Educating Ingeus

When we are outside the buroo we can try and help with casualties as they emerge from the battlefield, but we also get people contacting us by phone and internet. Dan lives in North Ayrshire and rang us up last autumn after finding us through Google. He was on ESA in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, and the advisor at Ingeus, his Work Programme Provider, seemed to be having problems in understanding that ‘work related activities’ does not mean work. We seem to have carried out much of the discussion by text (perhaps I was at my work!) so here’s an edited extract:

SUWN: ‘they cannot and should not make you apply for jobs. They can only give you tasks that are designed to make you job ready. I think you should make an appointment with a welfare rights officer. The number for money matters in … is …’

Dan: ‘That’s what that Ingeus advisor kept saying. I’m just getting things in place for when you are ready for work. By applying for jobs? How long does he expect an employer to keep a job open? It was persistent. Every visit is, what about that? And he would show me a job that was on the universal job match website. A few times the job didn’t even exist or was taken. Thank you for the advice.’

SUWN: ‘Tell him that work related activity does not include applying for jobs. And let me know how you get on. I’d like to write a letter of complaint to Ingeus if you would be ok with this.’

Dan: ‘Yes I’m fine with that. Especially after last time I seen him and he told me, we’ll just send out a few cover letters, which as I told you turned out to be 53 of them. Really wish I had took a photo

‘One other thing. When I had appointments with him he told me, you don’t need to wait on me, jump on a computer and do a job search. I just go with the flow. I’m frightened I get sanctioned. Every time I go there I feel really nervous and on edge.’

We agreed I’d write to Ingeus central office, but without naming names or places as Dan was concerned about being victimised for complaining. (Dan was particularly keen for me to do this as he didn’t want other, more vulnerable, people being treated as he was.) We asked them to make sure that all their officers understand that people on ESA have been found not fit for work and that they should not be made to apply for jobs; and we requested an apology that we could pass on to Dan. We received a two page response that sidestepped both these points.

But a week later we got a further text from Dan, who seems to have been emboldened by the whole experience:

‘Just to let you know that I went to the job centre today and explained my situation. The chap I got to see was extremely helpful and understanding. He called Ingeus and I have been given a new advisor. He also told me the same thing you did about not having to do job searches. Very  good outcome. Thank You.’

(Ingeus was founded by the wife of the Australian (Labour) Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and their contract with the UK government brings them around £150 million a year (Financial Times, 1 April 2014).)

This is from the DWP’s Work Programme Provider Guidance:

WP provider guidance for WRAG

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