Thursday, March 31, 2011

Radical New 'Welfare-To-Work' Scheme

People often knock the travelling community. I've done it myself. But I've never said they were stupid people.

If the allegations in this report are correct, the Government need to consider whether handing out welfare-to-work contracts to Serco or Vertex really provides bang for the taxpayer buck, compared with the innovative strategies allegedly pioneered at Beggars Roost Caravan site by the Connors family.

"'The allegation is that the defendants offered accommodation and work to vulnerable homeless individuals then moved them into virtually uninhabitable caravans. They then required them to do manual work for excessive hours for payments of no more than £20 a day and in some cases no payment at all.They were given minimal amounts of food. Movements are restricted, mobile phones are not allowed and victims are kept in fear of reprisals if they attempt to leave. Identity and benefit documents are removed from them for so called safe keeping. We say they were retained by Breda Connors in particular.'

Men would be forced to work for up to 14 hours a day and moved from location to location around the country, he said. 'Many of the victims are homeless alcoholics, the most vulnerable persons in society.'

Mr Dono said police observed 22 alleged slaves living at Beggar's Roost caravan site. They were sent to work in Worcestershire and the West Midlands tarmacking and block paving driveways.

'It is clear from police videos that the slaves have minimal clothing, they are always dirty and disheveled, they look extremely unhappy and there is evidence of members of the Connors family at the locations in charge of the workers.'

On March 22nd, said Mr Dono, police raided Beggar's Roost with a search warrant and arrested William and Breda Connors. A travellers site in Enderby, Leicestershire, was also raided and Miles Connors was arrested there while eight alleged vicitms were found. A site in Common Lane, Pleasley, Derby, was raided at the same time and John Connors was arrested and seven victims discovered. An address in Stanway road, Coney Hill, Gloucester, was searched by police and documentary evidence was seized. Mr Dono said it was alleged that the caravans in which victims were kept had no running water, minimal heating, haphazard and dangerous cooking facilities, and no proper washing facilities. Victims who had tried to leave sites had been tracked down and returned by members of the Connors family, he alleged.

'These victims are extremely vulnerable and are now in a safe house. We say some of them have been indoctrinated for as much as 20 years working in this way, They are people who are clearly fearful. Twenty victims have so far been recovered from the Connors family but inquiries are at an early stage and it is expected there will be more. Some of them have allegedly been exploited and beaten for years and they have described their living conditions as appalling.'"

Now obviously I can't comment on some of the wilder allegations being made here, and which are anyway sub judice. But it seems clear that, given the right incentives and tightly defined business requirements, even homeless alcoholics, a client group which ATOS Origin or EDS would run a mile from, can potentially play a useful role (for up to 14 hours a day) in the important block paving sector. If Mr and Mrs Connors are acquitted, their undoubted management and motivational skills could surely find a place in the consultancy world. Accenture are always on the lookout for talent - and the Connors sound like partnership material.

UPDATE - the legendary Johnson family, stars of their own BBC series, had a chap who lived on their site, described as a 'drifter', who died mysteriously. And Julia has a story of travellers who cared for a man with learning disabilities, and were big-hearted enough to build him a house.


Homophobic Horse said...

You're a Labour man at heart, Laban.

JuliaM said...

We had a rather similar case down here, but this one was being done to seemingly get round planning regulations.