Monday 15 November 2010

Another punishment?

As if cuts to IB, ESA and DLA weren't weren't enough, Mr Duncan-Smith is at it again. He plans to introduce an initiative called 'slivers of time', an ultra flexible way of working, aimed at disabled people and lone parents.

From the Guardian:
Slivers of time, a social enterprise founded by the former BBC producer Wingham Rowan, is designed to tap into the pool of people who cannot work the usual hours expected even of the average part-time employee. It is aimed at parents with young children, disabled people who may not be available for work for most of the week, people who care for a dependent adult or the long-term unemployed who want to ease slowly back into work.
Its proponents claim the reform would mean that a disabled or lone parent would be able to book a few hours of work a week on their terms.

Sounds good right? I mean, I'm sure that I would be capable of doing a few hours each week - so where's the problem?

The problem is that I don't know which hours I would be able to work. The hours would still have to be arranged - say, 2 hours on a Monday, 2 hours on a Wednesday. But what if I'm just not feeling up to it when those days arrive? Would I be able to change those hours? How am I supposed to know when to change them to? Would the employer let me do this all the time? I can't see any employer putting up with that. They need to know they have enough staff and when those staff are working, employing someone who won't know if they'll be able to work or not isn't likely to be high on their list.

Unless an employer is happy for their worker to turn up as and when they are able, I can't see how this will work at all.

And I know that many disabled people will worry that if they don't comply they will be sanctioned. After all, the ConDems seem determined to push people into work whether it is right for them or not, whether they have tried or not, so will we be punished if we can't do this?

And as for people who care for a dependent, are they supposed to know when said adult will be well enough to not need them for a few hours? Or perhaps the Government is expecting them to book a carer for a few set hours so they can work? This would seem a little, no, a lot, ridiculous.

Funnily enough none of these points have been addressed. I wonder if Ms Miller will question them on our behalf. Time will tell. But I'm not holding my breath

Cross posted here



  1. Yes, dont think any employer would take anyone on like this. Disability and illness can worsen with the stress of even trying to work out when you may be ok or not. Things can change in moments, one minute coping, the next your not. Id have to lie down on arrival, supposing I could even access my place of work. Id have to have a carer help me get there and when I was there Id need asstistance! Its totally a crazy idea.

  2. Well, points to them for finally figuring out that some of us can only manage a few hours at a time, but I'd have the same problem as you re: advance scheduling.

    I work freelance, almost entirely from home, and on the rare occasions that I need to book myself to meet someone at a specific place and time (I try to avoid those as much as possible), I'm terrified before and during about having an attack and either having to tough it out (while doing a less competent job because I'm distracted), or having to explain/excuse myself - and my condition is NOT one that I want to have to explain to a professional contact who I will most likely never have met before. Which in turn has an impact on my perceived reliability, future work, etc...

    Honestly, if they'd just expand the Permitted Work scheme, which I'm on but which apparently no politician is aware of and which is poorly publicized to the extent that I found out about it by sheer chance, it would solve a lot of the problems being cited re: disabled people 'trapped on benefits'...

  3. I can't see it working either! I am recovering from a stroke and would love to work part-time to start with. At the moment, however, I never know when I'm going to have a "good day". I can't see an employer accepting that I will come in as and when I can!

  4. I remember looking at the Slivers of Time website some time back and actually thought it was a brilliant idea, precisely because it said it wasn't just a matter of booking in ahead of time but you could go on and say, I'm able to work for two hours this afternoon, is there anything available? I'm not clear from that article whether the idea as it has been taken on has retained that flexibility, though. I can't really imagine it working with Tesco.

    The bigger problem I see is that even if it did have that flexibility in theory, I'm sure it wouldn't in practice because of the obsession with pressure and conditionality. I mean, they're already talking about in-work conditionality for people working part-time to get them to increase their hours! I can well see that even if it was set up so that someone initially could just work the odd hour here and there as they were able they would soon find themselves pressurised to up their hours and to make them regular. I've also been suspicious since it was announced of how well the earnings disregard will work in practice, as from tales of how the DWP tends to treat people who try to work I fear that what will actually happen is that almost no-one will get that high disabled person's disregard as as soon as they're doing a bit of work they will be hauled in and found not disabled. Which, if they're single and childless, will apparently mean instead getting no disregard at all! (I still can't believe that. Single, childless people seem to be pretty much regarded as non-human in the benefits system, even more than most.)

    The frustrating thing is that IDS more than any politician I can remember has actually grasped that the problem is the huge gulf between working enough to support yourself and not working at all and how difficult it is to bridge that and impossible to exist in the middle. And so he comes up with a system that makes a stab at dealing with that - and yet what it needs more than anything for people to be willing to step out into it is trust that the support is indeed there to make it work for them, and that they can step back onto the stable edge if things get too dangerous. And instead all we're hearing is yet again the threats and conditions and pressure about how we have to do what our masters tell us or nasty things will happen. I cannot trust a Government that does not trust me, that even when it pays lip service to knowing I want to work and do what I can for myself just doesn't believe deep down that I would be in this position if I did.

  5. Another concern with concepts like this is that they actually perpetuate inequality in the employment of disabled people. Is a system like this really going to offer opportunities for career progression equivalent to those offered by full time working together with equivalent salaries, or is it going to be minimum wage piecework?

    I'm fully capable of working in a very specialised field of engineering, I just can't do it in a predictable enough way to satisfy an employer who wants every employee to be a faceless cog in the machine who can be treated identically to any other -- no matter what the Equalities Act may say about the need to make reasonable adjustments on an individual basis.

    I saw what happened to the careers of engineers who came back part-time after maternity leave, glass-ceiling doesn't begin to cover it. Put that together with my experience and that of other disabled employess and you realise that schemes like 'slivers of time' aren't a way of enhancing job opportunities for disabled people and others who can't work full time, but a tacit acknowledgement that the job market is massively disablist/focussed on those who can work a 40 hour week, and that the government has no intention of changing that.

  6. Ugh. you know what? It's 4pm exactly now. I cannot honestly predict what state I'll be in at 5pm. I could be vomiting, asleep, having explosive diarrhoea, having to overload on fluids because my shunt has overdrained and I have a crippling low-pressure headache etc. etc.

    Find me an employer that can let me work at a minute's notice, then ten minutes later let me leave because I feel ill again, and I'll gladly work. I want to work, it breaks my heart daily that I'm confined to one room. I should be out there, contrary to govt. and Daily Mail beliefs I'm not some barely literate school drop-out, avoiding work because I'm too thick or idle to get along in the world, I've got a BSc and a MSc. I've also got work experience, I'm intelligent, motivated, and enthusiastic - but I'm severely neurologically disabled. I'm in debt still for my degrees, the first was started in 1996, the second in 2003 during a period of respite (following surgery). I then worked for my local NHS until I became ill again. I'm not a scrounger, I'm not work avoidant or scared of the workplace.

    I've worked in retail, research, in contact centres, healthcare etc. and am committed to working in the public sector - but I just can't do that right now. I'm too ill. My brain doesn't work properly, even sitting up for longer than half an hour can affect me for days.

    I cry daily, I scream at the love of my life when she (quite rightly) vents about her awful job, because I'd be grateful to have that opportunity. I didn't want to be some idiot politician being paid to spout nonsense, and to fiddle my expenses, I wanted to work in the criminal justice system or in mental health, I wanted to *help* people. It's what I'm trained and educated to do. I did not induce brain damage, I did not deliberately make my body malfunction.

    I want to work. My future scares me. I don't want to be wasted here for the rest of my life.

    Help me IDS, don't label me as a scrounger, or as lazy scum.

  7. I too thought the ideas seemed good because IDS does seem to have taken on board the need for flexible working hours and the fact that people should be paid for any hours they do, not just 16 hours plus eg I think I could manage a few hours a week on a good week, and for me it works if I say agree to Wed afternoon, say. If I'm not well on my afternoon, then I phone in sick as I would in any job. That's what I've done in voluntary work and because I have time to recover and the stress is less, it works. But like Anonymous said above, why not extend the Permitted Work scheme? It's already in place therefore admin costs would be miniimal but Anonymous is right, politicians have ignored anything I've written to them on this matter.
    I agree with the comments about conditionality. Why should we be subject to those rules if we are working? The drive will still be there to get people working more so they don't have to support them.
    But don't forget, if you are disabled you are allowed by law to limit your hours (it is part of the reasonable adjustments part of The Equality Act) so maybe if they try bullying you into more hours you could challenge them - uh-oh - but they're scrapping legal aid ...

  8. Like Anon 15th Nov 14:33, I work from home as a self-employed person. I can go from "reasonably well" to "not well at all and looking like I need medical attention" in about a minute, and I never know when it will happen - although it's a fair bet it'll happen once or twice a day.

    My situation is: if a client says to me "can you have this 6 hours of work completed by the end of the week?" then the answer is yes, I can confidently predict that I will have at least 6 functional hours - probably much more than that - over the next few days. I get the work done on time, on budget, and to a high standard.

    But if they want 30 minutes of work completed in the next hour... I may or may not be able to do that. This means I have to turn the work down - because if I said I could do it and then broke that promise, I'd be in all sorts of trouble.

    I think Slivers of Time may work incredibly well for many people, and that's good, but that the govt will do their normal thing of expecting one size to fit everyone. It's like a wheelchair is very useful to people with no legs, not so good for those with sensory impairment.

  9. "and yet what it needs more than anything for people to be willing to step out into it is trust that the support is indeed there to make it work for them, and that they can step back onto the stable edge if things get too dangerous"

    Exactly. The idea that disabled people are supported is something of a myth these days. They are threatened and browbeaten and if they are lucky they are given their pennies grudgingly and only have to deal with the bigotry and hatred in everyday life.

  10. Like some others I thought this idea had some merit - for some of us. It COULD make work more accessible for some if it was enacted in a thoughtful way (and there's no evidence so far that the Condems can be thoughtful about anything).

    My condition fluctuates but I can be reasonably reliable when I'm in a good phase. If and it's a big if, there was a local employer willing to offer work in two hour slots, which didn't require physical exertion or intense mental concentration, and which I could get to within a short journey or do from home, I could probably do two of these most weeks.

    I would very much LIKE to do this. I would love to have work which used my skills, and yes I do still have some I think, and which I felt was meaningful, as well as earning me a bit of extra money. As long as that money wasn't immediately clawed out of my benefit, or worse, as long as I didn't lose my benefit when I was too unwell some weeks to do my few hours.

    However, from looking at the Slivers of Time website it looks as if the scheme is, unsurprisingly, aimed to benefit employers not disabled workers. It would be good if it could do both though....

  11. My concern would be that the DWP would then home in on people working these 'slivers of time' when medical assessments are due. I can hear it now: "well, you were fit enough to do a few hours' work the other day, so you're obviously not going on ESA, we're going to make you claim JSA instead".

    Or maybe I'm just being cynical.

  12. Slivers of time? Slivers of IDS' brain more like. Nonsensical idea - he needs to live in the real world.

    Even Government departments bully their disabled employees....