Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 plans—these 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 production—which 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 appalling—that 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 Jobsearch.

  Daniel also had to visit Wavertree Job Centre one morning to renew his rail card, so that he could actually get into his placement—this 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 Jobsearch—he 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 hours—the 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 emphasised—in a voice loud enough for Daniel to hear—that 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

September 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 March 2001