With an impending vacancy at the Head of the Church and Uncle Dave’s calls (through his disciple Emma Harrison) for “Working Families Everywhere” mentor types, perhaps now is the time to consider what options are available to a man of the cloth and perhaps make a few quid helping the less fortunate in our society. The fragrant Mrs Harrison is no stranger to the distress of the needy, or to the glossy, slick self-promoting photo opportunity. Her bountiful wisdom, if not wealth, has been available to the less fortunate via her appearance on television's the Secret Millionaire and, more recently, as a champion of WFE. For those unaware what Working Families Everywhere entails, there follows a brief outline. Problem families (apologies, that should read ‘Troubled Families’) will be targeted for mentoring by “people with the right attitude”. This is an adopt-a-pauper-quick scheme, straight out of Dickens, only without the philanthropic slant. Troubled families faced with debt, parenting issues, poor health, benefit dependency, lack of opportunity and the absence of gainful employment will now have a middle-class do-gooder to chivy them away from the takeaways; onwards and upwards to M and S ready meals.
Dave and Ems seem to believe anyone can mentor this feckless tribe; qualifications and actual experience are unimportant. One just has to know what is right, expected and decent to get on board with this. Obviously a framework is imperative to guide these greedy babies to Mother Harrison’s ample teat, but no worry. Ems is ahead of the game. She helped set up the private, profit-making subcontractors who will undertake this mammoth task, paid for by the government despite claims this is unfair and displays a significant conflict of interest on her part. No need to worry though, Mrs Harrison has considerable previous delivering schemes of this ilk. Just take a peek at A4e.
For those who are happily ignorant of the plight of the workless (apologies, that should read “workshy”), A4e is one of many private
contractors who get money from the government (yes, your tax pounds) to remove people from the dole. This is not a voluntary
option; the workshy have no choice. It is all part of the Welfare to Work initiative from that champion of the accurate online CV, Iain
Duncan-Smith. It also includes the Mandatory Work Activity which I shall return to later in this sermon.
Back to A4e. Their case workers need no formal qualifications to undertake mentoring roles and, judging by the company’s success rate, their commission must be non-existent. A4e get the moolah by outcome, not bums on seats forced to attend Job Centres. This avoids the practice of them cherry-picking the best and most employable clients in theory, but also fails to give any tangible benchmark around what they actually do.
For example, in 2010 A4e apparently helped 32,000 hardy souls find work (that’s slightly up on the 2,630 from the year before). This was despite unenviable odds and failing to take into account the number of long-term claimants on the dole (and without considering how much A4e were paid by the Department of Work and Pensions). In 2009 A4e’s turnover was £146 million (although payment from the DWP states £150 million). Their EBITDA (that’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amoritisation) was £9.5 million resulting in a profit margin of 6.5%. In 2010 turnover was £190 million, EBITDA £14 million and profit margins up 30% from 2009. This all sound good, but what happened to the £140 million not accounted for as profit paid out by the DWP in 2009 and the £176 million paid in 2010? It can’t be wages, A4e staff numbers are stated on their website as 3,400. Pay them at, say, 30k each a year on average, and you still don’t get anywhere near that amount. Maybe it’s the offices; computers and printers, help desks and paying the bloke who refills the coffee machine, who knows? But that’s the point, who really does know?
And it isn’t the Mandatory Work Activity component of the Welfare to Work program that’s swallowing all this cash. That doesn’t
cost anything; it’s contemporary slave labour, a return to the workhouse dressed up as (unpaid) eight week placements. This
amounts to a poor man’s internship, working a 40 hour week for 67 quid with no way of complaining or otherwise commenting
on the exploitation without a threat of sanction. Even Essex Gypsies treat their workers with more respect.
As things stand there is no way of channeling feedback from the clients (apologies, I meant “workshy”) so they have no right of
reply. Any complaint has to go through the subcontractor who can then claim in return that you aren’t cooperating and this could
result in a sanction. The chances of getting anywhere near the dole office are slim to non-existent, never mind the DWP. You are, in effect, voiceless, a slave with no
rights. If, on the other hand, you happen to be the contractor, the possibility exists of going to the regulator with your complaint. That’s a certain Mr Jim Carley of Carley Consult, once head of business development at A4e, and who apparently also has a sideline advising bid-writing for Welfare to Work contracts. The words ‘conflict of interest’ keep coming up, but who am I to argue with the system? So it seems everyone has a slice of the cake, except… In 2012 primary legislation will proceed to make a third refusal to engage with a Welfare to Work or Mandatory Work Activity a sanctionable offence, leading to the loss of benefits for three years. This is already sanctionable by three months on the first offence and six on the second within a twelve-month period. ‘So what?’ I hear you say. If you refuse the help in finding work, you don’t deserve my hard-earned taxes paying for your easy
To that I would reply; go check out the DWP figures paid to contractors for work training schemes and see where your tax money really goes. It’s not being squandered by dole cheats and workshy scallywags. This money is effectively being stolen under the guise of helping Britain back to employment when, in reality, and as the jobless figures continue to show, the only economic benefits are for the few who run the schemes. People like the fragrant Ms. Harrison, who happens to be at the top of the pile. In the end this amounts to yet another scam by the few against the many, while the richest continue to blame the poor for all
If the current catalogue of cronyism and blatant misuse of taxpayer’s hard-earned cash, siphoned off while telling us “we’re all in this
together” wasn’t enough.
I, for one, want no part of it.