‘Mandatory’ instruction removed from DWP Workfare document?

UPDATE (29 Feb 2012): Channel 4’s FactCheck have followed this up with a response from the DWP:

“A spokesman told FactCheck: “The changes to the website were just part of a regular update. We regularly revise documents for clarity purposes.”

“When pushed on whether that meant that the instruction to mandate participants is no longer government policy, she wasn’t able to provide any more “clarity” other than to say: “I’m not saying the advice is wrong.”

“That’s a bit of a problem, because if the advice ISN’T wrong, but HAS been taken down, doesn’t that mean that Work Programme providers are now in danger of breaking the rules on the National Minimum Wage Regulations, as the government took great pains to flag up originally in the missing paragraph?

“Confusion reigns, and despite repeated phone calls and several days to think about it, DWP has declined to clarify the situation.

“The spokesman did tell us that the apparently damning FoI answer had been taken down because it contained an error (“one of the names of the companies was wrong”).

“And the timing of all this was pure coincidence, the spokesman insisted.

“So a document emphasising the “mandatory” nature of Work Programme work experience happened to disappear from the department’s website just as the controversy over whether other schemes were mandatory was raging in the headlines.

“Or in any event, that’s DWP’s story and they’re sticking to it.”

Original post below

cached copy of DWP document: you must mandate participants

Anton, a commenter on The Void blog, has pointed out that government documents on the work experience programme have been altered recently to remove the instruction “you must mandate participants to this activity”.

A Google cache of the documents still contains the phrase (on page 4), whereas the version currently on the DWP site (PDF) does not. (Just in case that cache disappears, here’s a copy)

It’s a bit late in the evening to get a response from the DWP on this, but if anyone wants to ring on Monday morning, let us know.

Also on Brighter Future.

UPDATE: Mary Hamilton looks into the documents’ metadata and tells us the original version was “created/modified 17/08/2011. Changed version created/modified 24/02/2012.”

5 thoughts on “‘Mandatory’ instruction removed from DWP Workfare document?”

  1. This isn’t suprising after debate on question time on Thursday night when Ed Vaizey MP said he wasn’t aware of any mandatory work scheme and didn’t believe the government was compelling people to take these placements and that the scheme was entirely voluntary.

  2. Duncan Smit was right when he said it is voluntary, for a given value of voluntary and the clients who received letters were right to say that the letters made it seem like it was compulsory.

    It is voluntary because you choose to go on the placement but thereafter it becomes mandatory for you to meet the requirements. This allowed the DWP to claim it was volununtary but it also allowed them to get around the minimum wage regulations because when they started the course it had by then become mandatory.

    Here is my reasoning:

    I had another look at the regulations and they really are poorly drafted. I don’t think there was any deliberate attempt to mislead, at least in the beginning but:

    34668 JSA may not be payable or it may be payable at a reduced rate to claimants who are entitled to JSA1 and have
    lost a place on WE through misconduct2(see DMG 34681 – 34682) or
    subject to the good cause provision detailed at DMG 34730, given up or failed to attend a place on a WE without good cause3 (see DMG 34683 -34691) or
    after being notified by an Emp O of a place on a WE (see DMG 34669), refused without good cause (see DMG 34701 – 34702)
    3.1 or failed to apply for it or
    3.2 to accept it when offered4 or
    neglected to avail themselves of a reasonable opportunity of a place on WE5

    DMG 34730 is the regulation requiring attendance on the first day and that you leave within a week or finish the course
    This obviously begs the question why are the rest of the options there? If I volunteer and on’t go on the first day I am already under sanction so the question of applying or accepting or ‘availing myself’ of the opprtunit is 100% irrelevant.

    34669 While an individual’s decision to participate in WE is purely voluntary, once they have agreed to take part in a specific placement and written notification has been given, then attendance and completion involves reasonable mandatory conditions and is subject to sanctions

    *DMG 34669 is drafted in such a way as to give rise to the possibility of misapplication but it also reads in such a way that the only part of the process which is voluntary is the acceptance and that as soon as the client has said yes and a letter has been drafted by JCP the rest of the process is on a mandatory footing. This would tend to backup the stories being told by the clients and would make the letters telling them that it was compulsory strictly speaking correct as they have already gone through thhe voluunntary phase.

    There are still 2 points that I would mention. Many clients have said they didn’t know they had applied to volunteer; Is here a procedure where they sign a form or is it down to the word of JCP staff members? I do not wish to suggest impropriety as I have no knowledge of how JCP work but are there certain targets that have to be reached, for example.

    The last point is that I can’t for the life of me see why sections 3.1 and 3.2 and 4 are in the regulation.


    PS totally off-topic but something that is surely a matter of some import is the story in this article: http://www.thirdforcenews.org.uk/2012/02/scottish-disability-groups-boycott-meeting-with-uk%E2%80%88government/

    1. Thanks for that. The scales of conspiracy vs cockup are always delicately balanced. Either way, as you say, too much confusion seems to result, and this needs clarifying. Thanks for the link too.

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