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?