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David Dennis, the author of Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme, seems to have a hit on his hands. The book has attracted considerable interest, following my article earlier this month. It is therefore with pleasure that I am publishing the following interview with him, conducted by writer Alex Laybourne.
After reading the new bestseller “Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme”, I knew I had to interview expose genius David Dennis. Not only did the book hit a chord with me, it has also hit a chord with readers and is currently flying high in the Amazon.co.uk chart. David is a curious guy, he doesn’t like to show his face. I asked him for a photo to include with this interview. He declined to share one and said he is choosing to remain anonymous. I asked him why, and thus our conversation began.
Q) So, tell me, why don’t you want your face out there? Your name will be on everyone’s lips soon. This book is hot! Don’t you want to be famous?
A) I’m not concerned about being famous, Alex. This book was written for the millions out there who are suffering and unemployed. Millions of faces, men and women, all different. Just one face can’t represent everyone or take credit for a small part in trying to improve things.
Q) David, how does it feel, now that you’ve got a hit on your hands to be away from the “Work Programme”.
A) Well, Alex, I guess it’s not exactly apt to say that I am away from it. It still haunts me and it makes me feel sick when I think of all those other people having to go and slave away day after day for the sake of a few quid.
Q) By “a few quid”, you really mean millions that are heading into the pockets of private companies – companies that could well afford to hire and pay employees to work for them.
A) Exactly– private companies are milking our taxpayers of money and our unemployed of their dignity to make vast profits. It’s disgusting to say the least and illegal to say the most.
Q) Illegal? Didn’t a court say it was legal?
A) A court might have said it was legal, but I think the definition of slavery fits like a glove. To work for your ‘benefit’ is to work for something like £71 a week. That isn’t a wage anyone would ‘choose’ to work for. Now, if the companies were happy to add in the rest to make it up to a living wage, that might be a fair deal people would agree with. There’s got to be some leeway given. Somebody has got to give and the unemployed have given too much as it is. It’s the private companies’ turn to put some money into the coffers if they want the benefit of workers.
Q) You believe those on benefits should get them for nothing then?
A) Of course not. I believe there should be a programme where people learn skills and get experience the fair way. REAL help needs to be offered. I do not believe sending people into a multi-billion pound company to stack shelves for free is in any way beneficial to those on the programme– it only serves to help a rich company that’s already rich.
Instead, let’s start getting people into university, college and supporting them through it. Let’s bring back jobs for people– real jobs. The government are paying their private training companies up to £14,000 for every single person on the work programme, over and above the cost of their regular dole. Couldn’t less money be spent sending people through college courses, university or other programmes where we would see a higher return? The way I see it, the unemployed are becoming less employable with every passing day on the work programme. I believe everyone can have productive work, work they enjoy and are fulfilled by, and I think it’s unfair to tar those genuinely unemployed with the same brush used to tar ‘layabouts’.
Q) So Dennis, you believe there are ‘layabouts’ milking the system?
A) I do, and I know that there are more than a few out there. The government has every right to try and keep those people from sucking precious monies from the public purse. But should it be to the detriment of those actually trying to find work? No, absolutely not.
Q) How many people did you actually meet who found work on the programme?
A) (laughs) Found work? None. Sanctioned– many.
A) The sanction is the way the government and the system control the jobseekers– if they don’t do as they’re told, then they just cut the money off. If you miss an appointment or you’re ill, you can be sanctioned. Then, how are you meant to survive? There are “crisis loans” available, but good luck getting one. It’s a fear-based, bullying system.
Q) So, you believe the government are willingly cutting people off from benefits and squeezing them to try and make them drop off?
A) Well, I don’t remember saying that, but, yes if you’d like to put it that way– yes– I think there are probably mandates out there that ask the Job Centre to cut people off as much as possible.
Q) What’s the difference between the Job Centre and the work programme?
A) The Job Centre is one of those things that we all know about. It’s the first stop. You go in and see an advisor and they, on the whole, do try to help put you on the right track towards finding a new job. They have targets and regulations, but on the whole, they are pretty straight up and if you follow the basic rules, you receive your dole payment without issue.
The “Work Programme” is something else altogether. I think you could sum it up quite easily as ‘forced labour’. You are sent into a work placement, whether you want to or not; whether it suits your skills or not; and you work. For free. I’ve heard some horror stories and I, myself, had an awful time.
The other part is the “Work Programme” scheme to teach people supposed new skills and help them to write CV’s. The training centre I attended was a complete waste of time. The turnover of staff seemed as though there was a revolving door. The CV’s are useless and to my knowledge sending an architect to a basic maths course is just a weak way to waste money.
Q) Care to elaborate?
A) Sure. I was sent to a placement at a leading gardening store and was shown a health and safety video– then I was sent out to work in a busy warehouse without protective clothing– gloves or the like– legally mandated by health and safety law. When I complained, I was told it was too expensive and we didn’t need them.
As for the architect in one of my classes– there were also health and safety officers, accountants and other professionals sitting through a very basic maths course and to my knowledge many are still doing the same course six months on. As I said– it’s just a way to keep bodies in seats so these training companies can keep charging the government.
Q) Can you tell me which store?
A) The name doesn’t matter. Take your pick. I have heard horror stories from charity shops, supermarkets– you name it and it’s been heard of. As far as I can see, it’s the same across the board, no matter which store it is.
Q) So what do you intend to do now?
A) I am promoting the book. I have several interviews lined up. I had a journalist call me the other day offering to set up a TV interview– the works. I can’t wait– I want to fight for those guys who have no one to fight for them. I believe people should have freedom and choice. If you are unemployed then you shouldn’t automatically become a slave to the system. You should be assisted to find a career that is right for you.
Q) How does the programme affect working people?
A) Good question. Well, as you know, Slavery was abolished many years ago. If we bring back slavery– who will want to pay people to work? This system is bringing down wages across the board. The end effect will be simple– more people will become unemployed and then be thrown in as slave workers. The government will create a wider gap between the rich and the poor. The middle class will disappear and years of hard work will be thrown down the drain.
Q) I believe you are very brave to even attempt to sell this book. There are people out there who are going to call you a liar.
A) Alex, I know, and there always are. The truth is in the book and if people want to insist that those on benefits are having a great time, I suggest they try it for themselves. Let the Tories go down and work at supermarkets and perhaps they would be kind enough to give their real, well-paid job to a work programme worker. I can tell you, there are qualified people out there who would be able to do it just as well. I don’t believe all this crud about “knowing your place”. The world is there for those who want it– the world is everyone’s– it doesn’t just belong to those guys with huge bank accounts.
Q) Have you got another book in mind?
A) Yes. I am half tempted to compile case-study interviews with people who went through the “Work Programme”. It would be an interesting eye-opener for all those who say that my experience was some sort of aberration. Let people see what real people are going through and let’s give everyone a voice.
Q) Are you a ‘Working Class Hero’?
A) No. John Lennon was a working class hero. I am just a guy who wants people to be treated fairly. I don’t believe in sitting at home on my arse all day. I believe in work and let’s get people into jobs that will give them a fair lifestyle. Let them add to the economy and let them enjoy the prosperity others enjoy.
Q) Thanks, David, I better let you go, you seem to be pretty busy!
A) I have got a long road ahead of me spreading the word of the silent majority and I intend to see it through to the end.
David was busy with other interviews at the time. I spent enough time with him to realise that he has a story here that is growing daily. His book is a hit and he himself is certainly driven enough to realise it. I wanted to give you a taste of what this guy is like. I have read the book and I know it’s a good one. Find it here and then tell David what you think of it.