The government has another great workfare idea: Make everyone who has been on the Work Programme do six whole months of full-time forced unpaid labour. It introduced a pilot scheme for this idea, the bizarrely named “Community Action Programme”, which is being implemented by profit-making “Welfare to Work” companies. We hear from one unlucky person about the shambles that was the first day of their six month stint.
After being informed that I had won the “lottery” so to speak, I was duly summoned to attend a Community Action Programme “Welcome meeting” on this fine February morning. Determined not to be too sullen despite having been previously shall we say, a little under impressed by the so called assistance received through A4e 6 months prior, I tried to open my mind to the possibilities that may be offered by Pinnacle People, and knowing that I have little choice but to attend or lose my benefits, off I went.
I had been informed by letter that this session would take approximately 3hrs! So having parked and paid for a day’s parking, I made my way to their plush offices and after being greeted and offered a beverage, we sat waiting for others to arrive. Of the 14 booked in 3 of us were there at the allotted time 4 others drifted in over the following 20mins! Good start! In front of each of us was placed a brochure outlining what was to befall us, maybe a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy would of been more apt but hey ho, also each of us were given a copy of a default Action Plan with spaces allocated to be filled in/edited after each session. (May I point out that this document requests signatures and dates of birth, so those like me concerned with Data Protection, TAKE NOTE!)
After listening to the program outline, it was soon apparent that yet AGAIN, I and the other unfortunates who have been conscripted into yet another debacle will once more be wasting our time and Government money to line the pockets of another bunch of… No, I won’t do myself the injustice of just swearing for the next hour, but I will point out a couple of points that really guile me!
During our meeting the young man pointed out to us that… “though I do not know any of you, it’s important for you to undertake this programme as those that have been unemployed for a long time fall into bad habits and this will stop those that sleep in all morning and spend the day watching Jeremy Kyle from continuing living like this, not that I am saying any of you do that…” Nice touch!
He continued to state that “…it was not the company’s fault that we were there but the Government and as such, if we felt that this was not for us, don’t take it out on them, go see the people at the job centre, but you will be unlikely to get anywhere… the only way to get of this programme is to get a job or sign off”. One could expect that I suppose?! But it’s hardly the way to instil trust and encourage those forced to take part to see some kind of benefit in the whole procedure (the benefit bit wasn’t a pun!). Having made it crystal clear that any non compliance or a failure to “take part” in ANY activity they deemed suitable would be seen as a failure on OUR part and as such may constitute a breach in our agreement, we were told that THEY did not have the power to issue sanctions on our benefit, so it was pointless coming to them and complaining. HOWEVER it was their duty to inform the Benefits office if they felt that an individual was disruptive or was reluctant to comply with their requests!
At this point we were directed to SIGN the documents in front of us which contained the Consent to Share Information… I declined… At that point the young man loudly asked why I refused to sign. So, politely I told him at this time I was “unhappy” to sign such a document as it was a non mandatory requirement, he then made a point of telling me (and those sat watching) THREE times that he would have to report this… So I guess my Black Ball is on its way!!!
The best bit is yet to come… I am still struggling to actually believe my own ears on this, but BELIEVE IT OR NOT during our meeting (of 40mins NOT 3HRS so there goes £3.70 on parking!) We were actually told that in our Area the person whose job it is to secure placements is struggling, that the opportunities have dried up, that… “IF WE COULD HELP THEM BY LETTING THEM KNOW OF ANY COMPANY THAT COULD TAKE US ON, THEY WOULD BE MOST APPRECIATIVE” ARE YOU BL**DY KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!
The second document (Action Plan) which they were so adamant we sign, stated clearly that within the next 7 days we would commence our work placement… We were then told our nextmeeting would be in 14 days!?!?!? What?? How?? But we don’t have a placement to go on!!! Yeah… I didn’t sign that one either, oops!
Please, Please, Please somebody, anybody, anybody with any sense that is, surely somebody can see what a farce this all is and do something about it.