Before the A4e-bashing starts, let's get something clear. What we saw tonight was the creation of the government. Gordon Brown's New Deal was transformed into this ridiculous 13-week "course" with the aim, supposedly, of encouraging the private sector to get the results they were being paid for. So blame, first of all, the government.Having said that, I'm amazed that A4e agreed to this. The clients shown were not representative. Where were the men and women with a good work record and qualifications? But those who were picked out did enable the point to be made. These contracts are a waste of time and money. People sat around doing nothing; as Mark said, "The idea is to bore you into getting work." Mark got a job and was thrilled - but a few weeks later he was made redundant. That meant he was angrier than ever. Sherrelle, a brave young woman, got a job which lasted 4 weeks. Natalie, a recruiter from the (Primetime?) agency tried, largely without success, to get people to go for agency work at Greencore, a large local cake factory. But the clients knew that this was casual work and avoided it. Dane, a young man who could be seen as a stereotypical layabout, went for the induction, having been assured that the work was full time, but turned it down when he realised it was temporary with no guaranteed hours. Not enough explanation was given for this problem; but we learned that when Mark lost his job it took 3 weeks to get his benefits reinstated.
And something else needs to be said. The programme gave the impression that poor benighted Hull was dependent on A4e for getting its high unemployment rate down. It isn't. A4e has a subcontractor in the city, the local FE college, which has as many clients as A4e. (The figure of 700 clients was quoted - I think that means the total for A4e itself and the college.) And there are a number of local initiatives, not least by the local council.
And all this was put to Emma Harrison. Did she cringe when she saw it? The narrator put it to her that, with the signing of the lucrative new contracts (FND), is recession good for business? She conceded that because there were more people they were more difficult to help. Then we got the PR phrases. The ultimate aim is to transform people's lives. A4e is different because they come at it from a different angle. It's "gutting" to let an individual down. After we saw Mark having to sign on again and Dane refusing casual work, Emma is asked about A4e's pushing people towards temporary jobs or zero-hour contracts. She says that it undermines people's confidence, and will talk about it more at government level (!) There is an uncomfortable silence. When the narrator asks again, she laughs and says she isn't a genius and has no answer, but will think about it.
I don't think this was the programme A4e had in mind.