Author Topic: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses  (Read 18732 times)

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2015, 09:11:59 AM »
Only 7% of reconsideration requests against the issue of a Breach 3 jobseeker sanction are successful

FOI Reference No: 202-03-54833

Date of Request: 26 January 2015

Date of Response: 16 February 2015

Request:

1) Out of the total number of Breach 3 notices issued to jobseekers between 15th October 2013 and 31st December 2014 under Regulation 5B (4) of the Income Support (Jersey) Regulations 2007 (previously requested in F.O.I. ref: 2020350084 dated 12 January 2015), how many such notices were subject to a request for a reconsideration of the decision by the person to whom the Breach 3 was issued?

2) Out of the total number of requests for reconsiderations asked for in (1) above, how many (if any) requests were consequently denied by the Social Security Department for the reason of not having satisfied the 7day deadline for submitting a request, pursuant to article 13(3) of the Income Support (General Provisions)(Jersey) Order 2008?

3) Out of the total number of reconsideration decisions of Breach 3 issue notices that were actually carried out by the Department between 15th October 2013 and 31st December 2014 (the total asked for in (1) above less the total asked for in (2) above), how many such reconsiderations upheld the original decision by the first Determining Officer to issue the Breach 3 and how many (if any) reversed the decision in the claimant’s favour?

States of Jersey response:

1) Of the 122 Breach 3 notices that were issued between 15 October 2013 and 31 December 2014, 14 clients requested reconsiderations.

2) Of the 14 requested breach 3 reconsiderations 1 was outside of the 7 day deadline. Please note that this response has been collated using client records which were analysed for a 14 day period following the issue of the breach 3 notice.

3) Of the 14 breach 3 reconsiderations conducted 12 upheld the original decision made by the department and 1 reversed the decision in favour of the client.

My comments on the above:

These were my three reasons for making this request-

1) To discover how many jobseekers are challenging the issue of Breach 3 sanctions by way of a reconsideration;
2) To discover if any jobseekers who had requested a reconsideration had done so outside of the very short 7-day deadline, thereby losing all subsequent rights to request an 'independent' appeal hearing by the Social Security Tribunal;
3) To discover how successful these requests for reconsiderations had been.

The short answers are-

1) 14 reconsideration requests out of 122 notices issued - 11.5% request rate;
2) 1 out of those 14 requests missed the 7-day deadline, thereby losing all further appeal rights;
3) Only 1 out of 14 requests was successful - about 7%.

We already know from my first request posted on this thread on 31 January that 15 Breach 3 sanctions were reversed before reaching the reconsideration stage and only 1 was reversed after reaching the reconsideration stage. Now we see that the chances of getting a sanction reversed are incredibly small once a reconsideration is requested. The exact reasons for this are a matter for speculation but it would appear to me that the Department's Determining Officers might be looking far more favourably on jobseekers who present reasons for good cause immediately or very soon after the event, whereas those who wait a bit longer and request a formal reconsideration (thereby causing the Department extra expense and bureaucracy because a second Determining Officer has to review the decision) are being punished for doing so with a far lower chance of success. It is almost like the Department is using the reconsideration as a means of getting the jobseeker to conform to the pattern of behaviour that most suits its officers: cause us less hassle by contacting us immediately to explain your absence and you'll have a better chance of getting the sanction lifted; cause us more hassle by using the reconsideration process and you will stand virtually no chance whatsoever of getting it lifted. This is all very worrying.

However, not as worrying as the confirmation that one jobseeker who wished to appeal this very serious sanction could not do so because their request for a reconsideration wasn't received within 7 days. Just to clarify- if a UK jobseeker missed an appointment, the first officer would have to pass it to a second officer who would then post a letter to the claimant inviting reasons for good cause. The jobseeker would have to supply a reason within a week. Only at that point would the sanction be issued. Then the jobseeker would have a month - not just 7 days - in which to request a reconsideration and UK guidelines for Decision Makers even allow a request to be accepted if it is received later than the one month deadline.

By contrast, if a Jersey jobseeker misses an appointment with a Work Advisor, that Advisor does not have to pass the matter on to any second officer for investigation, nor does the Advisor even have to post a letter to the jobseeker and wait a set period of time for a response before issuing the sanction. In fact, the Advisor doesn't have to carry out any sort of investigation that comes anywhere close to complying with the rules of natural justice and the sanction can be issued almost immediately after the missed appointment, usually after a token attempt or two to reach the jobseeker by mobile phone and/or e-mail.

From the day the jobseeker receives the sanction notice, they have just 7 days to request a reconsideration or lose all appeal rights. Unlike the UK, Jersey's Social Security Department does not accept requests outside of those 7 days. When the new sanctions proposals were approved by the States on 8 October 2013, Le Gresley made no mention that he intended to use his ministerial powers to reduce this reconsideration request for jobseekers from 21 days to 7 days. He did this separately and without publicity after his sanctions measures were approved by the House.

If the sanction is later appealed before the Social Security Tribunal, the panel completely disregards any procedural errors or maladminstration that occurred at any time before the reconsideration (the review of the initial decision undertaken by a second Determining Officer). :o The Tribunal only enquires about the manner in which the reconsideration was conducted- not the manner in which the first officer initially issued the sanction. The Department plays along with this charade by only sending the second officer to the appeal hearing - not the first one who issued the sanction. If an appellant asks in advance of the hearing for the first officer to attend in order that the appellant can question them, the Tribunal will refuse this request. The system has been set up so that the appellant is officially appealing the reconsideration decision - not the first decision, even though the sanction has legal effect from the date it is issued and the penalty begins to be deducted from the jobseeker's benefit before the reconsideration is even completed.

The whole set up is an utter disgrace that would not be legal outside of Jersey, but the Department has been relying on secret legal advice for several years to justify not having to comply with the rules of natural justice at the first decision-making stage and the Chairman of the Social Security Tribunal, Advocate Charles Thacker, has backed the Department in this respect.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 09:29:04 AM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline boatyboy

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2015, 04:37:33 PM »
Quote:

The whole set up is an utter disgrace that would not be legal outside of Jersey, but the Department has been relying on secret legal advice for several years to justify not having to comply with the rules of natural justice at the first decision-making stage and the Chairman of the Social Security Tribunal, Advocate Charles Thacker, has backed the Department in this respect.

Agreed.

Why is there no dialogue or questions being asked in the states about a system which is biased against the unemployed person and does nothing to hold mistakes made by the social security department to account. Mr Le Gresley if you are reading this, bow your head in shame and Suzie Pinel the present Minister is worse.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 06:10:27 PM by boatyboy »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2015, 06:11:30 PM »
Unfortunately the questions that are being asked in the States are overly simplistic, like how long it is taking the Department to deal with reconsiderations. To a certain extent this is understandable as most backbench States Members simply don't have the superior knowledge of the way the system is operating behind closed doors. Only the Minister and the civil servants know this.  What you don't know about you don't ask questions about, but the majority of backbench politicians simply don't care enough to ask anyway. Remember that Deputy Hilton's Scrutiny Panel deliberately chose to turn a blind eye to Le Gresley's proposals.

I should also have pointed out in my previous post that the fact that the jobseeker's chances of successfully appealing a sanction decreases the longer it takes them to provide an excuse is not just pure coincidence. Part of the secret legal advice that the Department relies on is this 2009 UK Upper Tribunal judgment - NS v Secretary of States for Work and Pensions (link below - Word document):

http://www.administrativeappeals.tribunals.gov.uk/judgmentfiles/j2722/CIB%200927%202009-00.doc


The Department tells its Determining Officers that as a result of this obscure judgment, they can treat an excuse that is only provided after the interview has actually been missed as a weaker one than an excuse provided before the interview starts. The problem is that the Department does not inform jobseekers beforehand that their chances of appealing a sanction are legally stronger if they ring to cancel beforehand. There is no possible way that the average jobseeker could expect to know this without being informed by the Department. In fact they won't even be informed of the consequences of this judgment unless the case eventually reaches a Tribunal appeal. Even then, the Jersey Social Security Tribunal case law is secret so other jobseekers can't just go online and discover that as a result of a previous case, they will be regarded as having a weaker argument unless they provide an excuse before the interview starts. Mind you, if any of them bother to read this post ...
   

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2015, 05:17:30 PM »
Names and addresses of Jersey Vetting Bureau members no longer a secret :-)

FOI Reference No: 202-03-55145

Date of Request: 27 January 2015

Date of Response: 24 February 2015

Last week I received a response to a request I made to States of Jersey Police. This is the first in a series of FOI requests that I will be making to that organisation concerning matters that our elected politicians traditionally shy away from for fear of becoming electorally unpopular. Unlike Social Security and other States Departments, the Police are actually achieving one of the intentions of the law by publishing their FOI disclosures online so that everyone can view them, rather than just releasing them to the specific individuals who made the requests (good). It is ironic that many disclosures must have already been made under the new law but we, the public, will remain unable to access most of them (other than Police disclosures, it would seem) unless the person who made the request bothers to let us know what was disclosed. I would argue that this effectively defeats the intention of the law. For example, one of my requests made to Social Security resulted in me being given a copy of a 929-page document. Because of the sheer size of the disclosure file along with a number of other technical problems, I cannot publish it in full here or anywhere else, so the contents of the document remain effectively unavailable to any member of the public except myself.  :(

My above-mentioned request to the Police was to be provided with a list of the names and addresses of all Jersey Vetting Bureau members as at 31st December 2014. You can view my request in PDF format here:

http://www.jersey.police.uk/media/290607/55145-Response.pdf


You can view the response with the individual names and addresses of all Jersey Vetting Bureau members here (again in PDF format):

http://www.jersey.police.uk/media/290604/202-03-55145-Response-Attachment.pdf


If you wish to view all the other FOI disclosures made by the Police, follow the link below:

http://www.jersey.police.uk/accessing-information/freedom-of-information/foi-disclosure-log/


« Last Edit: March 02, 2015, 07:22:58 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2015, 10:03:27 PM »
Advance Plus used the Jersey Vetting Bureau to obtain 72 disclosures of criminal records during 2014

Now the interesting unanswered follow-up question to this is: were as many as 72 Advance Plus course participants employed in trustworthy positions of work during 2014 that are specifically mentioned in the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) (Jersey) Regulations 2002 (link below)?  :-\

http://www.jerseylaw.je/Law/display.aspx?url=lawsinforce%2fconsolidated%2f08%2f08.840.50_RehabiliationofOffenders%28Exceptions%29Regs2002_RevisedEdition_1January2013.htm


FOI Reference No: 202-03-58656

Date of Request: 25 February 2015

Date of Response: 02 March 2015

This is my first follow-up request to the previous States of Jersey Police disclosure that I published on this thread only yesterday. This time I have requested further details about criminal record check disclosures made to Social Security or its affiliated organisations. Jersey Police have already published the answer to this request on it FOI Disclosure Log page. You can view it here in PDF format:

http://www.jersey.police.uk/media/291234/Jersey-Vetting-Bureau-No-of-disclosures-in-2014-March15.pdf


At this point I had better explain that for the past couple of years I have suspected that Social Security's collection, retention and disclosure of data relating to unemployed claimants is unlawful in several respects. I suspect that they have been unlawfully carrying out criminal record checks on unemployed claimants without obtaining their explicit consent. Disclosures of criminal records made through the Jersey Vetting Bureau contain details of spent convictions as well as unspent convictions. By law, criminal record convictions are defined as "sensitive personal data", which means that the explicit consent of the data subject must be obtained. However, historical versions of the Advance Plus application form asked the applicant to disclose "details of any criminal convictions" without differentiating between spent and unspent convictions and the explicit consent of the data subject was not obtained. It is a very similar story with the Jobseeker's Agreement form, which all jobseekers are forced to sign: they are deliberately misled into disclosing all past criminal convictions, whether spent or unspent.

One previous version of the Advance Plus application form contained the following "Confidentiality/Privacy Statement" which the applicant had to sign:
Quote

The information you provide will be processed for Advance Plus Scheme purposes. To ensure confidentiality and privacy, all processing will be carried out under the requirements of the Data Protection (Jersey) Law, 2005. This information may occasionally be disclosed and used outside of the Social Security department, where it is considered to be in the delegate’s or the employer’s best interest to do so. If you do not wish us to disclose information in these circumstances, please advise us in writing.  We may check other information held with the Social Security department.

I certify that the information provided in this application form is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I provide the information knowing that I shall be liable to prosecution if I have stated anything I know to be false.

So the applicant, who was most likely pressured into participating on the scheme under threat of the withdrawal of Income Support benefit, was not informed of the existence of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Jersey) Law 2001 but was nevertheless vaguely threatened with "prosecution" for making false statements (under what provision of what law?). You will notice that the wording of the above statement does not include the explicit consent of the data subject. There is merely a vague reference to the applicant's data occasionally being "disclosed and used outside of the Social Security department, where it is considered to be in the delegate’s or the employer’s best interest to do so."  It is totally unacceptable that sensitive personal data of a medical or criminal nature could have been disclosed to outside organisations or even employers without the applicant even being expressly informed of the names of such organisations. If the Jersey Vetting Bureau supplied details of the applicant's criminal convictions based on the above-worded Statement alone then I would argue that this was unlawful, although the victims of this unlawful activity will be blissfully unaware of it... unless they happen to read this post!

If any readers have experience of either the Advance Plus or Advance To Work schemes and can recall what forms they signed and whether they knew about a criminal record check being conducted on them, please share your information on this thread to help me uncover the truth.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 10:05:11 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2015, 06:35:31 PM »
It is also interesting to note from the Police's last response that until October 2014, Advance to Work "came under Education Sport & culture" for the purposes of criminal record checks.

Yet on page 45 of the States of Jersey Annex to Financial Report and Accounts 2012, it says that "The Advance to Work and Advance Plus schemes transferred to Social Security in September 2012."

I also note with disappointment on the Police's FOI Disclosure Log page the appearance of the first vexatious request - a long and totally pointless set of virtually unanswerable questions about damage to flags, which you can read here if you're that bored:

http://www.jersey.police.uk/media/291231/Damage-to-flags-since-2000-Feb15.pdf

This request must have wasted a fair bit of taxpayers' money. It is hard to understand the motives of the individual behind it but my personal belief is that people who misuse the FOI law in this way do not actually support the concept of freedom of information legislation. They may be deliberately trying to damage the reputation of FOI requests in the hope that States Members who never wanted this law introduced in the first place will point to examples like this as a means of tightening future expenditure on FOI, to the ultimate detriment of all genuine FOI supporters who want to hold their government to account.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2015, 06:37:53 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2015, 08:53:54 AM »
Only half of the 107 claims closed by the issue of a Breach 3 received actual notification by letter of the closure of the claim together with the name of the officer who closed it and 21 days in which to request a reconsideration

Link to this disclosure as published on the States of Jersey website (added by me on 19th March 2015):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1192

FOI Reference No: 202-03-52924

Date of Request: 19 January 2015

Date of Response: 16 February 2015

Request:

“Breach 3” notices issued to jobseekers between 15 October 2013 and 31 December 2014:

1. Out of the total number of Breach 3 notices issued to jobseekers between 15th October 2013 and the 31st December 2014 under Regulation 5B (4) of the Income Support (Jersey) Regulations 2007 (requested in F.O.I. ref: 2020350084), how many such notices resulted in the consequent closure of a claimant’s Income Support Claim?

2. Out of the total number of income support claims closed after the issue of a Breach 3 notice (asked for in (1) above), how many such claim closure decisions were officially notified to the claimant by means of a written decision sent by letter post to the claimant’s home address, informing the claimant of the decision to close their income support claim, the name of the officer who took that decision, and also of their right to request a reconsideration of the decision to close their income support claim within 21 days of receipt of the letter?

For clarification, what I am asking for in (2) above is confirmation of how many claimants whose income support claims were closed after the issue of a Breach 3 notice were then additionally notified in writing of that closure decision, the officer who took the closure decision, and their right to request a reconsideration within 21 days of the decision TO CLOSE THEIR CLAIM, separate to a reconsideration within 7 days of the decision to issue a Breach 3 notice. However, I am not currently aware of how many of these claimants have been separately notified of their additional right to request a reconsideration within any additional right to request a reconsideration within 7 days of the decision to actually issue the Breach 3 notice itself. I am already aware that such claimants are being notified of their right to request.

States of Jersey Response:

We have now finished searching for the information you requested.

A copy of the information which can be disclosed is below:

1. There were 122 Breach 3 notices issued between 15/10/13 and 31/12/2014. 107 resulted in the closure of the Income Support claim.

2. All 107 claims that closed as a direct result of the Breach 3 in the period 15/10/13 and 31/12/14 received letters from the Department. In addition to the Back to Work letters sent, 54 claims received an additional letter from Income Support stating that they had 21 days redetermination period.

To improve our customer service the Department have reviewed this process and going forward only 1 letter will be sent. The letters will come from Back to Work as the decision makers of the Breach process.

My comments on the above:


Admittedly both the question and the answer may not be that easy to understand but I'll try to explain the significance of it as best as I can.

In essence, the Regulations adopted by the States on 8th October 2013 introduced the third breach of a warning (AKA the 'Breach 3') with the resulting closure of the income support claim for the whole household, including the stopping of payments to any spouse and children. Regulation 5E (3) states: "Any claim for income support by the original household of the person in breach shall be taken to be withdrawn upon the commencement of the breach period."

http://www.jerseylaw.je/Law/display.aspx?url=lawsinforce%2fconsolidated%2f26%2f26.550.30_IncomeSupportRegulations2007_RevisedEdition_1January2014.htm#ID432


Immediately after the States debate and without having mentioned what he intended to do, Senator Francis Le Gresley used ministerial powers to lower the time limit in which a jobseeker can request a reconsideration of a sanction decision from 21 days to 7 days. However, for all other income support decisions, the time limit remained at 21 days. Strictly speaking, the administration of income support claims and the administration of actively seeking work through the Work Zone and Back to Work are meant to be separate, so a Job Coach/Mentor should not have the power to individually take a decision that closes the claim of a household, which might consist of several adults and children, possibly resulting in the eviction and homelessness of everyone in that household.

However, what has been happening is that the Job Coach/Mentor issues the Breach 3 and sends the notice by post to the sanctioned individual. The notice informs the recipient that "The entire Income Support claim which you are part of will close and NO benefit will be paid. For the avoidance of doubt, this will result in all components of your claim being stopped in respect of every member of your household." The recipient is then informed that he/she has just 7 days to request a reconsideration of the decision, otherwise all rights to an 'independent' Tribunal appeal are lost. For half of recipients of the Breach 3, that is the only letter they receive to inform them that their claim has been closed, with only 7 days to try to challenge it. Effectively, the closure of the claim is happening as an automatic consequence of the issue of the Breach 3, with no questions asked by the Income Support section.

However, it is presumed that each time a Breach 3 is issued, Back to Work must have notified the separate Income Support section, the latter who would logically be responsible for actually closing the claim, in the same way that they are responsible for opening all new claims. I would argue that a decision by Income Support to close a claim is a 'determination' which must be notified in writing to every adult member of the affected household and it must inform them that they have 21 days in which to request a reconsideration, because this determination is to close the claim - not to issue a jobseeker sanction. However, in half of all cases where a Breach 3 was issued, this FOI response reveals that no such separate letter was sent by Income Support and consequently the household only had the right to appeal within 7 days the decision by Back to Work to issue the sanction - not the right to appeal within 21 days the apparently separate decision by Income Support to close the claim. In addition, the response reveals that Social Security now regard Back to Work as the "decision makers of the Breach process" and henceforth, only one letter will be sent, presumably meaning the sanction notice and presumably only carrying a 7-day right of appeal.

It is not clear if Social Security have been separately notifying each adult member of the household of the closure of the claim as they are legally supposed to do and it is not clear if this will be happening now that Back to Work will solely send out the letters.

Is this legal? Obviously the advice they are presumably receiving from the Law Officers must be telling them it is, but in my opinion, this advice is bent anyway and won't hold up to serious judicial scrutiny. More questions need to be asked urgently in the States Assembly about the arbitrary manner in which Social Security are closing these household claims.


 
« Last Edit: March 19, 2015, 08:09:29 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2015, 05:22:52 PM »
Only a quarter of the 107 income support claims that were closed after the issue of a Breach 3 were reopened within 8 weeks of the closure - a further half of these claims have not been reopened at all

Link to this disclosure as published on the States of Jersey FOI Disclosure Log web page (added by me on 20th May 2015):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1356


FOI Reference No: 202-03-56393

Date of Request: 02 February 2015

Date of Response: 02 March 2015

Request:

1) Out of the total number of income support claims closed after the issue of a Breach 3 notice between 15th October 2013 and 31st December 2014 (asked for in (1) of FOI Request Ref: 202-03-52924 dated 19 January 2015), how many claimants to whom a Breach 3 notice was directly issued resulting in their claim being closed had not yet recommenced receiving income support payments from the Department:

a. 8 weeks after the applied breach date?

b. 16 weeks after the applied breach date?

c. 20 weeks or longer after the applied breach date?

To be clear, I am NOT asking for the period between the applied breach date and the date when the claimant’s new claim was first opened on the system to enable the income support reapplication process to begin, nor to the date when the Department agreed to back pay the claimant – I am instead asking for the actual length of time that each Breach 3 recipient had to wait between the last payment received before the breach was applied and the next date when payments eventually recommenced. If the Department already records such data but in slightly different time periods to the ones I have requested, then the Department’s alternative time periods may be acceptable provided they do not differ substantially from the ones requested.

2) Please also clarify whether or not the statistics supplied in response to (1) above – the 8 week period – include or exclude the 16 known occasions where the Department reversed its decision to issue a Breach 3 notice at or before the reconsideration stage (figures previously supplied by the Department in response to FOI request ref:2020350084)

States of Jersey Response:


1) The timescales between a claim being closed and a new claim being re-opened are detailed below:

Duration: 0 – 8 weeks = 24 claims; Clarification on scenario: Timescale in which a new claim was opened

Duration: 9 – 16 weeks = 11 claims; Clarification on scenario: Timescale in which a new claim was opened

Duration: 17 weeks or over = 10 claims; Clarification on scenario: Timescale in which a new claim was opened

Duration: No claim currently requested = 56 claims; Clarification on scenario: After initial claim closed no claim has currently been opened

Duration: Pending Claims = 6 claims; Clarification on scenario: The current amount of claims going through the application process

Total claimants = 107

2) Yes, the details above includes any claim closed but reopened due to new information received or redetermination.

My comments on the above:

These statistics are extremely important, not least because they confirm for the very first time that the 6-week stoppage of all income support benefit payments, as adopted by States Members and as stated in the Regulations, not only has the ability to continue operating indefinitely beyond that statutory 6-week period, but in fact does continue to operate well beyond that statutory 6-week period for about three quarters of affected claimant households, half of whom have failed to get their claims reopened at all.

In effect, the States introduced an indefinite financial penalty when they approved Le Gresley's proposition, even though there was absolutely nothing mentioned in his report or uttered during the debate that suggested the disallowance period could continue to operate beyond that initial 6 week period. Another way of describing it would be an indeterminate sentence with the affected household members not having any guarantee of how long the maximum length of the sentence will be when it is imposed. Did States Members fully understand what they were approving and the potential legal ramifications for the island if and when a human rights challenge is raised by a Breach 3 recipient?

Moreover, the continuation of this indefinite financial penalty cannot be challenged by the affected claimant household by means of an appeal to the 'independent' Social Security Tribunal under the Income Support legislation. This is because the Department, whilst refusing to allow the claimant to re-apply for income support, doesn't actually make any official 'determination' as such, so no letter is sent to the claimant informing them of the decision, along with their statutory right to appeal it. Only one appeal on grounds of good cause (typically stating reasons for missing an interview) can be made against the issue of the Breach 3 itself, but even that takes at least 6 months to reach the level of a Tribunal hearing, by which time the household would most likely have been evicted unless alternative means of income could be found to replace the lost benefit. However, the disallowance also affects payment of the housing subsidy for tenants, so even if the sanctioned jobseeker quickly gained paid employment after the start of the disallowance but that employment was less than 35 hours a week, he/she would still be required to continue 'actively seeking work' nonetheless. If the jobseeker could not satisfy the ASW requirements as well as holding down a job, then income support (including the housing subsidy if applicable) would continue to be witheld indefinitely and the jobseeker might still face eviction despite having long since returned to paid employment. It's an absolutely insane system, the product of a diseased mind in my opinion.

It would appear that an individual Job Coach/Mentor not only has the power to stop all the household's income support payments for a period of 6 weeks by issuing a Breach 3 in a procedurally unfair way, but that the same Job Coach/Mentor can then continue to keep that household from making a re-application after that 6 weeks has expired simply by refusing to accept that the sanctioned jobseeker has successfully completed 6 consecutive weeks of actively seeking work - and the jobseeker cannot challenge this. It appears that the Job Coach/Mentor has been given absolute discretion not only to decide how long the jobseeker has to continue actively seeking work before benefits can resume, but also to dictate how many particular activities in any given week the jobseeker must undertake. There are no known guidelines and nothing in the law that limits the number of activities that a jobseeker can be asked to undertake in a given week. It therefore seems likely that jobseekers under a Breach 3 penalty are being required to undertake a much higher level of actively seeking work activities than other non-sanctioned jobseekers, regardless of the consequences if the jobseeker can't satisfy that high level of activities, maybe because they are having to spend time selling their personal household items or fight eviction proceedings.   

« Last Edit: May 20, 2015, 04:12:17 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Online Fritz

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2015, 01:20:51 AM »
It seems to me that all these new sanctions being brought in are simply to keep the,"Back to work","Advance to work","Look as if we are helping you to find work", teams in employment.

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2015, 06:59:17 PM »
True.

The States has finally created a Freedom of Information disclosure log page (separate from the Police disclosure log page that I've already referred to):

http://www.gov.je/Government/FreedomOfInformation/Pages/FOIDisclosureLog.aspx


Three requests of mine have so far been published, but you can't actually view the request I made for the Income Support Determining Officer's Guidelines, which kind of defeats the purpose of it all. Check for yourself here:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1160


This is the request which they supplied to me on a CD and ran to more than 900 pages, hence I can't publish it on here. Surely they should find a way of publishing it on the States website at the link above? As it stands, it is a disclosure that only one member of the public can actually read - me.

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2015, 06:42:58 PM »
The number of applications being made for income support ministerial discretion payments in exceptional circumstances during 2014 has quadrupled compared to the first year of the income support scheme (2008/09) and the proportion of such applications being rejected by the Minister in 2014 was almost double that of 2008/09.

Link to this disclosure as published on the States of Jersey website (added by me on 19th March 2015):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1227


FOI Reference No: 202-03-58021

Date of Request: 16 February 2015 (this information corrected by me on 17th March)

Date of Response: 05 March 2015

Request:

1. The total number of applications made during the calendar year 2014 for Ministerial discretion payments in exceptional circumstances under article 8(2) and (3) of the Income Support (Jersey) Law 2007.

2. Out of the total number of applications made for Ministerial discretion payments during the calendar year 2014, as requested above in (1), how many of these applications resulted in an exceptional payment being made and for what type of exceptional circumstances were the payments made in each individual case?

3. Out of the total number of applications made for Ministerial discretion payments during the calendar year 2014, as requested above in (1), how many of these applications resulted in no payment being made and for what type of exceptional circumstances were these applications rejected in each individual case?

States of Jersey Response:


Applications made for exceptional circumstances by their very nature often include specific details that may allow individuals to be identified or identity assumed. Therefore to protect applicants’ privacy this personal data is exempt under Article 25 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011, detailed below. The information is provided below under category type.

Unique circumstances may include specific family situation or medical grounds.

1. 42 applications for a Ministerial Discretional Payment were made in 2014.

2. 34 out of the 42 applications made for a Ministerial Discretional Payment resulted in an exceptional payment being made in 2014. The different types are categorized below:

a. Personal Care 10

b. Failed Jobseeker 8

c. Unique Circumstances 8

d. Hospitalisation 6

e. Residency Status 2

3. 8 out of the 42 applications made for a Ministerial Discretional Payment did not result in any exceptional payment being made in 2014. The different types are categorized below:

a. Residency Status 3

b. Failed Jobseeker 3

c. Unique Circumstances 2

Exemption: Article 25 Personal Information

(1) Information is absolutely exempt information if it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005.

(2) Information is absolutely exempt information if –

(a) it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is not the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005; and

(b) its supply to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles, as defined in that Law.

My comments on the above:


Ministerial discretion payments should not be confused with general special payments. The former are payments made in exceptional circumstances which cannot be made by means of a general special payment. Ministerial discretion payments can be made to people even if they are not ordinarily resident in Jersey and not part of an eligible income support household. My reference in the main headline to such applications having quadrupled since the first year of the income support scheme has been made by comparing the number of applications made in 2014, revealed by this FOI disclosure, with the answer to a question asked of the Social Security Minister by Deputy Geoff Southern in the States Assembly on 24th March 2009 (link below):

http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyQuestions/2009/Deputy%20Southern%20to%20SS%20re%20Ministerial%20discretions%20over%20IS%20determinations%20and%20decisions.pdf
 

The income support scheme came into force on 28th January 2008 and the answer to Southern's question of 24th March 2009 reveals that 10 applications had been made up to that date, of which 9 had been approved and 1 rejected. Therefore 10% of applications were rejected by the Minister.

By comparison, the response to my FOI request above reveals that 42 applications were made during 2014, of which 34 resulted in a payment being made. Therefore 19% of such applications were rejected in 2014 - almost double that of 2008/09. The majority of these decisions in 2014 would probably have been made by former Senator Francis Le Gresley before he left office.

For the first time, we can see how the devastating effects of Le Gresley's jobseeker sanctions regime, introduced in October 2013, are forcing some jobseekers (or other members of their household) to apply directly to the Minister. 11 such applications were made in 2014, of which 8 resulted in a payment being made.

During the States debate on jobseeker sanctions in October 2013, Le Gresley said:
Quote

In these situations
[where there has been a complete withdrawal of benefit] the Minister, that is myself at the present time, has the ability to create an exceptional payment to support only the other members of the household.  This support would be dependent on all of the circumstances of the household at that time.
 

The reference by Le Gresley to "only the other members of the household" implies that applications made by sole person households who have had all benefits withdrawn after the issue of a Breach 3 notice are being rejected for exceptional circumstance payments by the Minister. However, because the Department has cited article 25 of the FOI as a reason for not providing the exact circumstances which led to each of these payments being made in 2014, it is not known if this is actually happening in practice. If it is the case, it means that sole person households whose income support claims have been closed cannot receive hardship payments, no matter how exceptional the circumstances are. This would surely increase the likelihood that such a regime would be found to be in violation of human rights law.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2015, 08:06:07 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2015, 07:24:27 PM »
Confirmation that Back to Work is using public funds to run "assessment centres" at local hotels free of charge on behalf of individual businesses looking to fill vacancies

FOI Reference No: 202-03-57637

Date of Request: 11 February 2015

Date of Response: 05 March 2015

Request:

The total costs of running four Back to Work “Assessment Centres” for jobseekers at the Best Western Royal Hotel, David Place, St Helier on various dates during the first week of August 2014 in order to help Tesco by Alliance recruit general assistants and supervisors for its new retail store in Charing Cross.

Identify which costs, if any, were incurred by Back to Work and which costs, if any, were paid by Tesco by Alliance.

Confirm whether these costs include any estimate of the time spent by Social Security Department staff in arranging for jobseekers to attend the centres and in staff attending the centres themselves, or any other staff costs that may have been incurred.

Confirm who paid for the hire of the facilities at the Best Western Royal Hotel, David Place, St Helier.

States of Jersey Response:

Answers provided in order requested:

Q1 There were 5 Assessment Centres run over the 2 days. 04/08: 1.30 – 3.00pm; 3.30 – 5.00pm

05/08: 9.30 – 11.00am; 11.30 – 1.00pm; 1.30 -- 3.00pm

We negotiated a total discounted rate of £320 for all 5 events. This was for room hire.

Q2 The total costs were paid by Back to Work. There were no costs paid by Tesco by Alliance

Q3 These costs do not include an estimate of staff time. No additional staff costs were incurred other than normal salary.

Q4 Back to Work paid for the hire of the facilities

My comments on the above:

The answer to this request won't come as a major surprise, but it confirms what most of us have long suspected: that the taxpayer is picking up 100% of the bill when Back to Work organises specific recruitment events on behalf of local employers.

We are all aware of major recruitment events such as Jobsfest because the Establishment media heavily promotes them on behalf of Back to Work without asking any difficult questions (the latest of these free publicity puffs, about a 'Job Match' event held on behalf of the hospitality sector, was broadcast on ITV News Channel TV on Monday evening, 16th March - reporter: 'Senator' Leah Ferguson):

http://www.itv.com/news/channel/update/2015-03-16/jobseekers-being-matched-with-jersey-hospitality-businesses/


However, there are also many other smaller events that take place throughout the year, usually located in conference rooms in the Best Western Royal Hotel, David Place. These smaller events are different because they are run on behalf of just one individual employer at a time rather than many different employers competing equally for the attention of jobseekers. Consequently, that particular employer gets a clear advantage over its commercial competitors because Back to Work staff select jobseekers who supposedly have suitable skills or experience matching the employer's requirements and force them to attend. The employer not only gets exclusive face-to-face access to these jobseekers for several hours, but can rely on their full participation and concentration because Back to Work staff are conveniently positioned on each communal table in order to 'police' the jobseekers and ensure that any acts of non-cooperation, disinterest or dissent are spotted, reported and sometimes punished by sanctions.

The jobseekers who are selected by Back to Work staff have no free choice as to whether or not to attend - they will be sanctioned if they fail to provide 'good cause' for non-attendance and as my previous FOI requests have already begun to reveal, those who fail to provide an excuse for non-attendance at or before the event starts have virtually no chance of getting a sanction overturned later on appeal, no matter how convincing their excuse is. Persons who are issued with a Breach 3 sanction for non-attendance at these events could well end up homeless as a consequence, regardless of whether or not they ever make it as far as an 'independent' Social Security Tribunal hearing, which they have absolutely no chance of winning anyway.

The atmosphere during these events is very false with an underlying sinister element. The jobseekers are pretending that they're really pleased and privileged to have been selected to attend the event and those amongst them who really don't give a flying f*ck for this employer or its employment practices are desperately trying to conceal such dissident thoughts from their Job Coaches. Meanwhile, the employer's fresh-faced representatives, usually females from the Human Resources Department, try to create a jokey, relaxed ambience. These events are very often thinly-veiled attempts by the employer to promote itself and its commercial products in a positive light. Typically, the jobseekers will be forced to listen to a boring speech, usually conducted with the aid of Powerpoint. As is standard practice, a cheap hotel pen and notepad is supplied to every participant, with the compulsory jug of mineral water at the centre of each table (is this sounding all too familiar?). Then after the speech, everyone participates in pointless 'team-building' exercises in groups, with Job Coaches closely monitoring what is being said at each table. Very often these team-building exercises have little or no relevance to the type of duties that would be performed in the jobs on offer, so nothing of great importance is actually learned.

With respect to my specific request concerning the event held on behalf of Alliance supermarket last August, we have learned that the declared cost of room hire was £320 and that "There were no costs paid by Tesco by Alliance". The actual declared cost of hiring the room is of little relevance in itself. What we really learn from this response is that similar events taking place under the auspices of Back to Work must also be charged completely to the taxpayer, with the employer contributing nothing at all. No wonder then that the total cost of providing employment services topped £8 million in 2013 and is believed to have risen again substantially during 2014.

However, this response makes it clear that the £320 declared costs "do not include an estimate of staff time". This is a major omission as the staff costs of organising and attending each event might well exceed the £320 cost of the room hire. If Back to Work stopped organising all these events, many hundreds of hours of staff time would be saved each year and the resources could either be re-allocated where they are more urgently needed (such as on the front desk at Income Support in La Motte Street), or it would be possible to cut the States wage bill by laying off some of the Job Coaches (perish the mere thought!). Anyone who has to regularly endure waits of more than half an hour to get to speak to one of only 2-3 staff on the Income Support desk will understand how desperately that re-allocation of resources is needed.

In the near future, I hope to reveal exactly what the staff costs of Back to Work amount to as a proportion of total Back to Work costs- I am currently awaiting a FOI response on that subject...   
 
« Last Edit: March 19, 2015, 07:37:19 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline boatyboy

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2015, 09:49:52 PM »

Looks like Jobs for the boys and girls from social security. Interesting that the employer pays not a penny, surely Tesco is capable of interviewing candidates without help from Government, a super job promotion organised by several private companies is cool. One private company holding one event run and funded by social security is well past the  acceptable line of Government involvement.

The Bailiff really does have a terrific sense of humour when he talks about the  " Jersey Way " being maligned. Clearly those in the driving seat at states departments are more than happy to overstretch their remit, and grow their departments known as  empire building.

 " The Jersey Way " is alive and well, costing the taxpayer dearly.

bb

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2015, 12:30:11 AM »
Maybe it could be argued that Alliance was not based in the island at that time and therefore a recruitment event held in a Jersey hotel was the best way to find employees in this particular example. Unfortunately, that argument kind of evaporates in the added knowledge that Back to Work has organised similar events at the same venue for other employers who definitely are based in Jersey. For example, there was a similar event held for Specsavers last year and this company has had more than one established trading outlet in the island for years.

I noticed today that the States website has published another of my requests before I even had time to mention it here! So if you want to check it out, here's the link:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1234

Here's another published FOI response (link below) which has nothing at all to do with me but I thought I'd just point it out because it concerns the installation of those glaring new street lights, which I briefly mentioned off-topic last year:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1231

Since I mentioned this last year, I have had the damn things installed right outside my own residence. I have to admit that my greatest fear - that they would vastly increase the amount of light pollution entering my property after dark - doesn't seem to have materialised. This seems to be because the design of the new lamps concentrates most of the light directly downwards and much less light, if any, escapes sideways or upwards, as happened with the old design. Consequently, I found that my residence was actually darker at night than before, even though the street lamp is located directly bordering the property, just a few metres away.

There might possibly be advantages to this from a light pollution/astronomy perspective, presuming that these lamps can actually be proven to achieve that. Nevertheless I am still concerned about possible side effects that may only become known over a longer period of time. For example, could this type of lighting have any detrimental effect on wildlife/birdlife that happens to be present in hedgerows located directly beneath the intense beam, just bordering the public pavement? Has any research been conducted about the possible effects on wildlife? Whilst it may be darker if you are located a small distance away from the beam, it must surely be brighter if you happen to be positioned directly beneath it.

Could these more intense street lamps possibly inhibit birds and other wildlife from breeding or disrupt their behaviour patterns in some other ways? I have no proof to call on and maybe they have no detrimental effect at all but I think it's worth asking the question nonetheless...
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 12:35:39 AM by Jerry Gosselin »

Online Fritz

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #29 on: March 20, 2015, 02:11:40 AM »
The ,Back to ,Advance to, Hop Skip and Jump to Work,(Whatever they want to call it), is simply a window dressing exercise to show how hard SS are working to encourage folk into non-existent jobs.
Most of the folk running these schemes would be unemployed themselves if it weren,t for the high level of unemployment in Jersey.
The sad thing is that the SS OFFICERS have the power to cut the benefits of genuine job-seekers,(Often highly qualified), if they do not attend organised events.

I, personally, know a construction design professional who was threatened with sanctions if he didn,t apply for a job driving a fish delivery van.
His reason, that I totally agree with, was that he could have applied for the job but once the potential employer saw his CV, they would immediately realise that he wouldn,t be staying long, and the position should be offered to someone more suitably qualified.
BTW supervisor response: "But you do qualify for the vacancy, You,ve got a full driving license".   This is the level of management that, "Back to.....whatever", entrusts tax-payers money with to organise events and courses. I met a 62 year old ex-scaffolder today who had been ordered to attend a 2hr course on Microsoft word. He doesn,t even have a computer!!!!
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 02:33:53 AM by Fritz »