Saturday, June 21, 2008

Naughty Remploy

The other day, I got a letter from Remploy. Here's a direct quote, with my flags in brackets:

"To enable us to validate your employment status (1) we require further evidence of your registration and job start. Therefore, we are writing to ask you to sign the enclosed documentation (2)(3) and provide us with a copy of [list of documents such as my work contract, payslips, etc]....

... We understand the inconvenience this gives you and to address this, we will give you with a £50.00 giro
(sic) on receipt of this pack/evidence." (4)

To take these flags one at a time:
(1) Validate my employment status? Why? With whom? What for? The only people who need to know about my employment status are the DWP (who know), the Inland Revenue (who know), and me and my employer (who definitely know). My work is valid, my tax is valid, my NI is valid, what other validation could I possibly need? And why have they dressed it up in officialspeak to make it sound like it's something important and necessary while conveying no useful information?

(2) The "enclosed documentation" consists only of the signature pages of several forms. I have the parts of the forms which say "I confirm the above information is correct" (a couple also specify that I understand that the information I give may be checked by the DWP) but I have no idea what the above information may or may not consist of. In other words, there is no opportunity for me to actually read what they are telling me to sign. What?!? How can a company whose raison d'etre is dealing with "vulnerable adults" possibly get away with encouraging people to sign things they have not read?

(3) The dates which have already been written into these signature pages are all "27/10/07". The Jobcentre DEA didn't even begin to refer me to Remploy until our sole meeting which was 3 days after that date - and Remploy didn't contact me until early December, by which time I was happily employed. In other words, they are encouraging me to falsify evidence which, if it is checked with the DWP, will be proven false. With my signature on it.

(4) Is it just me who thinks that £50 is rather a lot of recompense for the "inconvenience" of four signatures and a few bits of paper? Even if I had to hire someone to do it for me and sent it by courier, it wouldn't cost me anything like that. Given the extreme dodginess of the false dates and the not-enclosed documentation, one might even go so far as to consider the possibility (*avoids lawsuit*) that this may, by some people, be considered tantamount to a bribe for falsifying documentation...


With all this in mind, I decided to call Remploy to find out what the hell they thought they were playing at. After a short time, the woman whose name was on the letter phoned me back (woman? Yes. I should probably point out that to the best of my knowledge the male Remploy employee who was trying to help me find a way around the hours/NI problem a few weeks ago was not involved in this at all).

First she told me to just sign the boxes indicated and pop it all in the prepaid envelope and she'd take care of the rest, nothing to worry about, and then I'd get my £50.

I told her I understood that much, but before I started signing things, I wanted to know what it was that I was actually signing. She said they were just doing some admin for their own purposes, it's nothing I need to worry about, I just need to sign the forms, and they'll give me £50.

I asked why I was being asked to sign documents I had not been given to read, she said she was just trying to save on postage costs (they're offering £50 per person and they're worried about an extra 50p postage?!). By this time she was getting really annoyed with how awkward I was being and told me that if I was going to insist on being sent the full documents then she could do that, but really, there's no need, it's nothing I need to worry about, I just have to sign the forms and then they'll give me £50.

I told her that the dates were false. She tried to explain that they had to backdate things. I told her that her false dates could be easily proven false by the DWPs own records as they predated my original referral, and that I wasn't going to sign false documentation. At this point she changed tack to "okay, fine, don't sign the forms then. Just put them through a shredder and forget about it." I find it interesting that she specified that if I wasn't going to return the paperwork, I should destroy it. Maybe, despite her incredible lack of understanding of acceptable (never mind best) practice, she's really hot on data protection... or maybe she doesn't want me to show it to anyone. Oops.

She didn't seem to get that this sort of thing just wasn't on, or why I didn't want to participate, or why I felt organisations like Remploy should really know better.

£50 is a LOT of money to me (half a week's wages! more than a week's food!) and it really is quite difficult to effectively turn down free money. I suspect there will be others who have been sent this kind of letter who've decided that £50 is £50, and cheerfully signed away.

I don't want to have missed out for nothing. I have to do something with this, "alert the proper authorities" or similar, but I don't know where to start or who the proper authorities might be. Remploy, so far as I can ascertain, is government-owned and government-funded, and I don't know who they answer to or how to complain. I did ask about their internal complaints procedure and was told that a complaint would come straight back to that department to resolve - in other words, it wouldn't go any higher up the ladder and no one would be held accountable for bad practice.

I know I'm asking this a lot lately, but what would YOU do?

31 comments:

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Me? Same as you so far, but then I'd probably email this post to Wat Tyler (Burning our money blog) and see what he makes of it.
After all, isn't it to do with the length of time people have been in work that relates to these bonuses, and that (falsified) date would make it 12 + months that you'd been working?! And don't these organisations get paid for how long people they've (allegedly) placed in work stay there?
Not that I'm deeply cynical about this system or anything. BG

Carie said...

It might sound a bit odd but try writing to our MP - if Redeploy is a government body he should be able to find out what's going on

Mary said...

BG - no, as far as I can tell they're not trying to say I started work in October 07. They're just trying to pretend that I joined their scheme at that time, and did all sorts of assessments about what support I would need to start work and so on, basic skills screening and what have you. So that my starting work in Mid-November could be considered due to their expertise and support, rather than due to my independent hard work and effort while they were busy failing to respond to my referral.

I'll email BOM, it does seem the sort of thing he'd have fun with.

And Carie, good idea, I will look up our MP as soon as I've stopped browsing shawls on Ravelry (I'm thinking about attempting lace knitting).

mandycharlie said...

What I would do is this. Ring her back, sounding very friendly, ask her if she would send you the top half of the forms, plus would she please change the dates to match in with yours, even if she refuses tell her to send the information. At the moment, all you have is forms to sign without any further information.

Read the forms when they arrive, see if its something suspicious if so, you may need to take it further, but at least you have the evidence to do so. If not sign, collect £50.00

Mary said...

They're mostly standard DWP forms for disabled people entering employment. I'm one of the few clients who has seen these forms while working on the other side of the desk (similar role, different town and company).

Most of the information is innocuous enough, and if any bits are wrong, it will probably be an admin error rather than any kind of stats-fiddling (although I'd still prefer to see it and check it, before signing to confirm it's correct).

But then there'll be stuff such as when I had my first "meeting" with them (I've never actually seen any of them), the Action Plan decided upon (nonexistent), the advice given (nonexistent), the Basic Skills screening (never happened) and so on. These are the Key Performance Indicators and points mean prizes. It is not in Remploy's interests to leave those boxes blank.

It would need to be taken further even if the dates were amended and all other information was correct. It's incredibly bad practice to encourage clients (including clients with known cognitive impairments) to sign things they haven't read, and appalling to deny clients access to a formal and effective complaints procedure.

I've done the writing to the MP thing, although I'm not sure what will come of it. Have to wait and see.

Serena said...

I agree with the suggestions you've already had but I do have one further one. If I was you, I think I'd insist on getting the full information pack and read it carefully. If it seems reasonable, I'd then make any necessary corrections, including the dates, sign it and return it (keeping a copy, of course). That way, you should get your £50 and you'd also have additional information on what they wanted you to sign, when you take it further.

Anonymous said...

how is emailing a reactionary right-wing blog going to help you resolve this "problem"?

Anonymous said...

why can't you write direct to remploy?

Jo said...

I'm shocked and horrified. Just had a look at the Remploy website, which does not fill me with inspired confidence. I was wondering which government department runs Remploy but it seems like it's run as the type of business which is entirely separate while being owned wholly by a govt dept (just guessing; something similar happens with waste management in East Anglia). What I did find though was the board of directors: http://www.remploy.co.uk/about/board/ - I doubt you'll get very far but perhaps after following the other suggestions (I definitely think you should get a look at what they want you to sign - just on principle!) the chairman of the board would be someone to write to.

Also, thank you for bringing this out into the open. It's appalling and important, and very interesting.

Pandora Caitiff said...

Personally I'd get in contact with whichever element of the gutter press has a current beef with "non-departmental government bodies"(1) and see if they would like to buy the story.

(1)= Government owned organisations, run as separate concerns, to allow distance and deniability

Mary said...

Anonymous 10:40, it probably won't help me to resolve the problem. I said it seemed like the sort of thing he'd have fun with.

Anonymous 10:42, (same anonymous? It would help me no end if you could just sign with an initial so I know how many people I'm talking to), I *did* contact Remploy directly by telephone, but no joy. I have written to and emailed the central Remploy address about other issues over the last few months (such as the possibility of training for a more rewarding career, or my recent reduction in hours) but they never respond, not even a "thank you for your letter, we will respond soon" kind of thing.

That said, Jo - your idea about writing directly to a 'higher-up' is a good one, although I won't do it just yet until I've had a response from my MP.

Pandora - the only trouble with the press is that I really don't want to be at the centre of a Tragic Crip Story. Or worse, risk an angle of Cripples Get £50 Of Taxpayers Money For A Few Signatures.

Wat Tyler said...

Hi Mary

An amazing tale.

Off-hand I have no idea what Remploy are up to, but we know they have had all kinds of problems "proving" it gives value for money. My spidey sense tells me they're trying to prove they somehow placed you and others in employment.

I will definitely investigate this further. And it would be great if you followed Serena's suggestion and demanded a copy of the full pack. I think they'd have great difficulty refusing.

Best wishes

Wat (aka Reactionary Right-Wing Blogger)

Mary said...

Cheers Wat, you reactionary blogger you.

oops, how did I miss Serena's comment?! Sorry Serena! Yes, it's a good idea to ask for the full forms and fill them out accurately. Hey, maybe I could charge them an extra £50 for the inconvenience. ;-)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Glad to see what Wat has done with this information today.

To whichever anon wondered why email a 'reactionary right wing blog' -it's a very simple reason. The government insist that those on benefits are scrounging scum and must be made to take up all their wonderful schemes to enter the workplace. Those of us with experience of such schemes know that actually finding appropriate jobs with the right support for an individual's disability is a laughable idea. That means more tax payers money wasted, more pressure on already vulnerable people and what could and should have been an excellent idea being a complete waste of everyone's time and money.
BG

Anonymous said...

Sounds very fishy.
I suggest holding your nose and contacting the tabloids, eg Daily Mail. They're much better resourced than you to dig into it.

Anonymous said...

you are conservative but yet not right-wing then Wat, I do apologise. what sort of ideas have the all new cuddly conservatives got about improving the lot of the long term disabled? IB reform?
I like this by the way, it doesn't remind me of anything I have ever read in the daily red tops and could never be described as reactionary: http://burningourmoney.blogspot.com/2007/10/on-show-this-morning.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2189951/Welfare-state-to-be-opened-to-companies-and-charities.html

V said...

Sounds to me like Remploy may have claimed some funding and now need to get the figures to match for an audit. £50 is possibly what they are being paid per contract - and if they don't get rid of it - well, there will be a big problem with audit next year.

The people to report it to are the ones who pay the funding. An element of departmental fraud doesn't look good in the papers!

Mary said...

Interesting update: Remploy have contacted me to tell me they've seen this blog post and "have initiated a full, high level investigation" into my claims. It may take a while to see what, if anything, comes of it. Reassuringly, it seems I'm now inside the complaints procedure but outside the department with which I had the problem.

My MP has still not replied to me.

Anonymous said...

Something tells me your never gonna hear anything about this??

Merry Christmas said...

Hi Mary,

I'm an ex-Remploy employee and have just come across your blog... which is similar to a number of fraudulent actions I have come across in my 14 months employment with Remploy! (I resigned for ethical reasons).

To cast some light on your situation; Remploy are funded by the government to assist people with long-term illness/disability back in to work and help them sustain employment - sounds all very lovely doesn't it? They are a 'non-departmental government body' and are effectively run as a business. However, in return for the large amount of funding they receive in advance (up-front) from the government, they are given extremely high targets.

Generally Remploy releases funding for an individual in stages (usually registration, job start, and after certain time periods in work). Remploy are only able to claim funding for a person who has entered work when they can prove they have started in their new role (via a copy of a contract/payslip, or signature from your new employer). They only use this information to prove their involvement and receive the 'support' money - some of which they pass on to you as a job start giro (£50 in your case although it can be more). The rest of the money is put against 'in-work support' from an Post Employment Advisor. The person that has started work then goes against their target of number of people they have 'helped' into employment.

I suspect that the Remploy staff in your case learnt that you had secured a job (congratulations by the way) at the same time that the DEA was starting the refferal process (ie putting Remploy in contact with you). They basically wanted you to sign the paperwork so they could count you against their target (ie claim your job start) and justify the funding they have received, and also to pass on the job-start giro to you. They unofficially call this a fast track. It's not entirely above board because of the dates, but everybody wins - ie you get the job start giro and possibly more payments down the line, and they get one person off their target! You are also able to call on them if you need their help whilst in employment.

Generally Remploy staff on the ground are pretty much ok and helpful, it's just the organisation as a whole that encourages a fraudulent environment to meet targets!

I would take the money if I were you. The information isn't used for anything in particular (the jobcentres and Remploy work alongside eachother) - you might get the odd phone call every now and again, but that's about it!


Anon (due to being an ex-employee!)

Wat Tyler said...

Anon-

"It's not entirely above board because of the dates, but everybody wins - ie you get the job start giro and possibly more payments down the line, and they get one person off their target!"

Very interesting comment, Anon.

But are you sure everyone wins? Unless I'm missing something, the poor schmuck taxpayer appears to be £50 down on the deal. Plus all the on-costs such as managing the target management department.

I'm not surprised you left for ethical reasons. Well done.

SimeTime said...

Hi,

I'm a freelance TV producer putting together some work looking at the New Deal.

I'm interested in talking to you guys about your Remploy experiences.

If you could drop me a line it would be greatly appreciated.

With thanks,
Simon
simetime@btinternet.com

Another Ex Remploy Employee said...

"Sounds to me like Remploy may have claimed some funding and now need to get the figures to match for an audit. £50 is possibly what they are being paid per contract - and if they don't get rid of it - well, there will be a big problem with audit next year."

Banged the nail right on the head! with Merry Christmas expanding on the ins/outs

I left Remploy for a number of reasons... ethical as well as not getting the support they bang on about so much...

Remploy are changing how they work.. firstly they were set up in 1947 to help injured servicemen into a place of employment.. then had a number of factories that not only had major contracts (protection suits for military, furniture for schools, colleges and universities) but also offered supported employment for disabled people... Then over 2years they were at the centre of a Government investigation into where funding was going... In 1992 the Government subsidised them with £66million and in 2002 this went up to £133million.

As part of this investigation, Remploy were told to modernise, look at how to save costs, increase business and self fund.

They responded with the news that they were going to close 43 of the factories, which in turn meant the disabled staff there would need to be placed into mainstream employment.. however, I know that Remploy Services clearly did not have the capacity to be able to successfully inplement this.

In the end I believe 29 sites were closed and 11 sites merged...

While Remploy said that no disabled employee would be made compulsorily redundant, those that took voluntary redundancy could potentially help Remploy reach targets. At the closing of factories 350 people took early retirement with a redundancy payment and 629 took voluntary redundancy. If those 629 people decided to go back to work and used Remploy branches for support, and found employment, there was a loophole Remploy could take advantage of. The loophole being that providing those people didn't work directly for Remploy, then Remploy could then claim against those figures...

Another outcome of Remploy modernising is that they have bought in a fresh pack of management.. who for the majority have fantastic ideas and ways to make Remploy a worthwhile business.. but don't know the first thing about supporting people.

So as you can see.. whereas years back Remploy was set up to support injured servicement... it has now grown into a business where targets are all that matter, and if they can get you to match up their figures, and without even having to support you into your employment, then they'll take full advantage of that...

Remploy will also get £555million from the Government over the next five years... Remploy will announce that they have frozen senior managers and directors pay but won't tell you that M1 level management will still get their pay increases, while ground level staff will only be offered 1%

So of course they want your signature.... and they're willing to pay you for it....

Anonymous said...

What a crock of shit Remploy unemployment agency is.I really beleive that its yet again another goverment waste of space time and energy to say the least. I Have currently met staff at the chesterfield branch and what a load of plonkers most of them are. Its high time the goverment came up with better ideas. and get real, who gives a crap about the cock and bull shit Remploy come out with. Talk a load of VD I will leave you to guess what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha Ha - somethings never change ... this blog started in 2008 .... 2011 it's still the same toilet ... Me? x-disabled employee who was sacked ! so much for sustainable employment ....

actions speak louder than words - its very interesting that they won zero prime contracts from DWP - speaks volumes !

never ends said...

Well i was nearly in tears reading this page because I've recently had a humiliating experience trying to access Remploy support and it's a relief to see it's not just me, and see why they maybe operate the way they do.

What the ex-employee posted about the management knowing about business rather than supporting people, certainly rings true.

What disturbs me the most was how dishonest it all seemed. I mean they made a mistake - either gave wrong information or else just changed their minds and used that as an excuse - but rather than try to sort it out on a human level with some degree of sensitivity, they just went into what I now realise was a position of plausible deniability.

And I realise now that some initial professionalism and positive vibes that I'd picked up on in the staff, and been encouraged by, was actually a sniffing of possible ways to meet corporate targets, and then for whatever reason they decided maybe not.

And then pretended no one knew anything about messages and pretended that things that had been stated had never been stated, and never once proactively communicated a single thing.

As someone pointed out they're dealing with adults who may be particularly vulnerable and in need, including people dealign with psychiatric difficulties, so such an attitude can only be described as ruthless and socially irresponsible.

I’m not surprised they've apparently tried to bribe clients to submit falsified records. Same thing happened to me a few years ago with some bs govt-funded org supposedly offering employment support – never any help but once I found a job they suddenly wanted to give me money (think it might also have been £50) if I submitted the details on their form.

If Remploy are still checking this page - and I found it because it appeared at teh top of Google on 'experience of remploy support' - DO SOMETHING ABOUT HOW PEOPLE ARE BEING MISLEAD AND HARMED BY YOUR BRANCH PRACTICES

Anonymous said...

As an update on Remploy for your blog, I am currently employed as an advisor for Remploy Employment services and have been for a number of years.
During the time I have worked for Remploy working practices have changed dramatically, the managment have attempted to make the company appear successfull to appease the DWP as well as allowing them to justify creaming off unjustified amounts of bonuses, I belive that they will stop at nothing to allegedly achieve the un achievable targets that they agreed with the DWP.
There are some really good members of staff employed by Remploy Employment Services who do the best possible job within the constraints of the process implemented by the managment, I have evidenced quite a number of things similar to the issues in the blog and worse whilst in Remploys service.

Greg said...

Glad I came across your blog, which confirms my view of Remploy as another bunch of Lying, Cheating, Con Artists that are stealing taxpayers money and Laundering it through these Private Companies. I was declared Unfit for Work by the DWP 3 times since 2006 following ATOS PCA's. Then I was Conned into going to another ATOS check, this time the "new" WCA and was awarded 0 points and told I was Fit for Work. I have now been Fighting with the DWP since Nov 2011. Due to all the Harassment I fell into a state of serious depression and was sent by my GP for CBT through the NHS or so I thought. It turned out they were a Private company contracted to the NHS. Right from the first meeting they were promoting Remploy at every opportunity. They must get a kickback from Remploy for everyone they refer. I then learnt about a company that claims to be a charity called Onside Advocacy. They claim to be On Your Side however they are just another private company Channelling people into Unpaid Voluntary work and also Pushing Remploy. They wanted you to sign those papers so that they could claim £14,000 from the Taxpayer for finding you a job that had lasted more than 6 months, even though they had nothing to do with it. So £50 out of £14,000 is pretty mean.It's A4e scandal all over again.

Anonymous said...

Update on Remploy Employment Services, practices are getting worse(allegedly) as they near the end of government funding, all sorts of things going on to make it look as though they are achieving their targets. Watch this space for developments.

Anonymous said...

I was left for 2 months without any support, thank you stupid remploy to fuck up my ESA.