From Call Boys to Strippers & Grinders … Jobs Advertised at the Jobcentre! #GE2015

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Badger [5491]

Ball grinder [8125]

Bandyman [8111]

Batman [6231]

Beater’s assistant [8121]

Beater-up [8111]

Behinder [8117]

Belly roller [8114]

Blanket raiser [8113]

Body mounter [8132]

Boner [5431 5433]

Boring engineer [8123]

Bottom filler [5413]

Bottomer [8121 8125 5413]

Box hand [9134 9139 5421]

Bruiser [5213 also Bruiser (leather dressing)]

Bumper [8113 8122 8125]

Burster [8122]

Butt suspender [8114]

Call boy [6215]

Can dodger [8113]

Carpenter-diver [5315]

Chick sexer [9119]

Chopperman [8121]

Doper [8114, 8139]

Duffer [9139]

Flasher [5491]

Fluffer [8114]

Drifter [8122, 8123]

Eye puncher [8125]

False twister [8113]

Farmer’s wife [9111]

Fat boiler [8114]

Fish nobber [5433]

Hanger-on [8122, 9141]

Hemp cutter [8113]

Hooker [8113, 8117, 9139]

Humper [9139]

Pig dehairer [5431]

Pouncer [5419]

Puffer [8139]

Puller-off [9121, 9139]

Ring doffer [8113]

Ransacker [8133]

Ripper [8122]

Skull breaker [8117]

Slugger [8119, 8139]

Skiver [8114, 8129, 5413]

Smearer [5419]

Sniffer [8133

Sponger [5491]

Stripper and grinder [8129]

Swinger [8113]

Tonguer [8117]

Tool hardener [8117]

Whimseyer [8113]

Whizzerman [8114]

Willey operator [8113]

 

Down at the Dole Office: A Lighthearted Look at Signing On! Part Two

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I was part of the Employment Service’s Birmingham Implementation Team for New Deal between the autumn of 1997 and December 1998.  It was an exciting, sometimes frustrating, often tiring, but ultimately wonderful experience.  Well thought out practical measures to help people find and keep a job.  Here is a story from that time:

My Boss Asked Me To Ask …

The New Deal for Young People began for each individual with an in depth interview with a New Deal Adviser.

Young lad came in for his first interview, talked through his WETCHA and everything seemed normal.  A fairly straightforward case, in fact.

At the end of the interview, he said, “My boss has asked me to ask you if he qualifies for the employer subsidy as I am under 24?”

“What employer?  What job?  You’ve never declared any earnings to us?”

The lad had blithely admitted to working and signing with his employer’s knowledge and, presumably consent!

I am not sure what happened next, but the subsidy paid over 26 weeks (and related training grant) was to encourage businesses to take young people on when they might not otherwise do so.  It was not meant as a reward for employers who had already taken someone on.

WETCHA?  Work; Education; Training; Circumstances; Health and Aspirations.

 

 

Students! Vote twice in Council elections … Legally! #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10 #GeneralElection2015

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Can I vote twice, at home and at uni?

You can’t vote twice in:

– See more at: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/students.aspx#sthash.4QvBdqu8.dpuf

Can I vote twice, at home and at uni?

You can’t vote twice in  a UK Parliamentary, Scottish Parliamentary, National Assembly for Wales or European Parliamentary election.

But?

You can vote in local government elections at home and at your term-time address, as long as they are not in the same local government area.

See more at: Students – About my vote, produced by The Electoral Commission

local government elections at home and at your term-time address, as long as they are not in the same local government area. – See more at: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/students.aspx#sthash.4QvBdqu8.dpuf

Can I vote twice, at home and at uni?

You can’t vote twice in:

  • a UK Parliamentary, Scottish Parliamentary, National Assembly for Wales or European Parliamentary election.

But you can vote in local government elections at home and at your term-time address, as long as they are not in the same local government area. – See more at: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/students.aspx#sthash.4QvBdqu8.dpuf

Can I vote twice, at home and at uni?

You can’t vote twice in:

  • a UK Parliamentary, Scottish Parliamentary, National Assembly for Wales or European Parliamentary election.

But you can vote in local government elections at home and at your term-time address, as long as they are not in the same local government area. – See more at: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/students.aspx#sthash.4QvBdqu8.dpuf

ESA, Broken Beyond Repair? A Suggested Framework for a Wholesale Overhaul #GE2015

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I think the Labour Party needs to seriously ask itself how a social security reform that attracted widespread support at its inception has reached its current nadir.  My party needs to recognise that the process is broken beyond repair.  And that no tinkering with it will make it function both effectively and humanely.

I am not going to speak about the damage the current process has caused and is still causing.  There are many people better placed than I to describe the emotional and financial distress resulting out of the system as it is today.  My experience of it is, at most second hand.  I do, however, recognise that the system is failing some of the most vulnerable in our society.  It offers them neither hope nor social security.

My background is primarily in the area of support for those seeking work (and seeking to find workers) as well as economic and social regeneration.  You cannot do either effectively without some understanding of the social security and tax systems, a bit of economic theory and appreciation of the importance of effective management processes to inform decision making at all levels.

I take the view that the Work Capability Assessment is not fit for purpose or good Value For Money.  The WCA is expected to perform two quite different functions, assess entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance and evaluate an individual’s potential employability.  Curiously, it appears that one, often relatively unqualified person is capable of carrying out both tasks with a high degree of competence within a 45 minute period, if I get the timings right.  Has this target, sorry norm ever been met in its entirety, both quantatively and qualitively?

The focus of a WCA has become almost solely the assessment of entitlement to ESA which assuming, that the target, sorry again norm expectations are true has become more than a bit of a lottery.  In fact, why bother with WCAs at all?  Would not a random allocation computer program, with the norms set as parameters be good VFM?  After all, Atos is at its core a computer company.

I have seen a few WCA assessment reports and the employability advice within them is no basis on which to move someone closer to the labour market, let alone into work.

Separate Out the Initial Entitlement Process from the Employability Assessment

Firstly, I would put the onus on the Department for Work and Pensions to accept a claimant’s medical evidence at the start of a new claim to ESA.  Only in rare cases should such evidence be challenged.  Perhaps a norm might be developed over time to monitor how this part of the process is working, particularly to ensure that challenges do not become the rule.

Secondly, I would use the claimant’s medical evidence at new claim stage to determine whether an individual goes into the Work Related Activity Group, Support Group or has no entitlement.  I would back date the additional resulting monies to the claimant’s date of claim.

Thirdly, I would allow those placed in the WRAG to have access to an independent Medical Assessment, if they feel they should be in the SG.  I would apply the same approach to those deemed to be ineligible to receive ESA.  If the MA finds against the appellant in either case then I would provide them with access to an independent appeals process.  DWP should at all stages pro-actively seek out medical evidence from the third parties treating the appellant.

Six Monthly MA and EA

I would suggest MAs for all those claiming ESA six months after the date that they began to receive ESA at the WRAG or SG rate.  These assessments would require use of medical evidence supplied by claimant’s treatment providers and would have to be carried out by qualified specialist medical assessors and not, as now generalists.  MAs would take place in convenient locations, including, where necessary the claimant’s home.

The findings of the MA should then be used to determine ongoing eligibility to ESA with an appeals process where a claimant disagrees with the decision.  All appellants would remain on WRAG or SG levels of payment whilst an appeal was going through the system.

If someone was ultimately found ineligible for ESA then there would be a transitional phase, say three months to allow them to adjust to a lower level of social security payment.  They would continue to receive payment at the higher rate throughout the period of the transitional phase.

You will note I have said nothing about an EA.  Such assessments should take place at the six monthly stage, but only after the MA has taken place and not on the same day.  All parties to the EA need to have had a chance to study the results of the Medical Assessment well before an EA takes place.

EAs would be mandatory for all those in the WRAG and an option for those in the SG.  They would also be an option for anyone in the first six months of their claim as would access to back to work support.

The report from an EA would form the basis for tailored support from a revamped Disability Employment Adviser service based in Jobcentres.  Support and advice related not to an abstract concept of the labour market, but one firmly based on existing conditions in the claimant’s own local area.  They would have access to the current range of support, but not the Work Programme, and a revitalised package of support based on the New Deal for Disabled People and its successor, Pathways to Work.  This new programme would be contracted directly out to experts in the field and not via sub contracts arranged through the usual suspects.  This arrangement has patently failed under the Work Programme.  In fact, I would scrap the Work Programme completely.  Its black box stopped transmitting years ago.  And the box has never contained a Condition Management Programme, a work-focused rehabilitation provision developed in conjunction with the National Health Service.

The initial interview with a DEA would be built around WETCHA; Work, Education, Training, Circumstances, Health and Aspirations.  A discursive interview, including the MA report should result in information under all six headings.  Only then might one look at how best someone might move closer to the local labour market.  I stress more closer to rather than start looking for a job.  Other avenues might need to be explored, perhaps quite extensive before beginning to try and find work.

As an aside, when I was going through my lengthy process of Management Attendance with DWP I kept getting the refrain about how work is the best cure.  Setting aside the small matter that it was work that was making me ill, I would contend that it is activity (and through it maintaining good social networks) that is what contributes towards good mental health.  And activity which would of course encompass more than paid employment.

I am now going to be very heretical.  I think all three elements, MA, EA and DEA interview should be repeated at regular interviews and be mandatory.  However, any further steps, beyond the initial DEA interview should be voluntary.  I strongly suspect that adopting such an approach would yield better results than the current ‘sheep dip’ policy.  Develop and deliver a good three stage process and you will not want for willing, well motivated volunteers.  I can only speak for NDDP and P2W here in Birmingham, but once word on the street gave it the thumbs up then there was no need to seek people for the programmes to help out.  People were queuing up outside the doors to find out what was on offer.

I would not impose a target on DEAs to keep X number of people engaging with them after the initial interview.  I would monitor the quality of their work to ensure that they were providing advice appropriate to the needs of individual clients.

 Intervals between Assessments

I would be interested to know the view of others as to whether or not six months would be the best point at which to start assessments.  Also, I am not best placed to say how one would decide upon the timing of successive assessments.  I would certainly not advocate standard time periods between them.  However, I would recommend giving people the option to ask for an assessment before they are due one.  My preference would be for such assessments to involve all three stages, unless there was compelling evidence to do otherwise, for example the worsening of a condition qualifying someone to move from the WRAG to the SG.

MAs could result in up ratings from WRAG to SG and down ratings as well.  I was intrigued by the view, expressed by a Tory MP in the WOW Debate that going on ESA was almost a panacea so down ratings were more likely than up ratings.  On a par, it seems with recovering from Alzheimer’s disease after a spell in an open prison.  Google Guinness Trial and all will become clear.

From Whence is the Money to Come?

For example, is assessing every person in the first six months of an ESA claim good Value For Money?  How many people cease to claim ESA within the first six months of making a new claim?  Also, the new claim group includes people whose Statutory Sick Pay has run out and so they have no choice, but to claim ESA.  Such claimants are, more likely than not to have a job to which to return.  Is it really necessary to assess most people in this particular group?  They and their employers should, however, be offered EA support to aid in any return to work.

There are also broader social and economic savings to be made from reforming the current system.  These savings would, for example come from:

  • fewer, but more effective assessments, both medical and employability
  • administrative savings resulting from fewer wrong decisions and appeals.  DWP has outsourced a sizeable chunk of the financial and social costs resulting from the current process to various other bodies, including the Ministry of Justice, Citizens Advice Bureaux, the National Health Service, the police and local authority social service staff
  • a reduction in the emotional and financial distress experienced by claimants as well as their friends and families
  •  increased tax revenues as more people go into work with the help of bespoke back to work support and an increase in aggregate demand leading to increased economic growth (and job creation).  Yes, guilty as charged, I am a Keynesian
  • a genuine reduction in the ESA bill, both payments and ongoing administration of same.

I am sure others could easily add to this list.  I bet the Treasury, if it put its mind to it could commission an economic assessment of the costs, sorry benefits of the ESA ‘reforms’ to date in order to determine the savings from a proposal like this.  If not, then how have they determined the ‘savings’ used to justify the current ‘reforms’?

The ideas I have sketched out above need underpinning with evidence.  I am a great fan of Total Quality Management which is by definition an evidence led approach.  You cannot improve the quality of a service or good if you do not correctly identify to whom you are providing it and, in doing so endeavour to understand their particular needs.  The adoption of TQM across Government would make it possible to achieve savings not make cuts whilst at the same time maintaining, if not improving the quality of the services being provided.  ESA is ripe for a bit of TQM.

Finally, is the current ESA process primarily for those claiming it or has it been designed to pander to the likes of Daily Mail editorial writers?  I think those claiming and receiving ESA are its key stakeholders, then the taxpayer (in the guise of the Government) and after them, wider society.  If you agree with me then any redesign of ESA should involve those with direct experience of its current delivery, DWP front line staff as well as ESA recipients.  Why no one from Atos?  It is surely time to bring that contract back in house.  As a consequence, DWP front line staff would include medical professionals.

Dr Deming will see you now …

Liam Byrne MP’s Hoped for HS2 Maintenance Depot Permanently Delayed?

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A number of people concerned to see more jobs in the Washwood Heath area of East Birmingham have welcomed the possibility of a HS2 Maintenance Depot near to the former LDV site.  Setting aside for the moment the vexed question as to whether or not there are competing uses for the site linked to other aspects of HS2, I would like to focus on whether or not a HS2 Maintenance Depot is really in prospect.

Turn your minds back to the announcement of the closure of the GEC Alsthom Plant back in mid 2003.  Richard Branson made an offer to ameliorate the impact of the closure on the local economy by suggesting that some of the maintenance work of his Virgin train fleet might be moved to Washwood Heath.

A quixotic gesture?  May be, may be not, but it certainly seemed unrealistic to me and I relayed my concerns to my colleagues in Whitehall in a Ministerial briefing for, I believe Number 11, Downing Street. I was asked primarily to draw up this document to set out what help was being readied locally by DWP to support the people being made redundant.  I do not know whether my briefing made it to Number 11 in the state it left my desk.

GEC Alsthom had long since ceased to manufacture trains at its Washwood Heath plant.  They had switched it over to assembling and testing rolling stock.  I gather this is known as a screwdriver operation.  GEC Alsthom produced the parts of the train kits elsewhere, had them delivered to the site and then teams of people put them together.

I went on a tour of the plant in the mid 1990s and I was shown tube trains being assembled for London Transport.  I noticed that the seat cushions were covered in plastic with the possibility that they might be damaged in transit.  I asked if they had an upholsterer on site to repair any such damage.  I was told no.  Any damaged items were simply returned to sender.  There were few skilled men on site using their skills in the assembly of rolling stock.

A point rammed home by the sight of a number of the tube train under carriages which had been turned upside down and paper wiring diagrams laid over them.  The workers were then ‘stapling’ colour coded wiring to the carriage undersides, using the diagram on the paper as a guide.  A bit like making a dress using a paper pattern.

The workforce at Washwood Heath could not, therefore, be expected to easily turn their hands to maintaining Mr Branson’s trains.  I was aware though that a lot of them were skilled men, lured away from companies around the Midlands for high wages.  Companies like Aston Martin Lagonda and BREL (or Bombardier) in Derby.  They would not have been considered for work at GEC Alsthom, unless they had at least an NVQ 2 in Manufacturing.  Moreover, few lived locally, many actually lived outside Birmingham.  How do I know this?  I was then based at the local Jobcentre and had played a part in the recruitment of these men for the company.

Mr Branson’s fleet then as now comprised electric and diesel electric multiple units.  The electric multiple units would have had to be dragged to Washwood Heath by diesel engines as there was (and is) no overhead electrification connecting the plant with the London line into Birmingham New Street Station.  The diesel electric multiple units would have been able to get there under their own power, but they would have required refuelling facilities suitable to their needs.  A fair amount of expense would have had to be incurred to make Mr Branson’s offer a reality, particularly if he felt it necessary to ask for the electrification of the line from to the plant.

The HS2 train sets will all be electric units so there will be no need for personnel to refuel them.  There was no local pool of people to draw upon to service Mr Branson’s trains and is, unless matters have changed the situation appertaining today.  True, HS2 will be a new line so any depot would be built with overhead lines as a matter of course.

St Modwen already owned the Washwood Heath site before GEC Alsthom vacated it.  Alsthom had sold it to them on a lease back basis.  I met with St Modwen twice in the mid 2000s to discuss developments on the site linked to the regeneration of East Birmingham.  They were interested in developing it as a rail connected site, possibly even as a rail freight hub.

However, the rail access was restricted and limited to only one end of the site.  In addition, the shape of the site did not lend itself to receiving the standard length of today’s freight trains.  When the Eurostar sets were being assembled on site there they had shuffled backwards and forwards for only a short distance during the motive power tests.  Alsthom had incidentally installed overhead electrification for that purpose, but only within the environs of their plant.  Also, at that time LDV was still manufacturing vans next door.  Now that is no longer the case there is the prospect of combining the site for a sizeable rail freight hub with adjacent business park and access to the motorway network via the road bridge, linking the sites to the Fort Parkway.

Now for the real show stopper, Virgin Trains maintained their electric multiple units at Manchester Longsight and their diesel electric multiple units at, if I remember it rightly a depot near Burton upon Trent.  If Virgin had moved any of this work to Washwood Heath then it would have resulted in job losses at one or other site, possibly even both.  And, it is quite conceivable that those facing potential redundancy might well have followed the maintenance work to Washwood Heath.  Moreover, overall maintenance costs would have surely risen, if Washwood Heath had been added to the list of maintenance sites available to Virgin?

HS2 will be connected to HS1 by a link line.  Not it seems for timetabled passenger services, at least not yet.  However, the line could be used for empty coaching stock movements to, for example the HS1 Maintenance Depot at Temple Mills Depot, Stratford, East London which is now the main heavy duty repair centre for Eurostar train sets.  What then is the Value For Money case for building a HS2 Maintenance Depot at the end of a dead end stub off the main HS2 line?  A dead end just over an hour or so from existing maintenance facilities in London.  And, if the HS2 sets need cleaning inside then that work may be carried out in one of the platforms at the proposed Birmingham HS2 station.

Is holding out the prospect of a HS2 Maintenance Depot the equivalent of the sort of promises made during planning applications?  Promises usually made to overcome objections to said applications by concerned local residents. With the best will in the world, a HS2 Maintenance Depot at Washwood Heath will make little dent in the Hodge Hill Constituency’s Jobseeker’s Allowance count.  A count currently standing at 5,926 as at January 2014.

Down at the Dole Office: A Lighthearted Look at Signing On! Part One

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I am getting increasingly angry about the negative stereotypes being propagated daily by the media about people on social security.  Yes, some of these stereotypes are partly based on reality.  The woman who has had 10 kids with 10 different fathers whilst on social security, the man with bad legs playing 18 rounds of golf with ease and the chap still smiling through, after being turned down for the umpteenth job.  Sometimes the saints are almost as bad as the sinners when it comes to re-enforcing widespread views about people on social security.

I want to focus in this series on the in-betweenies, the vast majority of people receiving social security.  They are neither saints nor sinners, ‘just’ John and Josephine Doe doing their best to get by.  I will pen a separate article setting out my detailed definitions of the saints, sinners and in-betweenies in due course.

This series will be written in the style of James Alfred “Alf” Wight (also known as James Herriot).  There will be the odd Mr Biggins, a Tricky Woo owner or two and the occasional chap bravely facing up to the decision to put down an elderly, much loved, but ailing pet.  However, the focus will as much as possible be on the characters we all too easily forget, the ‘run of the mill’ types.

A Middle Class Sense of Entitlement?

I aim to stick with first hand anecdotes as much as I am able, but the following one seemed too good not to include in this series.

I was told this story by a colleague working in a Jobcentre covering an affluent part of the city.

A young lad came in to the Jobcentre for his routine six monthly Restart appointment.  When he was asked to sit down for his interview he did not do so alone.  He had been accompanied to the office by a well dressed, middle aged man.

We were not averse to three way interviews.  Often the second person was a great help in building a rapport, but on other occasions they were unhelpful and even an embarrassment to the person they were with.  Hence, we liked to find out who AN Other was before properly commencing an interview:

“May I ask, please who this gentleman is?”

“My father’s accountant.  He has looked over ‘my books’ since I started my claim and he thinks you owe me some money.”

Collapse of stout party!

Do not get me wrong, I do not approve of under payments.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, to bring along daddy’s accountant to back up a claim for a benefit review was novel to say the least.  I have to assume that the accountant was tax deductible!

The moral to this story is never allow yourself to be taken in by the line that the middle class do not claim social security or that they lack a sense of entitlement.  They most certainly do the former and are more than happy to display the latter.  They are also quick to show that they know their rights.

A number of Tory Members of Parliament were not slow in coming forward to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance after they had lost their seats in the 1997 General Election.