Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remploy and MPs

Finally, a response regarding the Remploy problems. My MP referred the matter to Anne McGuire, the erstwhile Minister for Disabled People. The response consists of a letter from Anne McGuire to my MP regarding the matter (dated approximately two weeks before she was replaced by Jonathan Shaw), and a covering letter from my MP, as it went via his office.

As you'll see from that article, whilst in office Ms McGuire was all about welfare-to-work. And my MP is James Plaskitt, the Benefit Fraud Minister. Surely if anyone should be up in arms about a company like Remploy skewing the stats for disabled people entering employment, it's these two.

Oh dear. While I like having faith in humanity, and believe that people as individuals are generally good, fair, and basically nice, I really must stop being so naive as to extend this to politicians.

According to my MP, "It appears that there has been a genuine and unfortunate error in the handling of your case, for which Remploy and the Government offer their sincere apologies."

Not fifty quid, then. Nor any thanks for my honesty in not taking the money and running, or for alerting them to the problems. And I wonder, Mr Plaskitt, if you uncovered a Benefit Fraudster on the claimant side rather than the government side, would you let them off with "apologies"?

No. Even if a benefit claimant made a "genuine and unfortunate error", they'd be hounded through the courts and at the very least, be required to pay back the funds which they had received on the basis of the erroneous information.

The letter from Ms McGuire was a little more illuminating. Sort of. I'm not going to reproduce any of it here as it's full of management gibberish and unashamed weasel-speak, but ten years as a fan of Dilbert has enabled me to boil it down and so I present the basic content in English.

1. Contacting me: Oops.

2. Only sending the signature pages: Oops.

3. Wrong dates: Oops.

4. Telephone call: Oops.

It seems Remploy contacted a whole list of clients to try and get them onto the Workstep programme. The list contained the details of 16 people, myself included, who should not have been on the list. No one noticed until I spoke up. The other 15 are being 'reviewed'.

For each point there's a lot of meaningless flannel about "ongoing continuous improvement programme" and references to undefined "additional measures" which will be put in place. Oops is about the size of it, though.

As for the '£50 for returning some forms' business: apparently £50 is considered a perfectly reasonable "incentive" for people to return information. Neither Remploy, nor the DWP, nor the wider government see anything dodgy about that at all. My apologies to Wat Tyler and Dr Crippen.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

Can't say I'm surprised, but still, the swines!!!
I wonder, how prevalent this kind of situation really is, and even more relevant, how aware are the relevant ministers. My money would go on them being well aware this kind of situation is a scam, and if not they should be with the number of people starting to shout about it. Can you say fraud and maatwerk anyone?!
Oh, I'm going to link to this post, hope that's ok?
BG x

Mary said...

I've just found that Mr Plaskitt is no longer part of the DWP as part of the same reshuffle which did for Ms McGuire - he's just lower profile.

Feel free to link.

Carie @ Space for the Butterflies said...

Every little fraud alarm bell is ringing violently!! At least you tried which is far more than anyone else seems to have! How long is it until we can try to change our MP?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, did you want the money or someone to get fired or did you want the whole contract to be called to a halt?

Mary said...

Well, like I said in the original post, it would have been nice to get even simply the words "thank you" for drawing the whole thing to their attention when I could have just taken the money.

I'd also like to know exactly what "additional measures" they're taking. If they said, extra staff training in dealing with the administration of the Workstep programme, that would be good. If they said, introducing a policy so that forms to be signed will be accompanied by either a properly explanatory letter or, better yet, a face to face visit, that would be good. It's the nonspecific "measures" which just feels like a brush-off.

I'd like the difference to be noted on the stats between how many disabled people are actively helped by Remploy to secure a job... and how many people did it entirely for themselves but happened to be registered at Remploy because the Disability Employment Advisor gets a tick in a box for "referring clients to an appropriate agency" (read: throwing that dead cat into someone else's back yard) rather than doing anything useful herself.

I'd like them to wonder whether Workstep and NDDP and so on are really the best way forward and I'd like them to think about whether it should be delivered in-house rather than by external agencies whose funding is target-based.

And yeah, fifty quid is a lot of money to me, and there is a little bit of me that is saying "Mary, you moron, you just did yourself out of fifty quid, and for what?"

Optistatic said...

Well, you did the right thing reporting it rather than just pocketing the money, but fifty pounds is indeed a lot of money. How very frustrating. Why is doing the right thing not rewarded?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary

I curently work for this organisation and i can tell you now that the same proces is in operation with the run up to the year edn ( March 09 ). If you were told you were on a lsit of 16 thats false as we do undreds of them.