26 July 2016

No evidence to support daily trips to the Jobcentre

The Jobcentre has a tactic I've looked at before whereby a claimant is required to go in every day to have their job seeking activities checked over. The official line is that it is to support claimants into work. Others suggest it's intended to make claiming so difficult and unpleasant that a claimant will sign off. Or that it sets people up for a sanction.

So I asked DWP what evidence they had that such a regime made it more likely that claimants receiving this particular support will get and sustain employment . After the usual delay, referral to the Information Commissioner and an inadequate response it turns out that "no evaluation of the Daily Work Search Review has been carried out as yet".

The only alternative evidence they offer is about  "Supervised Jobsearch Pilots" but they won't publish the results of these citing Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act. That scheme which involve claimants spending 35 hours a week being supervised at a "provider" is too different to  stand much chance of providing useful evidence about the benefit of having to pop into the Jobcentre every day.

So this "daily trips to the Jobcentre" regime is not backed up by any evidence before it was introduced or since it was started in April 2014.

It may therefore be unreasonable (in the legal sense of the word) for Jobcentres to impose this regime on claimants. Failing or refusing to comply with it may not legally attract sanctions

I'm asking people with more knowledge of Welfare law for their opinion - do not act on this yet!

28 April 2016

After the Community Work Placements

From the 1st April 2016, Jobcentres will no longer refer claimants to the controversial workfare scheme Community Work Placements and no one should remain on the scheme after 28 October 2016.

I wondered what would happen to claimants who completed the Work Programme and would previously been liable to this element of "Help to Work"? The answer is that they can still be referred to the peculiar and arguably punitive Daily Work Search Reviews and the Mandatory Intervention Regime. What's new is they can also be put on the "JCP 2016/17 standard offer"

So, did CWP get extra people into jobs? We'll try to find out in the coming months.

31 March 2016

Yet again, DWP have no idea if workfare costs jobs

(Original 15/09/15)

The Jobcentre has several schemes whereby claimants are obliged to "work for their benefits". Typically these schemes require 30 hours work for a weekly benefit payment of  £73.10 (less if you're under 25). This is just under £2.44/hour. It's alleged that this tempts employers to get work done under this scheme rather than pay an ordinary worker the National Minimum Wage of £6.70/hour.

So does "workfare" cost jobs in this way? The DWP doesn't know - I've asked them 3 times for information on how they check this isn't happening and they still say they don't know

Words literally fail me.

Update 31/03/16: They still don't know, see here however, new referrals to the schemes end today.

13 November 2015

The Joys of Regulation 23

The Jobcentre's powers to compel claimants to do things (useless or not) have limits but they have a nice little trick to get around the regulations.

Let's say you want to put on an information session for 50 jobseekers. Maybe you believe it's a good and useful session and compelling attendance your chosen group of claimants is the right thing to do. Or, more cynically, you know it's a great way to frustrate and inconvenience them into closing their claim. No problem - it works either way!

There's no official way to compel attendance at a Group Information Session - the guidances says:

5.  There is no mandatory requirement for claimants to attend a Group
Information Session and as such DMA action does not apply.  If a claimant
does not attend their Group Information Session their claim must not be

So what a lot of Jobcentres are doing is to issue a letter inviting claimants to the session but which goes on to say that afterwards they'll have an interview with an advisor and threatens that failure to attend the interview could result in loss of JSA.   This is "correct" because the The Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations say:

23. A claimant shall participate in an interview in such manner, time and place
as an employment officer may specify by a notification which is given or sent to the
claimant and which may be in writing, by telephone or by electronic means

What many jobseekers have found (me included) is that there is in fact no interview - just the session which may or may not be useful - and certainly wasn't in my case.

It's time it stopped

8 November 2015

Derbyshire Mandatory Youth Activity Programme: What the DWP didn't learn

This local scheme involved 8 weeks of  24 (some sources imply 30) hours/week unpaid work by claimants  plus some supported jobsearch. It was mandatory and very like some of the other DWP "Workfare" schemes.

On the face of it however, there was a crucial difference. According to the guidance

4. DMYAP is aimed to test whether a period of activity at the 26 week claim
point, will have a positive impact on sustainable job outcomes

Now, if we for a moment forget that this was a nasty untested mandatory scheme, there's actually something very exciting here - an intention to see if the scheme works!

So I asked for the results. After a tussle, the DWP sent me their evaluation reports. The main one is here and disappointingly reports "It has not been possible at this time to look at the employment impacts of DMYAP.". That's unfortunate especially since finding out about "sustainable job outcomes" was the avowed purpose. I look forward to a further report that covers this vital point!

The report is not without interest as a look at what they investigated hints at what the real priorities of the DWP were:
  • It showed a modest drop in claims. This is unsurprising - you do something unpleasant to claimants  and they go away.
  • There is a lot of data on how much money the scheme saved.
  • It claims to have improved the performance of  staff by giving them more time to work with those that were not randomly selected to go on DMYAP.
I'll keep prompting the DWP on the job outcomes issue.

12 October 2015

Shirebrook (Mansfield Station Road) Jobcentre and Sports Direct

Readers may remember my post a few months ago about how this Jobcentre had a much higher sanction rate than any other in the country. The DWP explained: "The main reason for the high proportion of sanctions recorded in Shirebrook is the high number of locally advertised, suitable job vacancies which are not applied for.'' Put another way, there are loads of jobs in the area but the local claimants can't be bothered to apply for them and are rightly sanctioned.

I said at the time that it might be true and I've come across a possibly related related story. 

This other story concerns "Sports Direct" whose largest depot is less than a mile from this Jobcentre. It is alleged in the Daily Telegraph (!) that they are bad employers:

"Or what about the allegations of sharp work practices at Sports Direct’s biggest depot in Shirebrook, near Mansfield?

In April, a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation claimed to have exposed some shocking working conditions.

Among the policies the programme claimed to have uncovered included the public shaming, through tannoy announcements, of employees who bosses think are not working hard enough, and a "six strikes" rule where someone can be sacked for committing too many minor infringements.

The list of a 36 potential "strikes" included talking, spending too long in the lavatory, taking time off sick and even failing to have a clipboard and pen on hand at all times, Dispatches claimed.

Workers told the documentary that they live in fear of being fired at any moment and that security is so tight they are frisked at the end of every shift"

So it might be that the reason people are refusing to apply for "the high number of locally advertised, suitable job vacancies" lies in the reputation of this employer.

DISCLAIMER: This is speculation. I could be entirely wrong linking these issues - but I might not be. Further work is needed to get to the truth. This FOI request may help resolve the issue

18 August 2015

Excellent truth-seeking by Welfare Weekly

The headline is "Exclusive: DWP Admits Using Fake Claimant’s Comments In Benefit Sanctions Leaflet" and the full story shows how they used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth the evidence.