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Feb 25, 2012

While Kevin woos Labor, Therese embroiled in UK labour scandal

Kevin Rudd's PM pitch is not the only thing consuming his family. Wife Therese Rein's Ingeus has become embroiled in the "welfare-to-work" scandal currently engulfing the UK.

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Ingeus Ltd, the employment and placement company run by Therese Rein, has become embroiled in the “welfare-to-work” scandal currently engulfing the UK.

The company is one of three major private sector managers of the Cameron government’s various welfare-to-work schemes, in which unemployed people receiving the job-seekers allowance are put in full-time work placements.

Yesterday, A4E, the second-largest manager of the schemes, was exposed as using people on the program to work unpaid in its own offices. Four people in the group have been arrested on charges of fraud, and the firm’s head, Emma Harrison, has stepped down from her position as chair of the firm. She also had a role as the government’s “family tsar”.

The furore over the program erupted this week after a focus on the involvement of Tesco, with accusations that it was using the scheme as a substitute for actual employment. Crucial to this process was the use of sanction — the program focused on youth is meant to be voluntary, with those on benefits allowed to back out of it within the first week.

But those using the scheme have told the media they have been threatened by client companies and the scheme’s private providers with negative reports that would see their benefits reduced or suspended should they quit the placements.

The scheme offers no training for participant while providing free basic labour to large corporations. Many of them — especially the supermarkets — have recently reduced their workforce by thousands after replacing check-out aisles with self-service check-outs.

For participating companies the welfare-to-work scheme is therefore not only free but actually reduces overall paid employment, offering companies free, flexible labour units, to be moved around and applied wherever necessary for short work periods.

Following the revelations about the scheme and the providers, major groups have started to withdraw at a rapid clip. Oxfam and Sainsbury’s pulled out immediately, with Poundland (everything £1) — the single most depressing store chain in history — also refusing to continue.

Critics of the scheme were denounced as “job snobs” by the minister responsible, Chris Grayling (Royal Grammar, Cambridge, BBC trainee ’85, BBC producer ’86 — just fancy that!), who called the Right To Work campaign a “front” for the Socialist Workers Party, without telling us why that invalidated their arguments.

He later accused them of hacking his emails. He later withdrew the accusation.

Ingeus, whose website features an encouraging video message from Rein, has refused to comment about its detailed involvement with the scheme, citing commercial privacy. But Ingeus is a larger manager of such schemes than the now-disgraced A4E, and stated this week:

“We have not sought the permission of MWA placement providers to publish their names so will not be able to issue you with a list at this time. However, I can confirm that our clients are placed with a wide range of community-based organisations and charities which benefit the local community, in accordance with the provider guidance issued by DWP.”

Well, maybe. But details about A4E emerged at the other end — from FOI requests placed on the Department of Work and Pensions — and there may be a lot more to come. So for the sake of all Rein-Rudd family activities, full disclosure might be a good idea.

It’s great to give unemployed training and the opportunity for meaningful activity. But it’s becoming clear — not that it was ever in doubt — that such schemes are postmodern peonage, designed to give the appearance of action on structural unemployment while giving major corporates a profit lift. No one with any association with Labour should have any part of them.

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20 comments

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20 thoughts on “While Kevin woos Labor, Therese embroiled in UK labour scandal

  1. Suzanne Blake

    Fairwork should volunteer to investgate, it will be buried for years.

  2. Rosanne

    Hi, I have a few comments from the UK. It’s great you’ve run this article. A4e is just the tip of the poverty profiteering iceberg so it’s good to expand the focus on the other companies that are making a killing out of this too.
    However, there’s one small correction I’d like to make: Chris Grayling “called the Right To Work campaign a ‘front’ for the Socialist Workers Party, without telling us why that invalidated their arguments.”
    This seems to accept that SWP/RTW are a prime mover in the campaign against workfare.
    But its Boycott Workfare, a grassroots claimant-led network, that has been organising against workfare for several years. This includes workfare in its New Labour guise as the ‘Flexible New Deal’. This network has been the prime mover in actions, campaigning and in the upcoming UK-wide Day of Action on 3 March.
    In fact, in local anti-cuts activity in South London the SWP/RTW has been distinctly uninterested in claimant-led initiatives against workfare. These initiatives don’t come from the trade unions, you see (though it has gone on to link with unions and gather support)!
    Here are links to the Boycott Workfare website and the campaign’s Facebook page:
    http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
    https://www.facebook.com/boycottworkfare

  3. Chris Johnson

    Its a shame Australia’s gene pool is so shallow. Ingeus Chairman David Gonski who this week delivered the Government’s major review of our education system must be hamstrung for impartial comment while Kevin sits in parliament and Bruce Hawker, Rudd’s campaign manager runs Government media and communications?

  4. shepherdmarilyn

    My god, the Australian media destroyed Rein here, now you want to do it in Britain.

    I think all those sorts of schemes are trash but is there or has there ever been a trace of evidence in two countries that Rein has ever done anything wrong.

  5. Lord Barry Bonkton

    More Millionaires making their money on the backs of the poor and down trodden ?
    S.B/ Truthie stop flogging the dead donkey , maybe we should get the mob that did the AWB scandal to look into it ????????????

  6. Gilly from St Arnaud

    Perhaps we comment writers should be paid by the candidates or parties we support, so the voters dont come to the conclusion they are using slave labor to write supporting articles on policy options?

  7. shepherdmarilyn

    Emma Harrison is in trouble for renting her own properties out for vast sums to her own company and four of her staff have been accused of fraud.

    Rein is not even remotely mentioned in the scam, it merely points out in the stories that she has a large contract in England – almost the same size as SERCO have here to jail refugees.

    Strange how the “meeja” in Australia can’t help themselves when they want to monster the Rudds.

  8. The Old Bill

    Never thought I would be old enough to say this BUT

    When I was a lad_____________

    I worked as a cleaner at age 14 for ADULT wages! There was no bullshit junior wage, or trainee wage until I had “Certificate II in Mop Handling Skills”. If I didn’t work, I lost my job.
    Now___________________
    We have Government keeping people in High School who shouldn’t be there.
    Mining Companies crying out for “skilled labour” because they can’t be stuffed to teach someone how to drive a big truck, and a shortage of Trade skills because you have to have year 12 to dig a hole in the ground and lay pipes!!
    Meanwhile, Youth unemployment is up and those that want to work are offered “job experience” in lieu of proper wages.

    Not quite on topic, but the above story points out exactly where we are going wrong. i.e. Pandering to large business and devaluing the integrity of the average teenager, by telling them they can’t work a till / stack shelves / clean a toilet / dig a hole, without ‘work experience” and preferably, a school or TAFE provided “Certificate” in time wasting!!!

  9. SBH

    Look Marylin is spot on here. There’s no valid reason for this headline. You could say that Igneus is implementing government policy but to say it’s embroiled in a scandal is just a slur.

    By way of disclosure, I don’t support Rudd, think Rein should keep out of politics or jump fully in and think work for the dole schemes are a blight on society but then so is sensational and unsubstantiated rumour masquerading as informed or reasonable comment.

  10. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Journalists were involved in phone hacking and bribery at News of the World. Guy Rundle is a journalist. Therefore (use your own crayons to fill in the massive logical gap here).

    Great that you are reporting on the exploitative nature of corporate employment agencies, but how the hell did you come up with the headline? Standard “priest denies molesting children” level of reporting, and much less than I expect from you.

  11. Lyn Gain

    This article would have been better not written, especially the headline. I agree with Marilyn, SBH and Stevo. Give us a break. This is not what I expect from Crikey.

  12. Matt Hardin

    I think the last sentence is the key. Anyone interested in the cause of the workers should not be involved in running a scheme where corporates exploit the unemployed. Full disclosure required!

  13. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    I disagree; the article should have been published. “Welfare-to-work” company people going to jail for taking advantage of the unemployed? I smiled, because it cheered me up.

  14. Allison

    just bring back the work house
    how utterly utterly disgusting

  15. Warren Joffe

    Based on my wife’s and my experience and that of my children I would
    much rather that my grandchildren, when not studying full time (and
    even then if they had the energy) were gaining any kind of work
    experience. I remember one son getting up at 5 to go to work in a
    factory when he was 15 and he learned a lot, not least that he wanted
    to make sure he didn’t have to spend his life doing jobs like that.

    There comes a time, at some age, and after a certain amount of work
    experience when the boringly menial isn’t good enough for a modestly
    intelligent and diligent person who has exhausted what can be learned
    from jobs which are mostly drudgery but, if you are a parent you are
    probably already in favour of a bit of tough love in some circumstances.

    Test question, though far from conclusive, if you had a child who had
    recently become a heroin addict wouldn’t you regard his or her being
    locked up and suffering cold turkey as regrettable but not the worst
    thing that could happen?

  16. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Warren, “…. regrettable but not the worst thing that could happen?” Were you thinking about the worst thing that could happen to your child, the heroin addict? Or were you thinking it might be the worst thing that could happen to a parent – a punishment for their “failure” in bringing up their child?
    From my limited experience of the justice system and its ability to effect any change in the behaviour of heroin addicts or the likely short term outcomes of “cold turkey”(suffered in prison), I suspect that there is little or nothing more inappropriate than prison. In fact, short of being killed in a random drive-by shooting, going to prison for heroin addiction IS probably the worst thing that can happen.

  17. Warren Joffe

    @Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    I too am pessimistic about the prospects of rehabilitation in our
    prison systems though the last time (quite a long time ago) that
    I talked to people running one state’s prison system I was very
    pleased to discover that old stereotypes didn’t apply. Since
    a very high proportion of the dysfunctional people in our prisons
    – most of the inmates – are addicts you have to be right. But what
    I was suggesting was (i) parents would put up with an addict child
    being made by third parties to suffer withdrawal symptoms in the
    possibly desperate hope that it would motivate change and (ii) memory
    of Japanese experience and practice read about many years ago was
    that simply locking them up in a cell while they suffered withdrawal
    symptoms helped keep Japan’s addiction rate v. low. I understand that
    it is dangerous to apply cold turkey to amphetamine users however.

  18. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Point taken Warren but from my observation, parents of addicts know already that cold turkey or suffering withdrawal symptoms or whatever you want to call it, more or less never motivates change. So once one’s child has done a stint in prison (‘for their own good’) and come back into society still addicted, still using and still offending (by stealing, by neglecting children, by outraging family members), a parent won’t want to try (or encourage the system to try) that method out again. We know it doesn’t work, no matter how desperate and caring families might be.
    I haven’t heard about your Japanese method but it sounds pretty ‘tabloid’ to me.

  19. Matt Hardin

    @Warren, with respect to your son working in the factory at 15. Was he paid by the owner of the factory? Was he paid the award rate? The people in these schemes are being used as labour by the corporations (including big supermarket chains) and paid unemployment benefit by the government. This drives people out of work, and removes the link between a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay not to mention the public subsidy of business. It is completely different to your self-starting and diligent son.

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