One, EP 07, is the formal response to the inquiry into "the management and administration of contracted employment programmes." It's a long document, responding to the cases of fraudulently claimed job outcomes in Hull. A4e says that it has introduced a procedure whereby 50% of all claims are routinely checked by an independent team which phones the employer to verify that the client is working there, and can check with the Jobcentre that the client is off benefit. Para 3.11 states "A4e encourages whistleblowing as it serves as another important mechanism for identifying fraud. A4e has strengthened its whistleblowing procedures to encourage other staff members to disclose concerns about malpractice. A4e also believe that an independent body acting as an Ombudsman for the industry may be an effective way of regaining a sense of openness and accountability in the industry. As more responsibility for delivering the government's targets for employment is vested in the industry, the market needs to respond by placing an increased emphasis on transparency and accountability." The new admin systems for FND make fraud harder. All sensible stuff.
The second, CP 02, is on the subject of child poverty, submitted in May this year. It's a shorter document, summarised as:
§ A4e supports the Government's 2020 vision for eradicating child poverty;
§ A holistic approach should be adopted in the consideration of issues relating to children that considers educational and emotional, as well as economic, dimensions of child well-being;
§ The proposed 'building blocks' that make up the Government's 2020 vision should not be allowed to develop as silos since the issues they address are related;
§ The welfare-to-work and childcare agendas need to be more closely co-ordinated;
§ The system of benefits and tax credits should be less complex and easier to use;
§ Local government should take the lead on reducing child poverty, but fresh approaches to funding, commissioning and delivery are needed.
This sounds eminently reasonable. But in discussing "A Leadership Role for Local Authorities" A4e's ambition becomes clear. Para 17 says, "A4e believes that far-reaching improvements and efficiencies could be achieved by pooling existing pots of funding under a single overarching contract. Services aiming to reduce child poverty could be combined with worklessness and recession-beating initiatives to create a larger fund. Major national and international providers in the welfare to work and wider public service industry markets experienced in frontline delivery would then be able to compete for contracts and use their expertise for the benefit of local communities. Service and cost efficiencies could be more easily achieved. Combining projects would eliminate duplication and reduce the commissioning and contract management burden on the local authority." Guess who's best placed to deliver such contracts. Well, para 19 gives a clue, describing A4e's "Advice 4 Stoke service on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which has been independently confirmed to have a substantial positive impact on reducing poverty."
Nothing seems to have come of this inquiry yet.