Please share widely. The DWP has been ‘found out’ in all kinds of unethical and possibly criminal behaviour, and the extent of its abuses and even theft needs to be exposed.
The story so far (please skip down to the new information if you already know the background!):
I’ve written over the last week or so about the fake psychometric ‘test’ that the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Jobcentre Plus (JCP) centres are forcing jobseekers to take by threatening them with sanction (the removal of their benefits) if they don’t.
As I (and then subsequently various mainstream newspapers) pointed out, this fake ‘test’ was meaningless – it gave exactly the same results for extreme opposite answers, and for a neutral answer all the way through its 48 questions. As Downing Street’s Behavioural Insights Team, or ‘nudge unit’, inadvertently made clear, the accuracy of the ‘personality profile’ was irrelevant – the test was about psychological manipulation of jobseekers.
Threatening people with the immediate loss of their income for a minimum of 4 weeks for failing to take a meaningless test amounted to a form of psychological torture apparently aimed at manipulating unemployment benefit claimants into a position where they would ‘fail to comply’ and could be sanctioned, enhancing ‘off-flow’ – the movement of people off the list of claimants, regardless of whether they had a job or other source of income.
Unethical and cruel at best, and quite possibly illegal – but this wasn’t the end of the DWP’s misdeeds. As I and then the Guardian revealed, the DWP was using the 48 questions that had supposedly been ‘scientifically shown to find people’s strengths’ – but not only was the DWP using the test without permission, but the owners of the test had expressly refused permission for the DWP to use the selected questions because they were ‘scientifically invalid’.
So ‘scientifically shown’ is just one of the many lies the DWP has told around this ‘test’ – including that nobody would lose their benefits for not taking the test:
People are regularly committing suicide in fear of losing their benefits, and the DWP is threatening removal of benefits for not taking a bogus test – and then denying it.
The new info:
The NCFE ‘enterprise skills’ course
Unfortunately, we’re still far from the end of the DWP’s mistreatment of jobseekers – or their unscrupulous abuse of other people’s materials.
As I showed yesterday, the DWP is forcing barely literate people to attend an ‘enterprise skills’ course designed to move them off the claimant count and into self-employment – even though they have none of the skills or experience needed to make a living in self-employment.
As part of the course’s activities, ‘Maggie’, the young single mother who was ordered by her JCP advisor to attend the Enterprise Skills course, had to define the word ‘enterprise’ – a word many with good literacy skills might struggle to define adequately.
She also had to complete a self-assessment of her ‘enterprise skills’ and personal characteristics as part of the course’s activities. Here is a sample of her completed form:
This course was devised by NCFE (the letters apparently no longer stand for anything), an educational ‘Awarding Organisation’. According to an NCFE press spokesperson, the qualification consists of a ’50-hour training course designed to be delivered alongside an academic curriculum‘.
The NCFE spokesperson also confirmed that the course is intended for people with good basic literacy skills:
People should not be put on the course without good basic literacy. It is the responsibility of the DWP to ensure that Jobcentre Plus to assess candidates for their suitability before mandating them to attend, as outlined in our Qualification Specification document.
Pages 3-4 of this document give clear and unmistakable instructions on who should and should not be put on the course:
Centres are responsible for ensuring that these qualifications are appropriate for the age and ability of learners. They need to make sure that learners can fulfil the requirements of the assessment criteria and comply with the relevant literacy, numeracy and health and safety aspects of these qualifications.
Now go back and re-read ‘Maggie’s attempt to complete the form and decide whether the DWP has fulfilled its obligations – or whether it has completely disregarded the instructions of the course’s owners in order to force an already-harried young woman, already in fear of losing her benefits, to perform yet another stressful and wholly unsuitable task.
This abuse of NCFE‘s clear instructions about how its course material is to be used may not amount to outright theft – but it’s certainly the equivalent of borrowing someone’s tools and breaking them in the course of committing assault.
If, like me, you’re a close follower of what the DWP gets up to, it will come as no surprise that the DWP is wantonly heaping stress and misery onto people ill-equipped to deal with it. The government has justified its stance by demonising benefit claimants (working or not) as ‘skivers’ and ‘scroungers’.
But this government – and the DWP foremost – never seems to know when to stop. Theft of intellectual property and abuse of others’ materials by flouting clear instructions about how they must be used seem to be routine for the DWP and for the so-called ‘nudge unit’ behind the pointless tasks it is imposing under threat of sanction.
Abusing the unemployed seems to be par for the course for the Tories. But a government department and a unit endorsed by David Cameron as well as by the DWP appear to feel they are entitled to behave like a gang of feral cowboys that not only terrorise the helpless but steal and abuse what belongs to others as well.