting into work organisations I have ever come across have had as their prime /only goal "getting people into work" and once that happens they close the case. In preparation for getting a job in addition to cv writing and interview skills there should be lessons on how to negotiate a work contract, how to recognise an employer likely to work you without a proper contract, different types of work contracts and what to do if you are asked to work several days on a trial only to be told at the end that you have not been chosen for the job, and that no, you will not be paid for the 3 days work you have just done for the man as part of your trial.

    1. 1025 - 'prime/only goal - getting people into work and they then close the case.'
      The Probation Service was also 'guilty' of similar, several years ago, I'm now retired.

      We were told by panicking managers, to record on CRAMS, when we had a new case, to tick if they were in employment and then do it again 4 weeks later, after having addressed their unemployment and referred them to a work programme. In order to meet targets (and get money from the govt to keep our good work going) we had to tick, even if they had found work without the Service's help, and also tick if they were already in work and didn't need referring elsewhere. Even if the work was for one day! Or a backhander. Or on a training course, however short. Or in education. Several of us ignored this blatant manipulation, even tho' the reward was not for individuals, but for the good of the Service, the clients and ultimately our jobs.

    2. Having worked for a Prime Provider on the Work Programme from the start I feel I should try to rid you of the misconception that it is all just about ‘Getting people into work’. Yes that is the main objective a bit like a Probation Officers role is about making sure ‘Clients do not reoffend’. It is satisfying when someone you have worked alongside goes into employment when they had given up on themselves ever getting a job. However the job is more than that. Work coaches face many challenges and social issues with customers, many referred to the Work Programme are so far away from getting into employment due to heath issues, alcoholism, drug taking, abuse, criminal record, on the streets, the list is endless, all the issues as a Probation Officer you will be familiar with. These customers are not just parked as some believe but worked with in the same way as someone just needing that little support to get work.
      Example 1. An ESA customer who was an alcoholic who for several appointments hid behind her drink and said what she thought I wanted to hear. Having ascertained what time of day she started drinking we arranged appointments that would be more productive. It took several months of just general chatting at appointments until slowly she told me of the loss of her son who had been disabled and how quickly after his death the council wanted her to move out of the adapted property she was in, this had added to her depression and she had sought help from her doctor who was less than sympathetic due to her drinking. After several appointments and discussions I gave her details of another doctor’s surgery that was still in her area and advised her to book an appointment to change to them. After several attempts she managed to make that call and in doing this got the support and guidance she had been looking for. 18 months later found a job.
      Example 2. A 60 year old female again ESA Asian customer with limited English. Had previously had major surgery during which time her husband left her and gone into severe depression and agoraphobia. She had never worked but brought up the family and had never been encouraged to learn the English Language. The change in retirement age meant that she could not claim Pension Credit. This customer was never going to find employment but the only time she came out of the house was to her appointments on the Work Programme with her daughter who then took her to do her shopping. Compliance stated that I only needed to see this customer monthly however I continued on weekly appointments as a benefit for the customer.
      As you are aware many prison leavers are referred straight to the Work Programme from the Job Centre as they leave prison. Our initial approach is find out what their release requirements are but work with them to make sure they are complying with DWP requirements so their benefit is not stopped. Actions are kept as simple as possible while they are resettling into the community, attending meetings with their Probation Officers etc. When probation split 2 years ago we tried to engage with the local CRC to come into our branch and see what we did with customers and how we could work together but they were not interested.

    3. The system is letting customers down way before they are referred to the Work Programme. Many arrive with no CV or ID, 2 essential requirements for finding employment. Customers are often not fully informed of the Work Programme before they are referred so they arrive thinking we are part of the Job Centre and full of mistrust and we have to quickly gain trust and build a relationship. We have customers who have reached the end of their 2 years who have moved closer to the job market have but not found work ask if they could continue coming as they did not feel they would get support when returning to the Job Centre.
      As for forgetting customers when they move into work, that cannot be further than the truth, we are regularly in contact with them and will support them while ever they need us to.
      So you can say the Work Programme hasn’t worked if you look at the statistics of customers moving into employment, however, if there was statistics showing how many have moved further forward tackling personal issues it would be a different story.

    4. a rose tinted account, as from what ive witnessed the jobcentre requires 'customers' carry out parrot-fashion job searches and cuts the benefit of those that cant find a job. Pointless constant cv updating and jobclubs, but no actual jobs on offer!

  3. Slightly off topic but I hope the point is easily recognised as relevant. Privatisation and fragmentation of public services makes matters more diffuse, less efficient and incoherent particularly when trying to achieve positive outcomes for people. As an example, one case was given unpaid work as part of a Court order. Given their circumstances at the time they should not have been ordered to complete unpaid work and the NPS should not have suggested it. With the cases consent I wrote to their GP to get a medical note. They sent me an invoice. On enquiry with the GP I was told the task was outside their public sector duties and they asserted their right to charge as part of their private work. My private sector CRC did not have a budget to pay the invoice. Undeterred I went with my case to meet their Job Centre key worker as trying to telephone proved to be problematic. I was told that they were unable to give the information as doing so was not part of their remit and I needed to ring a central number which would field the enquiry. At a further appointment we then rang up and with my cases consent the adviser told me that my case was not required to actively seek work for medical reasons. I then contacted the hub of my organisation to request activation of the relevant report on the system, completed the report and returned it to the hub. The hub then sent it to National Probation Service who then produced the report in Court. Of course this process took months rather than the week or two it might have done in the past. My frustration was immense given how ridiculously busy and under pressure I was. I remember thinking, ‘And someone is making a profit out of this mess!!’ How do you get profit motivated, resource constrained, target orientated organisations to co – operate for the benefit of mutual clients without complex contracts that prove to be near impossible to monitor and enforce. By comparison, in the past there would have been a quick chat with the cases GP. I would generate and produce a report, pass it to my admin for processing where it would then be sent the Court team and produced for the Court. I also doubt that the case would have been given unpaid work in the first instance. We need joined up working, common purpose for success would be my point and I don't see how in privatised and fragmented Probation or Work Programmes that can happen?

    1. I admire your efforts but a person is not a case.

    2. Put a sock in it! You are getting boring. 10.59

  4. Probation Officer15 January 2017 at 11:54

    So it will be G4S and Working Links then. The former shouldn't even be in the running after it was caught tagging the dead and the latter will be able to combine signing on and probation supervision into one appointment. I dread to think how far reaching breach processes will be in Working Links when they get the contract. The work programme is already "worse than doing nothing", so imagine how it will be with 75% less staff. In all my years in probation I have rarely seen offenders gain work via the jobcentre. Blue Sky, employment agencies for low paid work and self employed for construction work is what the trend seems to be. The majority goto the jobcentre because they want £120 quid every two weeks. It would be great if actual jobs were on offer but there isn't, unless when Tesco or the railways have a recruitment drive and they rarely want those with convictions. Call me a hypocrite, but because the employment service is already so bad it doesn't really matter which private company sits on the other side of the jobcentre desk.

    1. I have been on that side of the fence looking for work. The process ie. signing on for job seekers, going fortnightly to be told , keep searching job sites, rewriting CV's. The job centre did nothing for me, apart from make me write down everything I did to look for work and I agree with Probation Officer it doesn't matter who is sitting on the other side of the desk.

  5. Civil service are advertising for young persons community partner and mental health community partner, these jobs are across the country however both are 12 month fixed term contracts.

  6. to go off topic - sorry but important - I get mountains of campaign groups with petitions for me to sign - almost all worthy. Today I received another from to sign a petition re a letter being sent to David Hood, a top cat at NOMS, re the murder of Tanis Bhandari. The petition and letter are from Andrea Sharpe, his mother, who is distraught that Devon and Cornwall CRC are refusing to reveal the details of the SFO investigation and report, as the CRC is saying that they are not obliged to do that as they are a private company. It is stated that this is untrue, as they are paid by NOMS, a public service.

    The letter is there with the appeal petition. They currently have just over 4000 signatures but need 5000. To find it you can scroll down the right hand side of this page to get to BLOG ARCHIVES, then scroll through Jan '17 until you come to the first one entered 'SFO Lessons to Learn'. on 3rd Jan.

    It is very long blog, for which Jim apologised, but necessary. Scroll down the numerous comments after the topic, until you get to one about 4th from bottom and one at the bottom dated 5th and 6th Jan I think, with links to the Herald article. Type in the link then Scroll down the article on that site and click onto the link at the bottom, which takes you onto the petition.

    Alternately you can just type in the 'Herald newspaper's headline mentioning 'Herald - Tanis Bhandari murder - mother starting a petition'

    I wrote a long attack on the govt in the little block on why do you want to sign, but it took me onto a Facebook page which I don't have. But when I re-signed and left the square blank, it accepted my signature.


    1. The reputation of Working links is seriously in question here over the way they have abused the facts and full information to this poor family. I bet the 5 thousand signatures will shortly be reached. Then at some point soon enough the public at risk and the family can unravel the secrecy hiding the train crash coming.

    2. Wales CRC has the Connor Marshall case + campaign by his family.

  7. Worst day ever! Utter crap!

  8. Maybe the most "interesting" part of this is what will happen to Seetec. It's a MAJOR shock that they didn't make "the list" and their welfare to work income has always been their mainstay. What effect will losing that have on the group, including the CRC?? Once we know how London & Manchester are going to procure the devolved Work & Health Programme, we'll see whether Seetec can still go for it (open procurement), or if the umbrella gets used (in which case it's goodnight to a major income stream for them).

  9. JobCentre Plus is run by the government. Its not privatised so no-one except a government employee is "sitting the other side of the desk"
    The Work Programme is privatised. People who have been failed by the JobCentre get attached to it (after a very long time). We should be looking at the government's track record of (not) helping people much in JobCentre Plus. But thats not fashionable and the Guardian are not interested