Archive | November, 2010

We can’t help you!

21 Nov

The Minister for Work & Pensions, Ian Duncan-Smith,  is right on the money when he says that too many people are not working in this country. Hurrah! His plans to reform the creaking complexity of the benefit system are necessary too. Another hurrah!

But. And but again. First and foremost, he has to ensure that his own department is working efficiently. Even moderate efficiency would be a major leap forward from the current shambles.

“We can’t help people like you – older, experienced, professional” is a verbatim quote from one Jobcentre employee. Along with “we don’t have any funds for training”. Or how about an appointment with an advisor cancelled because she was late back from lunch and had forgotten how to log into her PC?

The doddering inefficiencies of the system were inherited by IDS, but surely some of them should have been addressed during the 6 months since the coalition came to power?

In 2009 I wrote to one of his predecessors at the DWP, Tony McNulty; a man with many jobs on his CV during his 12 years in government. I sought to inform him that his department was in crisis. Add my quotes from Jobcentre employees to the following list.

  • The phoney New Deal and Programme Centre programmes, largely outsourced to the private sector under Jobcentre Plus contracts. My own experience of these programmes involved attending a ‘training centre’ for 4 hours weekly. In reality, this was an internet café – without the benefit of even moderately good coffee. The training offered was aimed at those with poor literacy, numeracy and IT skills. Overall the ambiance was one of swearing, disorder and dope-smoking in the car park.  Never mind. The aim of the game a key strategy for masking the true extent of unemployment; never mind the quality!


  • The employment element of the website rivals tabloid newspapers for the integrity of its information. A brief search shows that too many jobs are duplicated, are dubious in their authenticity or have been on there for months if not years!


  • A turn-around time greater than 10 weeks is typical when dealing with the Jobcentre Plus and Pension Service departments. Is this good enough?

McNulty’s response to my heads-up (after chasing) was a 2-month old press release informing me that “the government was spending an extra £500 million to help the unemployed”. Where did it go? Where did the promise of counselling for the long-term unemployed go?

And IDS, don’t hide behind ‘that was the other mob’. The madness continues. A friend of mine lost a week’s JSA because she applied for 3 jobs in one day, rather than spreading her applications over a week! Poor reward for endeavour.


Ping. Pong. Ping?

11 Nov

On Monday I mailed the local Trading Standards Department (A) with a query. They replied on Tuesday with “since 2007 we are not allowed to respond directly to the public; you must file an enquiry with Consumer Direct (B) (a government enterprise). I mailed the same query to (B) on Wednesday. Today (B) responded with “thank you for your query; we have passed it to (A) and they will deal with your query”.

The answer to the question is ‘yes, it has!’ The question is ‘has the world gone mad?’

Ba!, Obama

10 Nov

Mr Obama, you have broken my heart. I naively thought that your election to the White House heralded a new era of compassion and principled politics in the world. Foolish, I know. From the early promise evidenced by healthcare reform and the planned closure of Gitmo, you have joined the ranks of those who would sell their values for a mess of potage. Indonesian potage.

Indonesia charts at 110 out of 178 in the latest TPI corruption rankings. It is such a liberal regime that Amnesty International cannot open an office there. Torture in Papua and Maluku. Attacks on Christians in Bekasi. Death squads in East Timor. Genocide in 1965/6.

“Indonesia is part of me”, you say. Is there nothing our leaders will not espouse in the interests of the buck? The bottom line is that Obama, Cameron et al leave their principles in the closet when business is at stake.