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Programmed - This Is Your Threatening Induction Letter!

I have my appointment for the 3rd of April now. I have just received the letter/induction details including an action plan. Now this is confusing. Firstly the action plan isn't filled in and it's not clear if they want me to fill it in or, if not (and I don't think they do), why this is included at this stage. Is it meant to be a work in progress or something? Along with the usual 'if you don't attend...verboten' warnings it says that they will start an action plan during the first meeting.

However, the agreement, on page 3 (out of 5 painful pages) has a part for me to sign and the adviser to countersign. Again no mention that I should sign this now (like hell!). However it does contain the following text:

"For Mandatory JSA Customers: if you do not undertake the activities required in this notification your benefit will be affected"

The agreement that I'm to sign reads:
"I agree with the content of this plan and the outcomes identified. I will attend my programme for the hours agreed. I also understand that I will have to complete periods of work placement during my time on the programme".

The fuck? The Salvation Army (and it is definitely them) are going to compel me to 'work placements' - in other words workfare.

Now that's if I agree to this - and there is some contention as to whether I am legally obliged to this. Or, more pertinently, whether or not my refusal to sign can affect benefits. I've been told that, according to DWP information, signature of this plan isn't mandatory. Whether that means they assume you are going to agree with it anyway I don't know, but my fear, as it always has been, is that regardless of who's right, they will just cause trouble if you don't agree to play ball - even if you are legally entitled not to sign this nonsense.

Also, no one wants to get into a ruck with people like this, and so it's going to take a lot of nerve to politely decline this without them getting all passive aggressive (or just plain aggressive). This won't be easy. But it sounds, according to the wording, that work placements (with all that entails) are compulsory. What do you say that Mr Grayling? I seem to recall you using the word 'voluntary'!

The following couple of pages list 'milestones':

"Milestones to meet any barriers arising from customer's personal circumstances customers that may affect his/her ability to sustain employment" (ineplicable grammatical error theirs, not mine), along with "Planned date of achievement" and "Date Action completed".

Well that's good to know that complex and inhibiting mental health issues, including incurable learning disabilities and/or neuro diverse conditions can be so easily dealt with and 'completed'.
There is also "Milestones to meet customers on-going training and knowledge needs" likewise with a date for completion planned or otherwise. Of course I won't know how to answer this which gives them carte blanche to provide none. I don't know what help is or might be available nor what would best help me so easily lowered expectations are easily met.

Then we finish with start dates and contact details for the job they will of course be procuring for me that will be a long term career goal or whatever they want to call it, and the following above a box to sign:

"I understand that my employer will be involved in these in-work support arrangements and I give permission to share information with my supervisor or line manager as the representative of the organisation that employs me. I agree to meet the in-work targets outlined in this plan."

Waaaaaitaminute....what in work support targets? Why would I have to meet them (as opposed to the people responsible for this apparent support)? I can see no mention of this at all in this action plan. How many supervisors and line managers are going to want to or have time to deal with these things? How many employers are going to hire someone with all this baggage, for better or worse, over the thousands that don't have this (and probably have more experience)?
There is also, finally (finally!): "Customer Declaration (No Employer Involvement) - I would prefer not to involve my employer in these in-work support arrangements but I would like continuing confidential contact with my adviser to support my employment. I agree to meet the in-work support targets outlined in this plan."

So they win either way, I have to fulfill their requirements even in work, despite this plan making no reference (at this point at least) to such targets, and thus they get paid.

This is getting sinister. There's a lot of heavy duty stuff here. I need to be sure of my position before I enter the spotlight and risk even a sniff of a sanction, because for people on the pittance that is JSA even that's enough to really cause problems - and we all know how long they can take undoing that kind of damage. I think I will tell them that I am certainly not signing all this stuff up front; it looks like they will bamboozle me with a ton of info/requirements/plans up front and if they expect me to agree to everything frontloaded like that, well sorry. No chance. Later on perhaps (not really!).

Comments

  1. Gawd knows why they've sent you a blank action plan - usual practice is for your adviser to fill in one of these at each meeting with you, after discussing your current situation and agreeing appropriate targets with you.

    Well, that's the theory.

    A good adviser (and yes, there are the odd one or two) will listen to what you say and negotiate sensible targets based on your circumstances and a realistic appraisal of the local job market. A bad adviser will ask you to do six impossible things before breakfast and then get uppity if you argue.

    A refusal to sign the action plan is regarded as "non-compliance" and will trigger a benefit sanction UNLESS you can show that the action plan is unreasonable/inappropriate/impossible to achieve under current circumstances.

    BUT...

    The targets/actions on your action plan are supposed to be "SMART" targets (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) which does give you grounds for refusing a target that doesn't meet these basic criteria. In my experience most of the really dreadful advisers wouldn't know a SMART target if it jumped up and bit them on the bum so their more unreasonable demands are unlikely to fullfil these criteria.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is some evidence that one doesn't have to sign the action plan.
      http://www.consent.me.uk/signature/

      Now I can't legally verify that position because Im' not a lawyer or a DWP legislator or whatever. But that seems pretty clear. If true.

      It would be a bitter irony indeed if the facilitator of a period of benefit withdrawal and subsequent poverty would be the Salvation Army, of all people.

      Delete
  2. The action plan link:

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/101675/response/255716/attach/2/FoI%20304%2017.02.12.pdf

    I am also making my own FOI request on this issue specifically. Just to be sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Any chance of refusing the referral to the Salvation Army on the grounds of atheism?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm... There is a JCP loophole that allows you to refuse some things on the grounds thqt they conflict with your "most deeply held beliefs" - for example a vegetarian could refuse to apply for work at an abbatoir or a devout Catholic could refuse to apply for work at an abortion clinic without incurring any sanctions.

      Trouble is, if you refuse the Sally Army on the grounds of atheism I suspect JCP would simply transfer you to another Work Programme provider with no religious affiliations.

      Delete
    2. I did wonder. Of course the provider will simply argue that they are acting objectively and of course their staff aren't tasked with missionary work. TO be fair, that's probably largely true; the staff at the Salvation Army Emploiyment Plus are probably just the usual admin clerk types you get in all these places. Christian belief is probably not required.
      More importantly I doubt any such resistance would get very far! Whether or not they could transfer you to a different provider though I'm not sure. They'd probably try, but the process isn't that open. I had no say in who I saw and both the local providers (there are only 2: jobfit via the sally army, and JHP with whomever they have subcontracted) are not a stone's throw from each other. The process is not arranged with any thought to the customer at all.

      Delete
    3. The process is arranged by something called the PRaP system, a strange and mysterious computer system that is understood by few and hated by many....

      Regardless of which provider you end up with I would heartily recommend reading the provider guidance at
      http://www.dwp.gov.uk/supplying-dwp/what-we-buy/welfare-to-work-services/provider-guidance/work-programme-provider.shtml

      This will arm you with all the appropriate rules and regs and since the vast majority of "welfare to work professionals" rarely bother to read this stuff it may well give you an advantage over your adviser.

      And, if you're in one of the many parts of the UK where public transport varies from crap to non-existent, bookmark www.transportdirect.info - it's a route planner that will tell you in about 30 seconds whether or not a journey is practical (or even possible) by public transport.

      Delete
    4. Thanks, I've seen that guidance before over the last year or so this has been floating around. There ar eplenty of sites that have helpfully dissected a lot of that information (and i've tried linking them from here). Unfortunately with the sort of issues I have that kind of infodump is difficult. I think I might have a session at the library tomorrow and print off a couple of things before hand.
      That kind of infodump is what I mean when I say they frontload information, and it's a concern of mine about this first (at least) appointment.

      Delete
  4. May I reccomend a heavy duty, indelible black felt tip to "redact" all the nonsense on the "so called" agreement. Mine has quite a few crossings out!
    My guess is that they didn't attempt to sanction me for this because I would say that the very act of reading and amending (crossing out!) elements of the agreement constitutes "participation". After all isn't the Wp supposed to be about individual solutions rather than one size fits all?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've not come across anything that says customers can't make changes. I'm sure even the DWP would advocate suggesting, at least, changes. Of course that's not quite the same as forcing the provider to accept conditions amenable to you the person that it's all meant to benefit. If they decide to chuck their toys out the pram they can't very well argue that you aren't engaging with them, quite the opposite.
      But of course the overriding problem is the lack of balance in the relationship: they, like the DWP, have the power. You, the customer, don't.

      Delete

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