Memorandum from The Kings Cross Project
The Kings Cross Project is a large voluntary
organisation in Widnes, Cheshire, serving the needs of local people,
particularly those in the wards of Kingsway and Riverside which
have been traditionally under-resourced.
The Management Committee and the staff were
keen to participate in the voluntary sector option of New Deal
and offered a placement through the normal channels.
Concurrently, a young man, Daniel Copley, who
had previously worked on a part-time basis at the Kings Cross
Project whilst he was a student, had finished his degree and had
signed on for New Deal. He expressed a desire to undertake his
placement at the Kings Cross Project to build up his skills, knowledge
and connections in the field of Community Development. This was
agreed and Daniel started at the Kings Cross Project on 10 January
2000. He had a meeting with the Assistant New Deal Co-ordinator
for Halton and subsequently signed paperwork that stated his training
plansthese included "in-house training eg Child Protection
and Equal Opportunity".
Soon after, Daniel also had a meeting with the
Jobsearch tutor, where he gave her a list of "Team Development
Days" for the Kings Cross Project. These are all on Mondays
and are regular, full team training and communication days, which
had been pre-arranged the previous calendar year and notified
to all staff and therefore could not be changed without grave
disruption to the Kings Cross Project. He also gave her notification
of a pre-booked holiday of five days. She accepted both without
question. Daniel also informed her that the first part of his
New Deal programme had been spent at the Merseyside Innovation
Centre, where his Jobsearch skills were assessed and pronounced
as excellent (Daniel has A-level English Language and a degree
in media productionwhich specialised in script writing).
Daniel's ascribed Jobsearch sessions for his
new placement were Monday mornings, 9.30 to 12 and took place
at the YMCA in Runcorn, Cheshire. People who attended these sessions
(New Deal clients) were of very mixed abilities, yet all were
given identical tasks and targets, none of which were suitable
for Daniel, as they were too easy. It soon became apparent that
a few of the participants could not read and write very well,
yet the tutor continually made them try to read out loud and to
write answers. My background is as a Basic Skills Co-ordinator
in FE and, ironically, Daniel was also following a Basic Skills
teaching course at the time. Both of us find this appallingthat
people whose self-esteem is already low are humiliated publicly
in this way. It was later suggested by the Assistant New Deal
Co-ordinator that Daniel "might help someone", to which
Daniel replied that he did not consider this to be his role and
that his presence within the group as someone with a degree, was
causing resentment amongst other clients.
Daniel had to miss some Monday Jobsearch sessions
because of attendance at Team Development Days, national work
related training (NCH Action for Children: Child Protection),
a job interview and sickness. Daniel and I (his supervisor) left
messages at the YMCA to inform the Jobsearch tutor, yet some of
these sessions were later described as "unauthorised absences".
The rules are so rigid that work related training that is essential
and of a high quality, which Daniel was attending, was considered
to not be of equal importance to the inadequate and inappropriate
Daniel also had to visit Wavertree Job Centre
one morning to renew his rail card, so that he could actually
get into his placementthis took almost three hours and
unfortunately clashed with Jobsearch again. As the Jobsearch session
was considered not to be helping Daniel at all, he thought that
having the means to travel to his placement, where he was continuously
learning, was more important. Once again rigid rules and regulations
did not allow for any initiative being shown by him. The only
code on the timesheet appropriate seemed to be the "J"
code for Jobsearch, as he spent his waiting time in Wavertree
surfing the internet for jobs. In a letter written by the New
Deal Co-ordinator, she converted these hours to "unauthorised
absences", as she personally had not authorised this.
Next, Daniel received a telephone call from
the Jobsearch tutor informing him of a Jobsearch review meeting
with her. On the morning of that meeting Daniel received a letter
giving him a "first and final written warning" regarding
the continuing non-attendance at Jobsearch. The letter emphasised
that Daniel could be dismissed if he did not return to the Jobsearch.
The Assistant New Deal Co-ordinator came to
this meeting unannounced and ran the meeting, beginning by asking
had Daniel received the letter. The rest of the meeting centred
around Daniel's attendance at Jobsearch and was not a review as
planned. He suggested Daniel could go to a different Jobsearch,
on a different day and at a different venue. Daniel agreed this
would be a good idea and gave his a list of dates when he wasn't
able to attend on Mondays because of work related training. No
firm plans were made for this. A meeting was asked for by Daniel,
between Kings Cross Project's Manager, Daniel's supervisor and
the New Deal Co-ordinator. A meeting was also subsequently requested
by the project Manager to the New Deal Co-ordinator, but neither
of these meetings occurred.
During the meeting with the Assistant New Deal
Co-ordinator and the Jobsearch tutor, Daniel felt that emotional
blackmail was used by the Assistant New Deal Co-ordinator, as
he said that Daniel's "unauthorised absences" made his
figures look bad and that a teacher had committed suicide because
she had received a bad OFSTED report. Comments were also made
which suggested that either the Assistant New Deal Co-ordinator
was lying or that they had been unhappy with the situation since
March, but had not done anything until then (end of April)
The whole meeting was conducted in a very unprofessional
manner with the two New Deal staff sharing private jokes and giggling
like school children, making Daniel feel very uncomfortable.
There was a lull for almost a month, during
which Daniel attended some Jobsearch sessions at the usual venue,
as he had not received any instructions to the contrary. There
was then a phone call on 24 May from the Assistant New Deal Co-ordinator
who breached the Data Protection Act by informing our Administrative
Assistant, without prompting, that he was going to "exit"
Daniel form New Deal. He then told Daniel that he was dismissing
him from his option, as he had not been going to his Jobsearchhe
meant at the new venue on a Tuesday. Daniel replied that he had
not received any notification of the details of this and was waiting
for them. It had only been discussed as a possibility. The Assistant
New Deal Co-ordinator said a letter had been sent to Daniel's
home address. Daniel had not received this and informed him of
this. He pointed out that it he had received the letter, he would
have attended the alternative, rather than risk losing his benefits
of over two hoursthe importance of attending Jobsearch
had been made more than clear to him and he is a very intelligent
young man! He was not believed. Bizarrely, he was told that "the
letter is not the issue", despite Daniel's point that if
he had had the letter he would have attended the Tuesday Jobsearch.
Daniel told him that he wanted to appeal against the dismissal,
but no information was offered on how to do this.
During the phone call there was a woman in the
background shouting in a loud voice, apparently prompting the
Assistant new Deal Co-ordinator on what to say. She emphasisedin
a voice loud enough for Daniel to hearthat the letter had
been sent: "we have the letter here, we definitely sent it
out!" However, Daniel had definitely not received it.
Daniel was therefore "exited" from
New Deal on 24 May 2000 and received a letter to confirm this.
Although he was lucky to receive this because, as with every single
other letter that was sent to him by Halton New Deal, there was
a mistake in the address (in this case the postcode).
The Kings Cross Project requested a copy of
the letter that Daniel did not receive to be faxed to them. When
it arrived it came with a copy of a letter from the Jobsearch
Tutor to the New Deal team which contained some untrue remarks.
All of this has been a hindrance to Daniel's
gaining employment and is a slur on his character, which we feel
is very unfair. We abhor the treatment he has received through
this unfortunate and unnecessary set of circumstances and wish
to have this set on record.
We are taking the matter further with our local
New Deal and their management.
Finally, we would like to emphasise that we
have no quarrel with Wavertree Jobcentre, who have been very supportive
to Daniel throughout this process.
The Kings Cross Project